Tips for Coping in Severe Weather
There are a number of simple steps that can be taken to ensure that you and your family keep warm and safe during severe weather.
PROTECT YOUR HOME:
* Keep your heating on overnight at a low temperature so pipes won’t freeze.
* If you can’t heat all your rooms make sure you keep your living room warm throughout the day and heat your bedroom before going to bed.
* When the thaw starts be aware of falling ice and snow. Particularly large icicles have formed on many buildings and these could be very dangerous.
DEALING WITH BURST AND FROZEN PIPES
If the water in your pipes has frozen, it's important to try and defrost this as quickly as possible. The expansion of the water could cause the pipe to burst, leading to thawed water leaking from the break.This simple advice can help:
1. Turn off the water supply
Turn off the main stop tap. You should find this under the kitchen sink or where the service pipe enters your home. If you have a cold water tank, turn off the stopcock (this is usually found in the attic or loft).
2. Protect your possessions
If a pipe appears to be frozen, protect everything around it to avoid damage if it bursts.
3. Thaw it out
To thaw a pipe, first open the tap nearest to the part of the pipe you think is frozen (so the water can flow through once it's melted). Using a hot water bottle, thick cloths soaked in hot water or hairdryer, carefully thaw the ice in the pipe (starting at the tap end and work back toward the cold water tank). Don't ever use a heat gun or blow torch.
A burst pipe can cause serious damage to your home's structure and electrical wiring. It's vital to take action as soon as you discover a burst pipe.
Follow these directions to get things back to normal fast:
1. Turn off the water supply. Turn off the main stop tap. You should find this under the kitchen sink or where the service pipe enters your home.
2. Drain the system. Turn on all your cold taps and flushing your toilets.
3. Turn off water heating systems. Switch off the central heating, immersion heater and any other water heating systems. If the central heating uses solid fuel, let this die out. Once water heating has shut down, turn on the hot taps to help drain the system.
4. Turn off the electrics. If water leaks near your electrics or electrical appliances, switch off the mains immediately. If the mains switch is wet, don't touch it or you could risk electrocution! Call a qualified electrician immediately.
5. Be safe. If water has been leaking through for some time and the ceilings are bulging, rooms may not be safe to enter. If you notice the leak quickly you can catch dripping water in buckets. If the ceiling starts to bulge, punch a small hole in it with a screwdriver to let the water drain.
6. Fix the problem. If the leak is in a screw fitting; see if you can tighten it. If the pipe is split or pierced then it needs to be repaired. If you're at all unsure about doing the job yourself, call in a professional plumber to repair the problem.
PREVENT BURST AND FROZEN PIPES
A burst pipe can wreak havoc on your home and its contents. Avoid the damage and hassle caused by burst or frozen pipes by following some simple winter care tips.
• Get insulated. Insulate your loft and the sides of your water tanks. To prevent your pipes bursting, wrap them in lagging (a foam material that insulates and reinforces them). You can buy this from most DIY stores.
• Keep out the cold. It’s best to open the loft trap door and sink cupboards on cold days to let heat in. In very cold weather you'll need to leave your heating on low (or set to come on a couple of times a day), especially if you're going away.
• Find your stopcock. Make sure you know where your stopcock is. Check regularly that you can turn it off easily in an emergency. It's handy to label it so you remember where it is in a panic.
• Check them regularly. If you're away for a while, ask a friend or relative to check your home regularly to make sure that your pipes haven't burst or frozen.
• Maintenance is key. Re-washer dripping taps: If they freeze, they'll block the pipe.
MORE INFORMATION ON PROTECTING YOUR PROPERTY
The Northern Ireland Housing Executive's district offices and Northern Ireland Water both provide practical advice on how to protect your property from damage during severe cold weather.
Call the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) on 0344 892 0900 to find your nearest district office. (Please note that the NIHE can only deal with enquiries from Housing Executive tenants).
You can contact Northern Ireland Water on 0845 744 0088. (Northern Ireland Water is only responsible for pipes located outside of your property. For problems with pipes on your property, you should contact your landlord or a plumber).
Northern Ireland Water has also produced a helpful document, Advice on Protecting Your Water Pipes in Winter, www.niwater.com/siteFiles/resources/NIW_Protect_Your_Pipes.pdf which contains information about how to avoid frost damage to your home.
* A balanced diet will help keep you warm and healthy in the winter - eat at least one hot meal a day.
* Wearing the right kind of clothes, both indoors and out, can help keep you warmer. Layers are best.
* Make sure vulnerable people in your community are safe and warm. Call them every day if possible to check up on them, or visit them in their homes.
IMPORTANT TRAVEL TIPS
* Make essential journeys only - listen to the warnings being given on radio or TV.
* If you must travel, allow extra time for your journey in wintry conditions, reduce your speed and allow more time to stop than usual. Don't brake suddenly, and drop down a gear to let your engine help with the braking.
* Wherever possible, use main routes which are likely to have been treated.
* Carry a bit of old carpet or cardboard to put under your car’s driving wheels if you get stuck.
* Ensure your car has plenty of fuel.
* Carry a shovel in the boot of your car and take along a blanket or sleeping bag in case you get stuck and have to wait for help.
* Use public transport if possible - bus routes are more likely to be cleared and gritted.