Pumping Solutions

April 29, 2011
Tips on effectively employing pumps in emergency situations

About the author: Doug Billiter is regional manager, WAYNE Water Systems/Blue Angel Pumps. Billiter can be reached at [email protected] or 513.367.3330.

One of the greatest added-value services that water and plumbing professionals can provide to their customers is trusted and helpful advice, including tips on keeping themselves, family members and pets safe from floodwaters. Water infiltration or contaminated standing water pose a number of potential dangers to health and property.

Some of these dangers are hidden and may not be recognized until weeks or months after a flood. For that reason, it is important to advise homeowners to call a professional when faced with flooding and to keep away from standing water, as tempting as it may be to start rescuing personal items. Electricity is an important hidden danger with standing water when you do not know if live wires are exposed or if electrical sockets are under water.

“When floodwaters enter the home, you don’t know where that water has been—it may have come from an overwhelmed septic system or picked up antifreeze or road oil as it traveled,” said Bill Diamond, president of BDP Diamond Plumbing in Flanders, N.J. “This can be toxic to humans and fatal to pets.”

Floodwaters and standing water can carry infectious diseases, chemicals or trash from roadways, and pesticides, pet droppings and fertilizers that may have been used around homes.

“Standing water becomes a problem very quickly,” Diamond said. “In addition to the immediate health risks of contaminated water itself, there is also the threat of mold and mildew, which can grow and start spreading through walls in just a day or two.” He tries to educate customers on where main water shut-off valves and the electrical shut-off are located so his crew can get to work immediately.

Build Trust

It is very important to have the right type of equipment and safety gear on hand for such emergencies. The customer will look to you for solutions so the devastation does not happen again. “Because time is so critical in a flood, we need to get the water out of there as soon as possible, especially with severe contamination, such as a sewer back-up,” Diamond said. Your arsenal should include transfer and utility pumps to remove the bulk of the water fast.

Assessment of water entry points will determine the need and location of sump pumps or replacement pumps if existing systems have failed. Some customers may need multiple pumps because the water has several points of entry or the structure is located in a low water table or near a waterway, while others may have an occasional few inches. The customer may even have problems with a city’s overwhelmed sewer system, which may require a grinder pump to remove waste.

An additional item that provides extra protection to the customer is a 12V battery backup pump, since power outages often occur during a storm. Also recommend an alarm system that warns the homeowner of a pump failure and can be heard in any area of the home. Many of these sump pump systems are job-ready and easy to install.

Another way to build trust with customers during emergencies is to have partnerships with other professionals. Most storms create a multi-layered series of problems and it is best to have a reliable team. For example, if drywall has been saturated and may lead to mold proliferation, which can pose a health danger, recommend a professional disaster cleanup contractor who can help mitigate the issue. Diamond has a professional cleanup franchise that he recommends if he suspects extreme drywall damage and mold possibilities in an area that is larger than 10 sq ft. If there is an electrical problem after the storm, have an electrician’s information ready for the customer, and ask other professionals to reciprocate.

Here are more tips that can help educate customers about the hidden dangers of standing water:

  • Immediately contact a licensed plumbing contractor in the event of a flood.
  • Have a quality sump pump system installed and a 12V battery backup pump, as well as a rising water alarm system.
  • As a preventive measure, look for white powder coming off the walls. This indicates hydrostatic pressure behind the wall, which can be relieved by directing water to a sump pump system.
  • Have professionals remove drywall and insulation damaged by water at least 12 in. above the high water mark.
  • All plastics, glass, metal and toys that have been in floodwater should be disinfected with one part bleach to 10 parts water.
  • Any porous substances, especially carpeting, ceiling tile, boxes, books, insulation, drywall, fabrics and stuffed toys should be bagged and discarded (they can grow mold even if they appear dry).
  • Thoroughly clean all surfaces, especially those exposed to food, children or pets.
  • Never use ammonia-based cleaners.Residual ammonia can encourage mold growth.
  • Never mix bleach and ammonia; they can cause deadly fumes.
  • Thoroughly scrub all contaminated surfaces (use a stiff brush to clean block walls) with an excessive amount of soap or detergent.
  • Ventilate and dry out the area for seven to 10 days.

Providing customers with quality sump pump systems that serve as a first line of defense against flooding and assisting those who are currently defenseless with water removal, sump pump expertise and guidance on staying safe will build lasting relationships based on trust.

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About the Author

Doug Billiter

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