OCEAN CITY — With forecast temperatures dipping into the teens for much of the next week, the Ocean City Fire Department (OCFD) is hoping a little education and prevention will help stem the rash of broken pipe calls that typically follow.
The OCFD this week issued a few helpful reminders on how to avoid frozen pipes in commercial and residential structures as the first extended cold snap settled in on the resort area and throughout the region. Residents and visitors are encouraged to follow a few simple maintenance tips to ensure fire sprinklers and domestic pipes do not freeze and potentially rupture during the cold spell, which is expected to last into the middle of next week.
“Frozen pipes can cause thousands of dollars in water damage as well as rendering fire sprinkler inoperable,” said Ocean City Fire Marshal David Hartley this week. “Maintaining wet pipes above freezing is a key concern. Domestic water pipes can be insulated with an approved UL-listed heat tape. In the event a unit is unoccupied for the winter season, domestic pipes can also be drained.”
However, Hartley said wet sprinkler systems typically cannot be wrapped with heat tape. As a result, all sprinklered areas of a building should be checked to ensure they are above freezing. Setting a thermostat to around 50 degrees will help prevent sprinkler and domestic pipes from freezing. In terms of dry sprinkler systems, auxiliary condensate drains should be drained by a licensed sprinkler company or a person knowledgeable in dry sprinkler systems.
In addition, emergency contact numbers should be posted outside the building, which could help the fire department contact responsible parties in the event of a pipe break. Also, key lock boxes, which can be purchased from OCFD headquarters at 15th Street, can allow responders to access a building in the event of an emergency and allow firefighters to turn off water mains and minimize the damage within units.
The OCFD advises homeowners seal cracks and gaps around door frames and windows to reducing incoming cold air, open cupboards and kitchen and bathroom doors, letting faucets drip in prolonged sub-freezing weather and wrapping indoor pipes and conduits in unheated areas of residences and commercial buildings with insulated foam to help prevent freezing and breakage.