Katrina is a friend of Erin's. She blogs at Life With Katie.
When you live in Michigan (or "South Canada", as Erin jokingly informed me) like I do, there are certain things that you come to expect: snow, ice, and really cold temperatures. There are also certain things that you should do to prepare for them.
Every autumn, you'll see us bustling about, cleaning gardening tools and putting them away; preparing our compost piles for winter; putting snow brushes and kitty litter into our vehicles; and essentially getting ready to hunker down for the winter. One of the final things that I do every single year is to unhook my garden hose, coil it up and store it, and then make sure that the spigot is turned off and its fancy little hat is put on. After all, the last thing that I want in the middle of winter is a broken pipe because I didn't prepare properly...
You see where this is going, right? If not, let me fill you in. The morning of March 3, as I was starting my day, I went downstairs and while I was down there, I decided to reset my internet router. Imagine my confusion as I approached the office and heard running water coming from the laundry room! I asked my son about it and he assured me that he hadn't started any laundry. I believed him; after all, he is a teenager!
Figuring I needed to take a closer look, I stepped into the laundry room, and followed the noise right to the hatch door that drops down into my basement. I didn't want to open it; I was honestly afraid of what I might find. It turns out I should have listened to my fears, because once I opened it, all I saw was water gushing out of a broken pipe and falling to the basement floor. Now, if I'd listened to Erin and had prepared for things, this would have been easy. Since I'm stubborn or something and didn't listen, let me fill you in on what happened after that.
First, there was panic. Panic with me always involves tears. Then, there was the frantic calling of someone, asking them what the heck I should do, and my annoyance when they responded, "Turn off the water." Right. I knew that. Common sense and all that... but oh my god, how do I turn it off? Where is the shutoff valve? I honestly hadn't the first idea.
So, after another bit of panicky meltdown, I gave myself a stern talking-to and found my flashlight. I was actually proud of the fact that I knew right where it was. I went back to "the hole", looked in again using the flashlight, and couldn't spot the shutoff valve anywhere. I did, however, notice that the water was probably knee deep down in the main part of the basement. Knowing just how cold the water would be, I made the executive decision that I was not going in there unless someone made me. This left the outside shutoff valve. Surely that would be easy to find...
That's a big fat nope! After struggling through snow that was sometimes up to my knees and searching around the entire house, I discovered that there is no shutoff valve for the water attached to the outside of the house itself.
I bet you know what's coming next, don't you? Yep, more panic, and "Oh my god, what do I do now?" but this time mixed with a bit of cursing over the fact that Erin would know what to do, but Erin isn't here and she's so going to tell me that this is why I should prepare for things. Man, I hate when other people are right and I'm not.
After frantic phone calls all around the village with nobody answering their phones, I got in the van and drove to the fire station. After all, they ought to know something about water in the town. It seemed totally logical to me and might have worked... if anyone was there and the door wasn't locked. Luckily for me, our one lone village worker happened to be plowing the street and said he'd come help me out.
Another twenty minutes later and a hole dug into my driveway (fortunately it's earth, not paved), he turned the water off at the village's input location for the house. I sighed what must have been the biggest sigh of relief and thanked him probably more than he's ever been thanked for shutting someone's water off, and he went on his merry way while I went to go buy some water. I know, I know...I should have had some on hand. I should have done a lot of things. Here's my "Why the heck didn't I do this earlier?" list:
- Discover utility shutoffs. I've lived here for nearly six years. There is absolutely no reason, after that amount of time, that anyone shouldn't know where every single shutoff valve in their home is located. This includes water, electricity, gas and any other utility pumping in or out of the home. A quick and thorough walk-through would have saved me a lot of panic and frustration today.
- Have emergency supplies. Now this one, I'm usually good about. Ask me about candles, flashlights, batteries, blankets and even food and I'll tell you we're good, but ask me about something like water and I'm going to stare at you blankly. If I'd had gallons of water on hand and stored (not in the basement!), I wouldn't have had to make a special trip to the store today, further exhausting myself.
- Good boots are important. Luckily for me, I have a pair of snow boots that I've owned for about a billion years and I was very thankful for them as I was climbing in and out of snow piles. The pajama bottoms that I was wearing were probably less appropriate, though, so I would suggest that if you're going to prepare for this type of situation, make sure that you have appropriate clothing for it! More than once today, I wished for a proper pair of galoshes so that going to the basement wouldn't have been such a big deal.
- Listen to those who are experts in their areas. I'm not saying to kiss up to Erin so she doesn't say "I told you so" repeatedly. I'm saying this because in every walk of life, in every environment that we live in, there are those who know how to prepare for emergencies and what you can expect if you're new to the area. Seek these people out and educate yourself.