Disasters can range from the devastation of a burst pipe, to the lethal effects of contaminated water and Carbon Monoxide poisoning. Most problems can be avoided if you keep your plumbing and heating systems well maintained (see Top Tips)
Don't Panic! The first thing to do is to prevent water passing the point of the leak. Turn off all stop valves (sometimes called stop cocks) which are often sited under the kitchen sink. If there isn’t an internal valve, turn off the water at the external valve which may be under a cover in your garden or path.
If the escaping water cannot be controlled immediately, open all cold water taps so that the pipework and storage system drains quickly. DO NOT TURN ON HOT TAPS. Turn off the central heating system and, if it uses a solid fuel boiler, allow the fire to die out. Switch off any electric immersion heater, then call a professional plumber.
If a pipe freezes, turn off the mains water supply at the stop valve inside your home. If the frozen pipe runs from a storage cistern and is not controlled by a valve, check that it hasn’t split. If it has, empty the cold water storage cistern by opening the cold water taps and flushing the WC. If you know how to, you could siphon the water from the cistern with a hose pipe, then call a professional plumber. If the pipe isn’t split, thaw it out by applying hot water bottles.
If any part of the hot water system is frozen, there could be a risk of explosion if the boiler (or other heat source) is kept alight, so ensure it is turned off, or for solid fuel systems, extinguish the fire. Be careful as although water may be flowing from taps, other parts of the system may still be frozen.
- Don’t try to thaw it too quickly as there may be splits in the pipe which are not immediately noticeable.
- Never use a naked flame to thaw a pipe.
- Always start thawing a pipe at the end nearest the tap.
National Grid operates a free emergency 24 hour telephone number if you detect gas - 0800 111 999. Deaf or hearing impaired - minicom / textphone 0800 371787.
- Never ignite a naked flame / strike a match etc.
- Never touch any electrical appliance (including light switches).
- Put out naked flames.
- Open doors and windows.
- Keep people away from the affected area.
- Turn off the gas supply at the meter using the control valve.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Carbon Monoxide (CO) is produced when carbon based fuels such as gas, oil, coal and wood are not burnt correctly. This can be caused by incorrect installation of appliances and their flues. Incorrect ventilation and lack of servicing can also cause an appliance to burn incorrectly. If flames appear lazy and yellow and appliances are surrounded by large amounts of soot, these are telltale signs that CO is being produced.
Exposure to Carbon Monoxide can cause headaches, nausea, dizziness and fatigue, and severe cases can lead to convulsions, unconsciousness and even death.
If you are start feeling the symptoms of CO poisoning get outside of the property straight away. If you have been feeling ill and suspect CO poisoning ask your doctor for a CohB test. In severe cases call 999 immediately.
Ensure that all appliances are serviced on a regular basis, and fit a CO alarm, making sure that it meets the EN50291 Standard. Your CIPHE installer can fit one of these.