Special To The Dispatch
OCEAN CITY — When temperatures drop, the Ocean City Fire Department responds to numerous calls for frozen pipes, not only in residential properties but in commercial properties as well. With low temperatures this month, the Town of Ocean City has experienced a high volume of broken water pipes in this year alone.
From Jan. 7 to Jan. 27, the Town of Ocean City’s Water Department responded to approximately 162 calls for service to secure water to homes and businesses. The Ocean City Fire Department and Police Department responded to 72 calls for service for frozen water pipes. More specifically, the Office of the Fire Marshal has tracked that approximately 48 of these were fire sprinklers.
The Ocean City Fire Department is reminding citizens and property owners to follow simple maintenance tips to ensure that fire sprinklers and domestic pipes do not freeze and break due to recent dip in temperatures. “Frozen pipes can cause thousands of dollars in water damage as well as rendering fire sprinkler systems inoperable,” said Ocean City Fire Marshal David Hartley. “Maintaining wet pipes above freezing are a key concern. Domestic water pipes can be insulated or wrapped with an approved UL listed heat tape. In the event that a unit is unoccupied for the winter season, domestic water pipes can also be drained.”
Wet sprinkler systems, however, usually cannot be wrapped with a heat tape. All sprinklered areas of a building should be checked to make sure they are above freezing. Setting a unit thermostat to keep pipes around 40 degrees fahrenheit will help prevent these pipes from freezing. With regard to dry sprinkler systems, auxiliary condensate drains should be drained by a licensed sprinkler company or person knowledgeable about sprinkler systems.
Finally, emergency contact numbers should be posted on the outside of the building, which can help the fire department contact responsible parties in the event of a pipe break. Also, key lock boxes, which can be purchased from the fire department headquarters at 15th Street, can allow access into a building in the event of an emergency to allow firefighters to turn off water mains and minimize damage within units.
For more information on precautionary measures to take to prevent pipe breaks, contact the Ocean City Fire Department, Office of the Fire Marshal at 410-289-8780.
(The writer is a fire safety inspector/fire investigator with the Office of the Fire Marshal and Ocean City Fire Department)