Step-by-step instructions for handling five home emergencies.
You can't predict when a home emergency will occur – but you can be prepared. Quick thinking can help minimize risk and even prevent property damage and personal injury.
If you don't already have one, create a home emergency preparedness plan for dealing with potentially serious situations. This emergency management guide can get you started.
1. Your water flow slows or stops.
Your home's pipes could be frozen. This occurs in millions of homes in the U.S. each year.1
- Open all faucets.
- Located the frozen areas.
- Use a hair dryer to heat the pipes until a steady flow of water returns.
If ignored, frozen pipes can burst, and in just one day, a 1/8 inch crack can release 250 gallons of water.2
Here's what to do if pipes burst:
- Shut off main water valve.
- Turn off electricity to the affected area.
- Call a plumber to fix or replace the pipes.
- Clean up excess water and dry thoroughly to prevent mold and mildew.
2. Your toilets and tubs are backed up.
This could be a sewer drain clog and a potentially nasty problem.
Wastewater contains multiple diseases that could spill into your home.3
- Use stoppers to close drains in plumbing fixtures.
- Vacate affected areas.
- Call a plumber to clear blockage.
- After you've fixed the problem, call a professional sewage cleanup service to sanitize your home. Most homeowners do not have the proper equipment to clean this kind of mess.
3. A family member is disoriented, vomiting and having trouble breathing.
It could be poisoning.
- In one year: Poison centers field over 2 million reports.4
- Emergency rooms treat over 1,900 people each day.5
- Every day: 170 people die6 from unintentional poisonings.
Know what to do:
- If the victim is:
- Unconscious or not breathing: call 911.
- Awake and alert: Call the poison center at 1-800-222-1222.
- Remain calm and follow the operator's instructions.
- Have this information handy:
- Victim's age and weight
- Approximate time of poisoning
- Address where it occurred
- Name of substance
4. You smell rotten eggs.
This could be a sign of a gas leak.
- Get outside of the house immediately. Don't attempt to located the leak or turn appliances on or off.
- Call 911, then call your utility company.
5. Your carbon monoxide (CO) detector goes off, and/or you have a headache, chest pain and nausea.
You might have carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.
- This kills more than 430 in the U.S.7
- Causes 20,000 emergency room visits.8
CO cannot be seen or smelled, so know the common symptoms:
- Chest pain
If your CO detector goes off or you exhibit symptoms:
- Get outside of the house immediately.
- Call 911 or go to the emergency room.