Monday, January 06, 2014

Flood Footnote

For those who wanted more details about Saturday night's mini-flood::

Sylvia and I knew something was wrong the moment we heard something that sounded like a minor explosion near the roof of my office. The intense vibration caused the fire bell on the hallway wall to BONG in alarm. Each of us leaped into the hallway - we were both downstairs - to see what was going on. The sound of rushing water made it clear something had gone wrong with the plumbing but we couldn't see any water for several seconds, until a pool started to spread from the 500 gallon tank that feeds the sprinkler system. And it was spreading fast. I tore open the door of the furnace room, cranked one valve closed to no effect, then tried again, this time wrenching a handle conveniently marked "shut off water to holding tank." The rushing waters stopped, and Sylvia and I were able to soak up the mess in my office and the hallway within a couple of hours.

It has to be said that the ShamWow is far from a sham. A layer of them probably saved the carpeting in my office.

We called Sylvia's Uncle Joe and explained what had happened. He came in the next day and we explained what happened in detail. After taking a look around the room, Joe was able to deduce that the valve feeding the holding tank had stuck in the open position, causing pressure in the tank to build until its lid popped free, causing the loud bang we heard. The excess water spilled down the sides of the tank and stopped once I shut off the supply.

Joe estimates that it would probably take a year for all the water in the tank to evaporate, so we can simply keep the flow shut off and monitor the water level, opening the tap up again when needed. That's a simple enough fix, but Joe's also going to install a new valve for us so that the system works the way it should.

I feel incredibly fortunate that Sylvia and I were home when this happened. If we'd been out, the entire basement could have flooded, destroying my library, my computer and all the writing in it, the theatre room, and worst of all my photo albums and home movies, a loss I would have found genuinely devastating. For a few minutes there I felt like the trapped crew of the Deep Core in The Abyss, except it wasn't our lives I was fearful for, but our memories.

I don't do New Year's resolutions, but this I do resolve: to speed up the process of archiving all the family photos, movies and my writing, and to save complete copies in at least two off-site locations before the year is out.


"Jeff Of Command, Part I" said...

Sisyphus had his rock, Damocles his sword, and you a water tank big enough to hold a man-eating shark, right next to all your stuff.

From the Dumb Question section of the audience: why not just keep the tank permanently drained? Although I have to admit it would be much more stimulating to have five tons of water right next to my office, too, with you holding back the flood like some new-millenium Moses.

So pleased that everything will be all right, though!

Earl J. Woods said...

I've been considering that, but there's a significant drawback: draining the tank makes the sprinkler system useless. If the risk of flood is greater than the risk of fire I guess draining the tank is an option, but I don't know the odds.

"Jeff Of Command, Part I" (a) said...

Ah, felgercarb. I recall you explained this to me once before. For whatever reason, I had it in my head that you were talking about lawn sprinklers, not fire sprinklers.

Fire sprinklers are very good, you need those. Still strange that they are hooked up to that tank, though. Normally they are hooked into your plumbing, or so I believe.

I did the calculation, 500 gallons is four tons, and not five as I had guessed. One ton less to worry about!

susan_rn92 said...

Hey what about an alarm? There's one that calls you on the telephone if there is a flood. Here is the spiel from the Home Depot:
Water damage is the most common and most costly disasters affecting North American residences. The average cost of repairs following water damage is $3000-5000, with some repairs costing more then $50,000.Water damage is the most frequent claim to insurance companies.Water damage can be caused by: leaky roofs, appliances, burst pipes, sewer backup, heavy rainfall, overland flooding, or rapidly melting snow and ice. Leaks can go undetected for hours or even days.This system eliminates the need for costly and recurring monthly monitoring fees, the system calls you. A water detector, connected to a telephone system may be able to provide advance notice of a problem and may help reduce the damage that water can do.Set includes: 1 wireless water detector, 1 telephone dialer, batteries and all connections.Sensor detects water and sends wireless signal to telephone dialer for quick notification.Dialer stores and calls up to 5 different telephone numbers to advise of an alarm.Land telephone line (not cellular) and electricity are required for the telephone dialer.