Friday, 24 July 2015

Flooding: How to keep your head above water

It may be the height of the "silly season", when out of office replies are the standard as everyone jets off on their holidays, but the torrential rain seen across parts of Scotland and Cambridgeshire last week have been a reminder to all of us of not only how damaging floods can be, but also how unpredictable. While we may be powerless when it comes to the weather, making a few straightforward preparations, as set out below, can allow us to greatly mitigate the damage and distress caused when floods do occur.

Before a flood

The Environment Agency, Emergency Services and other authorities all issue advice on what to do in the event of a flood and up to date information for specific areas can be attained by calling the Environment Agency Flood Line on 0845 988 1188. If a flood warning is issued, it's a good idea to make up a flood kit. This should contain a plan detailing how to turn off the gas, water and electricity as well as an evacuation site and a list of what you'll take with you. The flood kit should also contain blankets, a mixture of warm and waterproof clothing, wellington boots, a first aid kit, rubber gloves and hand sanitiser.

To minimise damage, move all valuable items and documents to a high place and keep a small stock of strong plastic sheeting, sandbags and sand that can be used to protect your property's doors and air vents against rising floodwater. If more long-term protection is needed, use domestic flood barriers instead and fit toilet bungs to all downstairs WCs to mitigate the effects of floodwater rising through the sewage system.

When a flood is imminent

Disconnect washing machines and dishwashers to protect them from backflow and turn off the gas, electricity and water at the stop valve. Close the lid on downstairs WCs and put a weight on top or use toilet bungs. It's important to take care when walking through floodwaters for hazards lurking below the surface and if possible, to keep children and vulnerable people out of the water altogether. As floodwater is often contaminated with sewage, chemical or animal waste it's also important to wash hands thoroughly after contact.

Once the flooding starts to recede, the standing water can be removed using a pump and generator but these should be used with caution. Position the generator outside in the open air as generators produce carbon monoxide fumes which can be fatal. Only pump out water when the flood levels outside the property start to be lower than inside as this reduces the risk of structural damage.

Before using any central heating make sure gas or heating oil supplies have been checked by a qualified plumber or heating engineer.

It's important for consumers to check that any person working on a gas installation is registered with Gas Safe and carries a Gas Safe Register photo ID card. Once checked, keep the thermostat between 20-22 degrees centigrade for steady drying. If the property is being dried out naturally keep the doors and windows open as much as possible but if a dehumidifier is used close the external doors and windows.

If you have any suspicion that the drinking water has been contaminated, for example, if the water runs an unusual colour or tastes different contact a plumber straight away who will be able to inspect the drinking water and in some cases take a sample for analysis and disinfect the water system inside properly.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Scams Awareness Month: how to tell the cowboys from the Quality Plumbers

From doorstep double glazing sales to online investment offers, every year people lose thousands of pounds as a result of cons devised by rogue traders. To mark Scams Awareness Month, which takes place throughout July to highlight how scams flourish when people stay silent, we've compiled some handy tips to help you distinguish the industry's cowboys from the Quality Plumbers.

Be very careful about taking on a tradesperson who:
  • Offers very cheap quotes or estimates - this could mean they are a cowboy, or could not be experienced enough to give accurate figures.
  • Is unwilling to put a quote or estimate in writing - this could mean they don't intend to stick to it.
  • Is unwilling to offer references.
  • Is too keen to start the job straightaway - cowboy plumbers & builders often do lots of work in one area before moving out of the area altogether. They often leave very poor or unfinished work behind and are impossible to track down.
  • Is unwilling to offer you details about their business - for example an address or landline number.
  • Claims to be in a trade association when they are not - you should always check whether the person does belong to the trade association (like APHC). If they don't, it means they're probably dishonest and committing a criminal offence.
  • Claims to work for a company with a good reputation when they don't - check they work for who they say they do. If they don't, it means they're dishonest and you'd be better off not using them.
  • Doesn't offer you a contract, or doesn't sign the one you give them.
  • Asks for money up front without first proving that their company is bona fide and will complete the works.
  • Gives a detailed quote and schedule of work but then doesn't follow it.
  • Doesn't charge VAT when they should - if they are a small or new trader, they may not need to register or pay VAT. It depends on how much work they do in a year. If they should be registered, they could be avoiding paying it, to save money and charge less than others. This is dishonest and against the law.
  • Only accepts cash - if a person will only accept a cash payment, they could be acting dishonestly by saving on paying out for VAT.

Find quality local plumbers

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Drinking water abroad: how to stay hydrated on your holidays

Following on from last week's post about the unusually hot weather we've been having, today's post is all about how to stay happy and healthy on your travels by ensuring the water you're drinking is safe. We all know the importance of remaining properly hydrated, especially in a hot climate, but what happens when you find yourself in a location where the tap water isn't safe to drink? Don't worry! Wherever your travels take you this summer, there are several things you can do to ensure you get your recommended 8 glasses of water a day without risking your health.

In several countries, the local tap water is declared "non-potable", meaning that it contains bacteria, viruses or parasites that make it unfit for human consumption. Drinking contaminated water could, at the very least, result in a nasty case of "Travellers' Diarrhoea", something suffered by 20-60% of overseas travellers, so it's definitely worth a little forward-thinking to ensure your holiday experience is a healthy and positive one!

Probably the easiest way to avoid infection from waterbourne diseases is to stick to drinking bottled water, but beware! It's been known for people to sell tap water in old bottles, so when buying bottled water ensure it's sealed and is from a recognised brand and if you want to be 100% sure, choose fizzy water rather than still. Where possible, use tap water when brushing your teeth too and avoid ice in drinks or any uncooked fruit or veg, unless it's been peeled first. Fresh fruit juice is another great alternative to tap water, and a good source of fluids for children who dislike drinking plain water.

Another option where tap water is unsafe to drink is boiling, which works by killing off any disease-causing agents which may be lurking in the water. To do this, make sure there is no visible dirt or any foreign objects in the water before bringing it to a rolling boil for at least 5 minutes in a pot or kettle. Remember to ensure that the container you're using for storage is sterile too! If you prefer to use a Water Purification System, keep it in your backpack at all times so that it's always on hand when needed.

Specific information regarding sanitation levels in the country you're travelling to can be obtained from the National Travel Health Network and Centre via their website, which can be found at http://www.nathnac.org/travel/index.htm.

WaterSafe Scheme

Friday, 3 July 2015

A week of record-breaking temperatures: our top tips for saving water this summer!


With most of the UK experiencing record-breaking temperatures this week and the good weather predicted to continue over the weekend, we’ve all been issued plenty of advice on how to keep our cool in a heatwave, including drinking plenty of water and taking cool showers. Many of us will also be making the most of the sunshine to do some much-needed gardening or maybe even wash the car.

While there’s no suggestion yet that that a hosepipe ban is going to be put into force, there are still lots of very simple ways that we can save water this summer and, as a result, save money on our water bills! Here are our top tips for saving water and avoid splashing the cash this weekend:

·        Have a cool shower instead of a bath. An average 5 minute shower uses less water than a bath but unfortunately power showers don’t count! Why not also consider fitting a water-efficient shower head or timer? Click here to find a local competent plumber for the job.

·         Rather than running the tap, why not keep a jug of water in the fridge so you can enjoy a cold drink whenever you want without wasting water?

·         Use a bucket and sponge to wash the car rather than a hosepipe. (Hosepipes can use up to 1, 000 litres per hour!)

·         When gardening, water plants using a watering can rather than a sprinkler as watering cans are more accurate. Also consider watering plants early in the morning or at night to prevent evaporation when it’s warm.