LA PLATA, Md. – Due to the unusually cold weather temperatures, residents are experiencing frozen and busted water pipes. Please be aware that indoor pipes can freeze, depending on temperatures, insulation, and placement in the building. Pipes in attics, above ceilings, in crawl spaces and basements, and near exterior walls are highly vulnerable to freezing, especially where there is poor insulation, wall cracks, or other openings that allow entry of cold outside air.

It is important for owners to know where the main water shut-off valve(s) are located, in case of a pipe break. Never attempt to thaw a frozen pipe with an open flame.

Monitor water-based fire protection systems such as automatic sprinkler systems, fire pumps, hoses and hydrants.   These systems must remain heated and ice-free to minimize losses from fire and water damage.

To prevent pipes from bursting or ice formation within the pipes, consider these preventive measures:

  • Always place piping in heated areas of a building.
  • Properly insulate attics, exterior walls, and other areas lacking adequate heating.
  • Repair broken windows, ill-fitting doors, and other conditions that allow heat loss.
  • Keep exterior doors closed, even if not in the immediate vicinity of piping.
  • Maintain heat in buildings at all times. No area with piping should be allowed to fall below 40°F (4°C). (This requires regular maintenance, inspection, and servicing of existing heating equipment, and safe emergency measures during a prolonged power failure.)
  • Shut off water lines and drain all pipes if the building is to be left unattended for an extended period. (The exceptions are sprinkler systems unless all combustible materials are removed and the building is noncombustible or fire-resistive.)
  • Provide insulation around a pipe sufficient to reduce heat loss, or provide heat tracing, if the pipe might be exposed to freezing temperatures.
  • Install low temperature alarms (with remote monitoring) in cold-prone areas.
  • Adequately maintain and prepare dry-pipe sprinkler systems for cold weather (drain low points, etc.).
  • Properly service and winterize private yard hydrants.
  • Clear snow and ice from private yard hydrants, outside hose connections, and fire protection system valves to help prevent freezing of these systems.

If adequate heat cannot be maintained, the main domestic water supply valve should be shut off and all water from piping should be completely drained by a qualified plumber. Sprinkler systems and other water-based fire protection systems are a special case. Every effort should be made to keep these systems in service for your safety.