BE PREPARED FOR A WATER EMERGENCY
The availability of safe, clean water is something we all depend on every day. But do you know how to turn off the water to your home if there is an emergency such as a leak or pipe break in order to prevent costly damage? In addition, in the event of a natural disaster, tap water may not be safe to drink or use. It is important to know what steps to take in order to protect your family and your home in case of a water emergency.
Tip information is courtesy of the Vineland Municipal Utilities, the United States Department of Homeland Security, and the Center For Disease Control.
The following information will help prepare you in the event that a water leak occurs on your property or within your home.
- Keep the Vineland Municipal Utilities water emergency number, (856) 794-4056, in a convenient place for easy access.
- Periodically check the shut of valves within your home to ensure that they are in good working condition. If a valve is hard to operate, open and close it with the faucet turned on. Debris can accumulate in the channels of a gate valve and opening and closing the valve will help to flush away this debris and ease operation. All homes with basements should have a valve immediately after the point where the service pipe enters the basement. If a leak occurs in your kitchen or bathroom and the valve under the sink will not close, the valve in the basement can be closed, and this will shut off the water supply to the entire house.
- Be aware of the location of the curb stop which is typically in your front yard, usually several feet behind the curb or edge of pavement. This valve will be accessed by Water Utility crews in the event that you call for an emergency shut off. Do not plant bushes or install landscaping with mulch and flowers over or around this curb stop. If a major leak occurs in your home and you cannot stop the flow of water with the inside valves, precious time will be lost as our service tech deals with these obstacles.
- When purchasing a home, request an as built drawing indicating the location of the water line from the curb stop to the point where it enters your home. If a leak occurs after the curb stop, it is the responsibility of the homeowner to have it repaired. Knowing where the water line is located within your yard can save you time and money and reduce the amount of yard restoration. If you decide to renew the service line from the curb stop to your home, request an as built drawing from the plumber or make a sketch on your own using the house corners or edge of driveway as reference points.
- Allow your faucets to drip water during freezing temperatures. This helps relieve pressure.
- Cracks and holes can result in freezing water. Seal them properly.
- Keep the heat in your home on. This means pipes also stay warm.
- Using heating tape can keep pipes from freezing.
- Open cabinets under sinks to allow warm air to flow around pipes.
- If you turn on a faucet and only a trickle comes out, suspect a frozen pipe. Likely places for frozen pipes include against exterior walls or where your water service enters your home through the foundation.
- Keep the faucet open. As you treat the frozen pipe and the frozen area begins to melt, water will begin to flow through the frozen area. Running water through the pipe will help melt ice in the pipe.
- Apply heat to the section of pipe using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, an electric hair dryer, a portable space heater (kept away from flammable materials), or by wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water. Do not use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove, or other open flame device.
- Apply heat until full water pressure is restored. If you are unable to locate the frozen area, if the frozen area is not accessible, or if you can not thaw the pipe, call a licensed plumber.
- Check all other faucets in your home to find out if you have additional frozen pipes. If one pipe freezes, others may freeze, too.
Unopened commercially bottled water is the safest and most reliable emergency water supply.
- Store at least 1 gallon of water per day for each person and each pet. You should consider storing more water than this for hot climates, for pregnant women, and for persons who are sick.
- Store at least a 3-day supply of water for each person and each pet (try to store a 2-week supply if possible).
- Observe the expiration date for store-bought water; replace other stored water every six months.
- Store a bottle of unscented liquid household chlorine bleach to disinfect your water and to use for general cleaning and sanitizing.
Use of food-grade water storage containers, such as those found at surplus or camping supply stores, is recommended if you prepare stored water yourself. Before filling with safe water, use these steps to clean and sanitize storage containers:
- Wash the storage container with dishwashing soap and water and rinse completely with clean water.
- Sanitize the container by adding a solution made by mixing 1 teaspoon of unscented liquid household chlorine bleach in one quart of water.
- Cover the container and shake it well so that the sanitizing bleach solution touches all inside surfaces of the container.
- Wait at least 30 seconds and then pour the sanitizing solution out of the container.
- Let the empty sanitized container air-dry before use OR rinse the empty container with clean, safe water that already is available.
- Label container as “drinking water” and include storage date.
- Replace stored water that is not commercially bottled every six months.
- Keep stored water in a place with a fairly constant cool temperature.
- Do not store water containers in direct sunlight.
- Do not store water containers in areas where toxic substances such as gasoline or pesticides are present.
If you have used all of your stored water and there are no other reliable clean water sources, it may become necessary to treat suspicious water. Treat all water of uncertain quality before using it for drinking, food washing or preparation, washing dishes, brushing teeth, or making ice. In addition to having a bad odor and taste, contaminated water can contain microorganisms (germs) that cause diseases such as dysentery, cholera, typhoid and hepatitis.
There are many ways to treat water. Often the best solution is a combination of methods. Before treating, let any suspended particles settle to the bottom or strain them through coffee filters or layers of clean cloth.
- Boiling is the safest method of treating water. In a large pot or kettle, bring water to a rolling boil for one full minute, keeping in mind that some water will evaporate. Let the water cool before drinking. Boiled water will taste better if you put oxygen back into it by pouring the water back and forth between two clean containers. This also will improve the taste of stored water.
- You can use household liquid bleach to kill microorganisms. Use only regular household liquid bleach that contains 5.25 to 6.0 percent sodium hypochlorite. Do not use scented bleaches, color safe bleaches or bleaches with added cleaners. Add 16 drops (1/8 teaspoon) of bleach per gallon of water, stir and let stand for 30 minutes. The water should have a slight bleach odor. If it doesn’t, then repeat the dosage and let stand another 15 minutes. If it still does not smell of chlorine, discard it and find another source of water.
Other chemicals, such as iodine or water treatment products sold in camping or surplus stores that do not contain 5.25 or 6.0 percent sodium hypochlorite as the only active ingredient, are not recommended and should not be used.
- While boiling and chlorination will kill most microbes in water, distillation will remove microbes (germs) that resist these methods, as well as heavy metals, salts, and most other chemicals. Distillation involves boiling water and then collection of only the vapor that condenses. The condensed vapor will not include salt or most other impurities.
To distill, fill a pot halfway with water. Tie a cup to the handle on the pot’s lid so that the cup will hang right-side-up when the lid is upside-down (make sure the cup is not dangling into the water) and boil the water for 20 minutes. The water that drips from the lid into the cup is distilled.