Plumbing emergencies don’t care about pandemics. Pipes burst, toilets back up, sewers get clogged, all on their own schedule, with no regard for how desperate we are to avoid unnecessary contact.
As many precautions as we are taking, as hard as we are trying to maintain a physical distance of six feet from everyone, there may come a time when you have no choice but to let a plumber (or an electrician or a handyman or some other repairman) inside your house.
If the worst happens, here are a few strategies to employ in order to lessen your risk.
Prevent emergencies by not flushing wet wipes
There are reports all over the world of sewer systems getting backed up because people are flushing wet wipes and any possible alternative you can think of for toilet paper. If it’s not toilet paper or human waste, don’t flush it down the toilet, or you’ll have to call the plumber. You don’t want to add an unnecessary plumbing emergency on top of everything else.
Assess the need
First and foremost, is this something that has to get fixed right away or can the repair wait? Better yet, can you fix it yourself? If this is a smaller issue, such as the toilet in the second bathroom isn’t working or a drain is clogged, that’s a repair that can be delayed. If it is an essential repair—the sewer has backed up, a pipe has burst—then that’s an emergency and needs to get fixed right away.
Call ahead and ask about precautions
If your repair requires the services of a professional, the first order of business is to call and ask questions about what kind of precautions they will take. Will they be using hand sanitiser? Have employees been briefed on WHO guidelines for reducing the spread of COVID-19? Does it sound like they are taking this seriously? If not, call around until you find a company that does.
Think through the logistics
Once you have someone to do the job, take a moment to think through the logistics. How can you limit the amount of time they will be in the house? If there are other people in your household, can they wait outside or in a separate part of the house? It’s a good idea to talk this through with your plumber beforehand, as they will probably have specific requirements, as well as suggestions.
A recent Washington Post article suggests clearing a path to the workplace ahead of time, leaving all doors open ahead of time so workers don’t have to touch extra surfaces, and covering high-contact surfaces with either wrapping paper or a drop cloth, which can be removed afterwards.
Create a safe environment
Once the plumber is in the house, maintain at least six feet of distance. If you can, either go outside or wait in a different part of the house. This will help keep you safe as well as the plumber, who is risking their own health and safety to help you during your time of emergency.
In addition to maintaining distance, it’s also a good idea to provide access to soap and/or hand sanitizer, so your plumber has the opportunity to wash their hands.
Clean and disinfect afterward
Once the plumber is gone, make sure to clean and disinfect any surfaces they might have touched, using either diluted bleach or an alcohol solution that is at least 70% alcohol.