It’s Monday morning. You walk into your building, and you’re standing in two inches of water. It’s flowing from the ceiling and gushing down the walls. After the initial panic wears off, you’re ready to act. But what’s the first thing you should do?
Water emergencies require quick thinking and rapid response to minimize the damage. Knowing what to do before, during, and after a water emergency can help minimize costly and disruptive damage.
Roofs, HVAC units, water heaters, sprinkler systems, and pressure regulators are common sources of water damage.
Pressure regulators. If you have a municipal water supply, you have pressure regulators on your main water lines. These regulators can eventually fail, leading to massive spikes in water pressure, which can cause water connections, filters, and supply lines to burst, causing extensive flooding. Frequently test your building's water pressure. If it becomes too high, replace the regulator.
Sprinkler system. Automatic fire sprinkler systems should be inspected regularly to check for leaks or sweating. When having volunteers work in your building, make them aware of sprinkler heads. Bumping one head can set off an entire system.
HVAC condensation drain lines. Each HVAC unit removes a lot of moisture from a building. If a drain line becomes plugged and starts overflowing, you may have gallons of water draining into your building. Regularly check your drain lines, and catch pans if applicable, to make sure water is freely flowing. “An easy way to check is to look at your HVAC unit while the air conditioning is running. You should see water coming out the drain line. If there isn’t, you have a problem,” said Cool. To prevent blockage, plan to have your HVAC drain lines blown out twice a year to make sure they’re clear.
After fixing the leak, repairing the damage, and replacing equipment, consider budgeting for the next time a piece of equipment breaks down. “Fix what’s broken, but plan to fix it again in 20 years when it breaks again,” said Cool. “Roofing, HVAC, water heaters, and flooring are all things that need to be replaced eventually. The sooner you can budget for their replacement, the less money you’ll have to come up with when it reaches the end of its service life.”
Updated November 2020
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