Limiting water damage during emergencies

Derek Kernick, General Manager of HVAC/Service, Brady & Seidner Associates Ltd.
Monday, December 9, 2013

How can a property manager minimize water damage during a plumbing emergency while waiting for a technician to arrive?

There is no easy answer regarding how damage can be minimized; every building is different and unique in its own way. The systems a property manager may be familiar with in one building can be completely different in another. The equipment in the mechanical room may look the same, but can serve a much different purpose.

Once the phone call has been made to the plumbing contractor, it will seem like an eternity before the technician arrives on-site. Therefore, first line of defence against worsening water damage will be a properly trained building operator or superintendent.

The key to minimizing water damage is to identify and isolate the area in which the water is leaking. Mechanical room water leaks are a little easier to identify and isolate because all the equipment is exposed, whereas leaks in a resident’s ceilings or walls can be much harder to identify. A properly trained superintendent can isolate a leaking plumbing riser and help prevent a $10,000 cleanup from becoming a $500,000 cleanup.

There are some basic steps for property managers to take to minimize and potential damage:

Get a set of mechanical drawings 

Mechanical drawings are the guts of the building, and are one of the best investments a building’s owner can make. It is fine to have a set of drawings on a disk, but owners should splurge and get a proper hard set to keep in the office.

Mount a set of valve charts in the mechanical room 

The valve charts must be made accessible at all times. They should be available in a binder that can be used by a contractor or superintendent in the event of an emergency.

Test a building’s valves once a year 

It is one thing to be able to identify the valve and the valve location, but a property manager may be required to shut down more of the building than necessary if it has seized up. Testing valves will help a superintendent become familiar with the locations and functions of these valves.

Keep gasket material and different size gear clamps in the building

These tools can be used to temporarily stop a water leak until it can be repaired. A pinhole leak that can be clamped quickly will significantly reduce water damage.

Provide the superintendent with emergency contact numbers 

This ensures that the superintendent or relief superintendent can respond quickly and effectively in the event of an after-hours emergency.

When a frantic resident is knocking on the superintendent’s door at 2 a.m. describing the flood they woke up to, the steps taken then and there will determine the extent of the damage moving forward.

Derek Kernick is the general manager of HVAC/service at Brady & Seidner Associates Ltd. He is a licensed HVAC mechanic and gas fitter with more than 20 years of field experience. He can be reached at derek@bradyandseidner.com.

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