awakened at 0300 hours...
...and still awake at 0430
after fire dept trucks came and left, having responded to an alarm going off at a neighbor's house.
<<<--the house in question, during the summer months
Turns out the pipes burst in two bathrooms upstairs bringing cascades of water down two stores into the cellar.
The sub-zero temps of the past few days probably did it.
Actually, it was the sound and blinking lights of snow plows that awakened me around 030 hours. They were acting odd, or so I thought. Turns out they were stopped at the house - it's the big one that overlooks the river - a roaming about it peering into windows with flashlights. Half the road crew guys are also on the volunteer fire dept and they got called to find out what was the matter. Not knowing this, I got up and dressed and went out to find out myself why the three road crew trucks out front and was about to go outside when the first fire truck arrived.
As things would have it, I have a key to the house. It opens a lock in door to the kitchen.
The lock that is really
the kitchen as it looked in the 1940s-->>>
difficult to disengage, but it worked. Once the door was opened it took only seconds to determine that the problem was burst pipes; you know, a familiar trickling dripping sound and streamlets of water coming from the ceiling.
As is reasonable to expect I wasn't allowed to enter until after the fire guys did a through search of the house to see if there was any fire happening. Once that was done, they were okay with me coming in.
So I call up the owner, who lives in NYC with his 100 year old mother, to give him the news.
The owner uses his cell phone to talk with the alarm company, but can't remember the pass code to shut off the alarm. It's been years
since he had it installed and he's reduced to guessing. Without the pass code, the alarm people refuse to give anybody the instructions to shut off the noise maker.
After the firemen turn off the water heater, the well water pump and shut off water to the house they leave with the alarm still going.
I re-lock the house, and head back home. I'm awake now, so I shovel off the sidewalk and outside stairs and begin to clean off the vehicles.
The house owner calls back. The alarm company tells him the alarm is still ringing; he explains the circumstances and they say since he cannot remember the code [mind you they are calling NOW well after things have been resolved they are calling about the alarm going off] they refuse to tell him how to shut down the alarm, but they do say they would be willing to instruct the fire guys how to disengage the alarm so it stops ringing. Later, when someone is at the house, they can send a representative to the house to reset the alarm system.
The owner asks me to go back and talk with the alarm company to get the thing shut off. I'm wide awake so why the hell not?
When I get back, I call hm back on my cell phone, then call the alarm people. They start waffling about even telling me how to disengage the system since I am not a fire company guy.
I point out that this is a rural area with a volunteer fire company who have already left and they have other work to do anyway at this hour [I tell them these are road crew guys out plowing and unlikely to come back just to reset a noisy alarm when they know there is no problem at the moment].
I'm walking through the house with two phones on my ears, the alarm dispatcher talking to me in one ear about how there is nothing they will tell me since I'm not an actual fireman, the owner of the house giving me directions on how to get to the alarm box and open it.
When I explain to the dispatcher that he should call the owner on his cell phone, he starts "...the cell phone is not the number of record of the owner so I could just be trying to...
" I interrupt, unwilling to hear the rest, figuring out where he's going with this. Meanwhile, I find the box and open it. I disconnect the outgoing phone line but don't know what to do next.
I tell the dispatcher what I have already
done, that I have the owner on the other phone, that I am standing in a pool of water, so he might as well tell me what to do before I electrocute myself on their equipment. A sigh, then he says that I have to unplug the transformer [you know, one of those little 7.5 volt things] before I disconnect ONLY negative wire ["it's the black wire
" he says] which ought to shut off the alarm. I do this. It shuts off.
Oh yeah, and just as I complete disengaging the alarm, the owner remembers the pass code. Lotta good that did.
By the way, all the while I was skulking about the cellar, and so the alarm company dispatcher could hear me, I was describing the water damage in the basement to the owner.
Once the alarm stops ringing, the dispatcher tells me that the owner will have to call the company to get the system back and running.
After that, I do a reconnaissance of the house describing to him what things do and don't look like. Lots of wet foors, but some parts of the kitchen are dry, with stacks of books and magazines, even a jar full of matchbooks all dry. Turns out the heat was set at around 55 F which was clearly insufficient for keeping thin sink pipes situated on
A frozen toilet. Not at all like those I found in the house filled with with frozen water in the bowls, fortunately-->>>
outer walls, from freezing and - later- bursting open. Most of the damage is contained to two rooms, plus the broken plumbing, but I do notice that two toilets have frozen water in their basins. Never saw that in a heated house before. At the owner's request, I reset the heat to 70 degrees.
The owner's getting ready now - it's 0515 hours as I write this sentence - to come and see the place.
I love bureaucracies like the alarm company runs. They really help people hired to make critical decisions to, instead, fail to be responsible for their inactions. Lucky it was only water damage and it has been contained.
Labels: freeze, old houses, plumbing