Do not call 911; What to do if your frozen pipes burst

Icicles cling from a street sign in front of the Georgia Dome after an ice storm in the Atlanta area early January 29, 2000. The St. Louis Rams will face the Tennessee Titans in SuperBowl XXXIV on January 30, 2000. (ELECTRONIC IMAGE) AFP PHOTO/Tony RA (Getty Images)

While the entire nation has been tasked with record low temperatures, blustery winds and winter wonderlands, many metro Atlanta residents woke up to frozen water pipes threatening to burst.

What can be done if this stroke of bad luck happens to you? Here’s a guide of suggested tips and tricks to make sure your holiday season stays happy, warm and dry.

How do I know if my water pipes are frozen?

Did you wake up without water? Gently check the faucets on the kitchen and bathroom sinks as well as the tub by turning them on slightly. You can even try flushing the toilet. If there is absolutely no flow of water, or a slow drip throughout your home or apartment, chances are good that your pipes are frozen.

Does your place stink? Other experts say a frozen pipe can cause a bad smell. Blocked up waste that didn’t quite make it down the drain can fill a room with an odor.

What do I do if my pipes burst?

DO NOT call 911 for issues that are not affecting public areas. County officials like those DeKalb County and Douglas County has reported a higher than normal call volume due to residents calling in about bursting pipes. A spokesperson from DeKalb County has asked that residents call their property management or a private plumber to handle these situations instead.

“We understand the stress involved with the sudden burst of water pipes however, DeKalb public safety officers are unable to shut off water pipes that are not in the public right of way,” said Alesia Guest, Director, DeKalb County E-911 Communications.

  • Locate your main water supply and shut it off immediately.
  • After the main water supply has been shut off, turn on your faucets to let out any water that was still left in any drains.
  • Use towels to soak up any minimal flooding, cups, bowls or buckets to remove whatever excess water may have collected in the room. You want to avoid all the water damage that you can.
  • Call your landlord now. It is very important that your landlord or management company is aware of the issue. They have a responsibility to maintain the live-in quality of your apartment or condo, and cannot do that if they don’t know there is a problem. Your landlord or building management may also have a plan in place for when something like this happens that could take a lot of unnecessary stress off of yourself.
  • Try your best to identify the source of the burst. If you can see which pipe the water is coming from, it may help a plumber or emergency maintenance team locate and remedy the problem quicker. Pro-tip: Keep those areas (cabinets and closets) open for warm air circulation to help thaw them out.
  • Make your neighbor aware of the burst and any flooding as soon as possible. Your neighbors may be affected next and could use the heads-up.
  • Get in touch with a water damage restoration company or plumber.
  • Move your stuff off the ground–especially any valuable items, financial, legal or medical documents. You can put them up on a higher shelf, or store them temporarily with a trusted individual.
  • Document the damage. Take photos or videos of anything you can that shows how your home and belongings were affected. You may need this proof later for insurance, etc.
  • Call your insurance company. Whether you’re a renter with renters insurance, or an owner with homeowners insurance, this is the time to find out if you can be compensated for any damages.

Who is responsible when a pipe bursts: Tenant or Landlord/Owner or City?

Renters and homeowners may be wondering if they could be held responsible for this kind of incident. Unfortunately, that answer is not always clear.

The first thing you can do is determine whether the burst and resulting damages were caused by your own negligence.

If you’re a renter, the second thing you can do is check your lease. There is usually language that explicitly states what the landlord is responsible for.

How can I avoid frozen or bursting pipes in the future?

When the weather starts dropping to freezing or below temperatures, this is the time to take a couple of precautionary steps to avoid a disaster in the future.

  • Leave your heat running, even when you are not at home
  • Open up any cabinets and room doors to allow the heat to flow freely through the house
  • Keep a slow trickle of water running through your faucets overnight. That extra water bill for the month may be a lot cheaper than a bill to repair a pipe, or worse.
  • Ask a plumber about insulation around your pipes to keep them warm during icy weather.




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