Massachusetts fire marshal sounds alarm over frozen pipes

The Massachusetts chief firefighter warns the public to take steps to avoid frozen pipes when temperatures plummet.

“We are facing bitterly cold weather with the risk of frozen pipes,” said State Fire Brigade Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey. “It is important that a bad situation does not get worse. Many people cause fires when they try to thaw frozen pipes. “

To protect sprinkler systems, check your building during the cold snap, especially if you don’t have a low temperature alarm, Ostroskey said.

Make sure that all parts of the building are kept heated to at least 40 ° F and not exposed to freezing conditions. Turning the thermostat up at least 50 to 60 degrees F during this cold snap will ensure the pipes stay warm in hidden areas.

Ostroskey’s office offered the following tips for preventing frozen pipes:

  • If the weather is very cold outside, let the water drip from the faucets using the pipes in the outside walls. Running water through the pipe – even with a trickle – prevents the pipes from freezing. The temperature of the flowing water is above freezing point.
  • Open the doors of the kitchen and bathroom cabinets to allow the warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Make sure harmful detergents and household chemicals get out of the reach of children.
  • Keep the thermostat at the same temperature day and night. Do not lower the temperature at night during the cold. This can add a bit to the heating bill, but it can prevent a much more costly repair if the pipes freeze and burst.
  • If you go out in cold weather, keep the heat in your home or business set to a temperature no less than 55ºF.
  • Turn off outside water.

To thaw frozen pipes, the state firefighter’s office recommends:

  • If you turn on a faucet and only a trickle comes out, you suspect a frozen pipe. Find the area of ​​the water pipe that may be frozen. The most likely places are pipes that run against outside walls or where your water service enters your home.
  • Keep the tap open. When you handle the frozen pipe and the frozen area starts to melt, water will flow through the frozen area. Running water through the pipe will help melt more ice in the pipe.
  • Apply heat to the pipe section by using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, an electric hair dryer, or wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water. Do not use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove, or any other device with an open flame. A blowtorch can boil water in a frozen pipe and cause the pipe to explode. All open flames in households pose a serious fire hazard, as well as a serious risk of exposure to fatal carbon monoxide.
  • Apply heat until full water pressure is restored. If you cannot find the frozen area, if the frozen area is inaccessible, or if you cannot thaw the pipe, contact a licensed plumber.
  • Check all the other faucets in your house to see if you have any additional frozen pipes. If one pipe freezes, so can others.
  • Use space heaters carefully to warm areas near pipes. Do not overload the circuits. Plug space heaters directly into electrical outlets. Try not to use extension cords. However, make sure these are appropriate for the device and only use one. Devices that generate heat require stronger extension cords than lamps.
  • Remember not to leave the door of a gas stove open. it will produce large amounts of carbon monoxide.
  • Make sure smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are working on every level of the house.

“Fortunately, the weather will warm up over the next few days, which will thaw frozen pipes and prevent additional pipes from freezing,” Ostroskey said.

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