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Common home emergencies and how to deal with them

When a home emergency strikes for the first time, many homeowners find themselves completely unprepared. Then usually there are the questions: who is to blame and who should do something about it? However, there is no singular answer to every situation. Your course of actions depends on the seriousness of the emergency and the hazard level.

Pan catching fire

Most home emergencies can be prevented by taking precautions and working out their scenarios. When grease in a frying pan catches fire, the worst thing you can do is to try to extinguish it with water. This will just splash the hot greased around, resulting in severe burns or even spreading the fire around the kitchen. Instead, protect your hand with a wet towel and cover the pot with a metal lid until the lack of air suffocates the fire.

Burst pipes

Every building has a main water shutoff valve, usually located in the basement or in the water meter box at the front of your house. If you live in an apartment, the valve is usually located in the bathroom. If you have a bad leak that you can’t control, you need to shut this valve off before the plumber arrives. Some homeowners also turn the main water supply off whenever they’re leaving on holidays.

Overflowing toilet

Toilets overflow when two conditions occur – the water can’t stop running and the bowl can’t drain properly. If this happens, stop the flow by shutting off the valve at the back of the toilet, either built into the wall or located on the tank hose juncture. Collect the standing water before it seeps through the floor onto the ceiling below, and then look for clogs. There are several ways to unclog a toilet, from using a plunger and a plumber’s snake to chemical products and specialized de-clogging guns which use pressurized CO2 to “shoot” through the clog without damaging the pipe lining.

Blown fuses

Blown fuses or a tripped circuit breaker is a relatively common issue, especially for homeowners who like to vacuum and do their laundry, while having their dishwasher on and listening to music at the same time. If an electric circuit is overloaded, the increased current trips the circuit breaker or blows the fuse to prevent damage or fire. If you’re not sure which fuse has blown or which one breaks which circuit, perhaps it’s better to call your local emergency electrician to take care of it.

Leaking water heater

The problem with water heaters is that water and electricity are dangerously close to each other. A leak can be caused by a malfunctioning pressure valve, usually located towards the top of the tank. If there is a pressure issue, it causes the valve to leak water, which is a sign that you need to check the wiring and settings. In any case, shut down the water supply and consider your options. The repairs will require draining the tank to the full, but it’s a good opportunity to check the heater for sedimentation too.

Mice in the house

If you have confirmed sightings of mice, your first task is to identify the entry point or points. Take a torch and inspect the bottom of the walls, both outside and inside your home, as mice tend to stick to the walls as they explore the perimeter. You’re looking for droppings, signs of chewing and tiny crevices that mice can use for shelter or a way to get inside. Seal the crevices with an appropriate sealant or wire mesh and lay a few traps along their routes. If mice turn out to be a serious problem, you might need to call a pest control professional before they become a nuisance.

Although common home emergencies may not be as serious as your home getting damaged by a major disaster or being targeted by robbers, they can cause a lot of inconveniences as well as call for expensive repairs. With each of these scenarios, the rule of a thumb is the sooner you respond, the less the damage to your property will be.

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