Nearly 200 Springfield workers fielded thousands of additional calls and put in 60 to 70 hours when last week’s cold snap broke water pipes and sprinkler systems across the United States.
“This storm is the biggest such storm to hit the country from a pipe breaking and insurance claim perspective probably for the last 40 years,” Paul Gross, president and CEO of CodeBlue said. “I would say our volume is up something like 700 percent” compared to the week before.
Based in Wisconsin, CodeBlue employs roughly 200 workers in Springfield’s Bushnell building. The company acts as a liaison between home owners, insurance companies and independent contractors. Insurance companies contract with CodeBlue to dispatch contractors to sites where water damage has occurred and to work with the contractors and home owners to make sure damage is repaired in an effective and cost-efficient manner.
The weather last week was so cold it led to water lines and sprinkler systems being damaged across the country. In Springfield, city officials said they responded to an unusually high rate of calls from residents asking the city to shut off water as pipes broke in area homes. Firefighters in both Springfield and Urbana also responded to calls at area businesses after receiving reports of damaged sprinkler systems.
According to information on State Farm’s website, damaged pipes can affect as many as 250,000 families in a typical year and lead to flooding, structural damage and a higher potential for mold.
Calls began coming into CodeBlue’s Springfield office early Monday morning, said Michael Smith, director of operations at CodeBlue. As it continued throughout the morning, the company started receiving such a rush of calls it moved employees from other duties to assist with the additional volume. Gross estimated the volume had increased by thousands of calls per day.
To handle the additional rush, Smith said many employees worked extended shifts of 12 hours or more, as much as six or seven days a week. To assist staff, the company brought in catered lunches and dinners, bought ice cream and hired a masseuse to provide 10-minute massages for employees as they answered the phones.
Smith said Monday that demand has tapered off some since its high point early last week, but the company is still experiencing a higher than usual number of calls that could last at least until the end of this week. Ohio was one of the five or six states most affected by the storm, Gross said.
In about 95 percent of cases for residential properties, it’s the hot water line that ruptures, Gross said.
There is a commonly held belief that lines break as water freezes and then thaws within the pipe, Gross said. Instead, he said when water freezes it adds pressure between the blockage and the closed end of the line. Cold water lines in a home typically have a release valve, but hot water lines do not.
To prevent damage, Gross suggested turning on the hot water faucet to let it trickle out of the line, alleviating the pressure until the temperatures warm.
Although his business has benefited from the storm, Gross said the company wants to educate residents so they can prevent future breaks.
“We want to help prevent damage if we can to be good business partners,” Gross said.