Archive for Disaster Prevention

Leaky Pipes Lead to Frozen Tundra

With the shivering temperatures this past winter, plumbers have seen homes fill with water and freeze.

What’s the cause of this?

Leaking pipes seeping through walls and ceilings are a major cause. However, it’s not just leaking pipes! Wildlife animals have been searching for homes during this bitter winter. The number one places that little rodents look are plumbing vents. Plumbing vents look warm and cozy, but in actuality, the rodents are breathing in sewer gas. This means that the blocking passage in the pipe is leading to bathroom waste backing up in the home.

Remind clients about the benefits of insulated pipes and putting wide mesh over the plumbing stack on their roofs!


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The Damage of Freezing Temperatures

On a day like today, it doesn’t hurt to once again reiterate to homeowners the importance or protecting pipes from freezing. This winter has been wreaking havoc on the US, with average temperatures way below the average. The abnormally cold weather and strong winds combined have been the cause of an increase in water main breaks, electrical line damage, and breaking pipes.

People who are worried about these problems can rest assured there are steps they can take to prevent them from happening. Here are some tips to share with homeowners:

  • Know where the main water shuttoff is in your home. And know how to use it.
  • Disconnect outside water hoses. You probably won’t be needing it anytime soon anyway.
  • Inspect outside faucets. Have a plumber repair any leaks.
  • Shut off separate shut-off valves for outside faucets, if you have any. Drain outside pipes.
  • Invest in faucet insulation. You can find it ay most  hardware or home improvement stores.
  • Keep inside temperatures above 65 degrees Farenheit. The air between walls is a lot colder than interior walls.
  • Let hot and cold water drip in sinks and tubs over night. It might affect the water bill a bit, but you are preventing your pipes from freezing by doing so, which is considerably more expensive to fix.

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What happened on the Triumph?

This may be old news, but we are bringing it up again to emphasize the importance of functional plumbing.  Especially on cruiseships. Warning: This story is pretty unpleasant with some nasty details about certain bodily functions. Do not read if you are offended by such things.

A night nobody wants to remember

You may remember the Carnival cruise ship fiasco earlier this year in February, when 4,200 passengers were stranded in the Gulf of Mexico and endured terribly unsanitary conditions. Because of non-functional plumbing, passengers of the Triumph were forced to relieve themselves in showers, sinks and little red bags provided by the cruiseline. The smell on board was unsurprisingly described as “rank” due to the lack of places to put the waste. Slick floors and walls were usually “human wasted overflows,” according to passenger Joy Dyer, who had to sleep above deck to escape the disgusting odor and conditions of the rooms below. Many people gathered in tents on deck for that very reason, except the disabled or elderly who couldn’t climb; the elevators were out of order, so they were stuck in the mess.

The lack of plumbing also created a storm for easy spread of infectious disease. Cruiseships already have a somewhat infamous reputation for viral epidemics, particularly of norovirus which causes about 90% of gastroenteritis (stomach “flu”). Passengers were easily spreading illness because sewage was everywhere – on the floors, in the waste bags sitting around, and in the undercooked food.

Top that all with the fact that many people were unable to shower and were living in unbearable heat, and you ultimately get an aroma of feces, urine, vomit, sweat and body odor.

The first tugboat arrived on Monday night and a sister boat brought extra food.

The only food available to Triumph passengers was cold, raw and uncooked. The signature dish during the debacle was the onion and cucumber sandwich (yum). Although we are not sure how anyone could possibly have an appetite under those conditions, apparently people on the ship were fighting over the food and had to wait in line for sometimes up to four hours to get a sandwich.

This nightmare was endured by passengers for about 4 days. Tugboats began to tow the ship to shore Monday night, but at a rate of a few miles per hour, the ship did not reach the shore of Mobile, Alabama until Thursday, February 14th. Luckily, sister ships were able to drop off food and supplies in the meantime and some power was restored to the ship on Monday, though not enough to get it moving again. When the ship returned, passengers cheered and kissed the ground after exiting the ship.

So, what happened?

A surprise fire in the engine room took down all of the ship’s engines and power system. Some passengers could see and smell the smoke, and at one point the boat actually lifted and leaned to the right. Although the fire was contained by Carnival staff, and they alerted passengers on the PA that everything was fine. But when the fire got to the engine, it cut out the ship’s power leaving its plumbing disabled in nearly every area of the ship.

Before people knew what had happened, they were still using the restrooms and waste began to build up – in both private and public facilities. The crew notified passengers that they should use sinks or showers to urinate, and use little red biohazard bags for “number 2”.

But the incident is apparently an anomoly and not indicative of the average cruising experience (we hope not). According to cruise industry expert Jay Herring, “These incidents are very rare – maybe once a year, once every couple of years. You’re more likely to be hurt driving to the cruise ship terminal than are you actually being on a cruise.” Carolyn Spencer Brown, another industry expert, added: “Engine room fires happen, but 99% of the time passengers aren’t affected.”

Herring rated the seriousness of the Triumph situation a 5/6 out of 10.  He compared it with the Costa incident in 2012, when 13 passengers were killed in an accident in Italy, and rightfully rated the seriousness of that disaster a 10/10.

Carnival undergoing an operational makeover

Carnival Corp has been apologetic regarding the incident and issued full refunds to every passenger on the Triumph (including food and casino charges), free admission for a future cruise, and and an extra $500 for the inconvenience.

They have also begun to undergo some much-needed changes to improve their ships’ power and safety operations. Such changes include full effective safety systems, equipment and training, and regular inspections from the United States Coast Guard and other authorities. “The changes we are implementing are focused primarily on improvements to better support continued power and hotel services should unexpected issues arise,” said CEO Gerry Cahill.

For anyone who has become nervous about cruising, look for ships designed after 2010. They must have two engine rooms.


Posted in: Disaster Prevention, In the News

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What Not to Put Down a Garbage Disposal

As wonderful as it would be to have a contraption that got rid of any unwanted food or material, garbage disposals do have some limits. Follow these rules to avoid running into clogs, jams, or completely broken disposals.

This one should be obvious. Bones are the number one culprit for jammed disposals. The blades just aren’t sharp or powerful enough to chop up animal bones. Throwing any down will just jam the machinery.

Fat, Grease and Oil
Yep, just because it’s a liquid doesn’t mean it’s alright to put down the disposal. Fat, grease and oil tend to solidify after a short time and thus end up clogging the drain.

Coffee Grounds
Coffee grounds have a “sandy” consistency that can gather into nooks and crannies of the disposal and can also clog pipes.

Egg Shells
The thin membrane of an egg shell can wrap itself around the blades of your disposal. The shell itself can be broken down into too-fine of a product that can cause further problems. And don’t believe the folks tale that egg shells in your disposal will sharpen the blades – not true!

Seeds, pits and kernals in moderate quantities should stay out of the drain because they tend to be too hard (physically) for the machine’s blades to break down – causing the potential for a jam.

Pasta and Rice
These foods are too difficult for the garbage disposal to break down. They also tend to expand when wet, so even the small pieces will be able to get stuck. Anything items that expand should be kept out of the disposal.

Stringy Fruits and Vegetables
Lettuce, celery, potato peels, banana peels, carrots, squash, pumpkin and asparagus are all either stringy or difficult to peal. Their remnants can get tangled in the disposal parts and really create a problem.

Non-food Items
Other items that are best left thrown in your trash or recycle bin include:
Rubber bands, fabric, string, rags, sponges, cigarette butts, twist ties, glass, screws / nails, utensils, bottle caps, paper, plants / flowers, or hair.

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