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What to do in an emergency

Published: Wed, 25 Sep 2013
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Call us on 03448 920 901
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Occasionally there may be severe weather conditions or other emergencies which can affect your home. If you are a Housing Executive tenant and this happens to you, call us on 03448 920 901 to report the problem. The guidance below will also be helpful.

Storm damage

If tiles are blown off your roof but there's no water penetration

  • Working on roofs in stormy weather is dangerous and it may be 24hrs or more before a roofer can get up onto the roof.
  • There should be roofing felt under the tiles and this should prevent water coming into the house.
  • If water starts to penetrate through the roof, use a bucket or container to catch any water coming into rooms and lay a plastic sheet over any possessions that are close to the leak. Call us on 03448 920 901 to update the information.
  • Is there any immediate danger to life/property from loose slates hanging off roof? – if so let us know immediately.

If tiles blown off your roof & water gets into the electrics

  • If there is any doubt about water in electrics, turn off your electricity at the meter box

If a tree falls on to Housing Executive land or from our land onto private land but there are no Health & Safety issues or damage to property

  • We will arrange for a grounds maintenance contractor to be out the next day/few days to address the problem.

If a tree falls on to our land or from our land onto private land and serious damage has been caused, or is likely

  • If damage has been caused to the property, we will arrange for a contractor to carry out emergency repairs to make the property secure, wind and weather proof.
  • If the property is not habitable we will provide out-of-hours homeless advice telephone number or district office contact details.
  • We will arrange for a grounds maintenance contractor to attend urgently to take remedial action to remove tree / address the problem.

Frozen pipes

If you have no water due to frozen pipes

  • Check that the mains supply is not affected. If there is cold water at the cold tap in your kitchen then the mains supply is working – if not, contact the NI Water in the first instance.
  • If a pipe appears to be frozen, protect everything around it to avoid damage if it bursts.
  • The pipe needs to be thawed out. First, open the tap nearest to the pipe that is frozen (so the water can flow through once it’s melted), using a hot water bottle or a 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.
  • If the pipes are frozen in the roof space, open your trap door slightly to allow warm air into the roofspace - if this can be done safely. Leave it slightly open until the pipe thaws and remember to close it afterwards.
  • If there is running water from taps in the bathroom, fill the bath and sink with water - this can be used for flushing the toilet.
  • Turn off the mains water stopcock to prevent further damage if the pipe bursts. The stopcock is usually located under the kitchen sink - turn it clockwise to turn off water.
  • Do you have a way of heating your home? If not, we can arrange for a contractor to supply you with temporary heaters.
  • If we are receiving a high volume of calls it may take the contractor/s at least 24 hrs to respond. We will send a plumber to your home but it is unlikely that he will be able to restore your water supply if the pipes are frozen. However, he will give you advice on how to thaw the pipe yourself and what to do in the event of it bursting.

Frequently asked questions about frozen pipes

Q     If I have no water can I still use my central heating? (gas, oil, room heater, open fire).
A    This is dependent on the heat source in the property:
  • If solid fuel, under no circumstances should the heating system be used when there is no water supply.
  • If oil, in most circumstances the heating system may be used.
  • If gas, in most circumstances the heating may be used – where a combination system is present in the dwelling the heating system must not be used.
Q    Can I still use my immersion heater?
A     If you have hot water coming from the hot tap you can still use the immersion heater.
Q    Can I flush my toilet if my pipes are frozen and I have no water?
A    If you have filled the bath/sinks with water when draining the system you should use this to pour into the bowl to flush the toilet.

Burst pipes

If water is not in contact with your electrics

  • Turn off the water supply at the stopcock (clockwise) which is usually located under the kitchen sink unit.
  • Use a bucket to catch any water and lay a plastic sheet over any possessions that are close to the leak.
  • Drain down the water system by turning on your cold water taps and run the water into the bath and sink to catch the water. This can be used for flushing the toilet later and it clears the water held in the pipes.
  • If the water has been leaking through for some time and the ceilings are bulging, it may not be safe to enter the room. If you notice the leak quickly you can catch dripping water in buckets.
  • If we are receiving a high volume of calls it may take the contractor/s several hours to respond.

If water is in contact with your electrics

As above, but also:
  • If the water has come in contact with electrical sockets/lights you should turn off your electric at the mains.
  • If the water has come in contact with the mains box – DO NOT ATTEMPT TO TOUCH. DO NOT USE ANY ELECTRICAL EQUIPMENT IN THE HOUSE THAT REQUIRES ELECTRIC MAINS SUPPLY.
  • Switch off the central heating, immersion heater and any other 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.

Frequently asked questions about burst pipes

Q    If I have no water/turned off the water supply can I still use my central heating? (gas, oil, room heater, open fire)
A    This is dependent on the heat source in the property.
  • Solid fuel
    • Turn off the stopcock (usually located under your kitchen sink), turn it clockwise.
    • Drain the cold water storage tank by running your bath taps.
    • Retain some of this water in your bath so you can use it to flush the toilet.
    • Make sure you put your fire out!
  • Oil, gas or wood pellet boiler
    • Turn off the stopcock (usually located under your kitchen sink), turn it clockwise.
    • Drain the cold water storage tank by running your bath taps.
    • Retain some of this water in your bath so you can use it to flush the toilet.
Q    There is water coming through the ceiling – is there a chance the ceiling may fall down?
A    If there is, or has been, water coming through the ceiling you should not use that room until the contractor arrives
Q    The ceiling looks bowed, should I put a hole in it to let the water out?
A    Under no circumstances should you go near the ceiling – you should not enter the room
Q    The leak is coming from the flat above, what can I do?
A    Check if your neighbour is in the flat above, if not, move your belongings from under the leak and cover and belongings or furniture that cannot be moved
Q     Can I still use my immersion heater?
A    If you have hot water coming out of the hot tap you can still use the immersion heater?
Q    Can I flush my toilet if I have no water?
A    If you have filled the bath/sinks with water when draining the system you should use this to pour into the bowl to flush the toilet.

If your central heating system stops working

  • Check that there is oil in the oil tank, or if it's a gas system, check you have credit on the meter!
  • Check that the timer switch is on ‘constant’ or ‘boost’.
  • Check the thermostat (usually located in the hall but may occasionally be in the living room) and adjust if necessary - if the house temperature is above the thermostat setting the heating will not come on.
  • Check if the red light is displayed at the boiler - press the button on the burner to start the heating.
  • If the heating still doesn’t start, call us.
  • If we are receiving a high volume of calls it may take the heating contractor several hours to respond.

If your property is at risk of flooding

  • Find out where is the risk of flooding coming from, e.g. drains in the home / in the street / river flooding its bank etc. Report the flood.
  • Block doorways and air bricks if possible as a precaution to stop the water coming into the home.
  • If flooding is imminent, switch off gas and electricity.
  • Move valuables/pets to a higher position and place important documents in sealed plastic bags.
  • Make up an emergency kit to include: medical needs, mobile phone, radio, torch, first aid kit, food and a drink.

If your property is damaged by explosion

  • Tell us what the damage is - e.g. broken windows, doors damaged, roof.
  • If tiles have come off the roof but there is roofing felt under the tiles this will prevent water coming into the house.
  • If you can still live in the property,  a contractor will call to carry out emergency repairs to make the house wind and weather proof, i.e, they will board up windows and doors.
  • If you can't live in the property contact your district office or homeless out of hours contact details. Make sure you give us alternative contact details.