November 29, 1999
Frozen Water Pipes--one of the most common winter home emergencies is a broken water pipe. Some precautions can be taken to avoid frozen pipes:
Outside pipes, those in areas subject to freezing, and through-the-wall faucets should be shut off and drained. Pipes in cold areas that cannot be turned off should be well insulated, but avoid the use of electrical or "heat" tape. Such tape is not for extended use and may increase your chance of fire.
In bitter cold weather, leave an inside faucet trickling. Running water is less likely to freeze. Knowing how to isolate a broken pipe and turning off water valves can reduce damage should a pipe freeze or burst.
Frozen pipes should be thawed out slowly. Never apply an open flame or a torch. Try using a hand-held hair dryer or apply warm water. If this doesn't work, your best bet may be to have a professional thaw your pipes.
Other than consideration for life safety, such as wet electrical circuits or damaged utilities, there is very little the Northshore Fire Department can do beyond shutting the water off and removing as much of the water as they can with their equipment. Severe water damage may be best handled by a water damage restoration specialist.
Heating Devices--Fires associated with portable heaters, fireplaces, and furnaces are a major concern. Any heating device must have care and maintenance to operate properly. Annual cleaning and inspection is a must for safe operation. A trained professional should perform the maintenance and repairs on heating equipment, when required.
Plenty of clear space, at least 36 inches, should be provided for all heating devices. Fireplaces and portable heaters should be constantly attended when in use. Never go to bed or leave home while the fire in the fireplace is still burning or the portable heater is on. And always follow all manufactures' safety recommendations.
Downed Power Lines--Another common winter hazard is downed power lines due to wind or ice storms. Any downed power lines should be considered live and dangerous and must be avoided.
An accompanying problem may be the temporary loss of power. Planning in advance, by making sure your Emergency Preparedness Kit is fully equipped and includes a flashlight, portable radio, and extra batteries, may make it easier to cope with.
Cold weather can present problems. A little careful planning, preparedness, and common sense can help prevent many of those problems and make your winter a lot safer. For information, call Terri Jones, Fire Prevention Specialist, (425) 486-2784.