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How to Shut Off Utilities When Disaster Strikes

Natural disasters can strike without warning, and every emergency plan should include knowing how to shut off your utilities. Understanding utility warning signs and deciding whether services need to be turned off could be the difference between life and death.

Leak Warning Signs and How to Shut Off Natural Gas

Any smell of natural gas inside your home is a danger sign. You might also be able to hear a hissing noise. If you start to notice any of these warning signs, open a window and leave your house immediately. Turn off your gas meter as soon as possible and call 9-1-1 from a neighbor’s home.

There are several different gas meter configurations; so to be safe, contact your gas company in advance so they can help you complete your emergency plan and tell you the exact steps for shutting off the gas utility.

These are the basic steps for turning off natural gas.

    1. First, locate the shut-off valve.
    2. Using a cut-off tool or wrench, turn the rectangular knob one quarter-turn clockwise to the horizontal position.
    3. Call 9-1-1 from a neighbor’s home.

Don’t use your telephone – or any other type of electronic devices that have batteries of any kind – if you suspect a gas leak. These devices can spark explosions.

Never use matches, lighters, appliances or any electrical switches around a gas leak.

Remember your gas can only be restored by a professional. So it’s important to be able to identify the warning signs of a gas leak and be confident there is a problem before shutting off the utility.

How to Shut Off Water After an Emergency

Earthquakes and freezing weather can cause water pipes to burst, which can lead to flooding. If you have experienced an earthquake or natural disaster, it’s usually recommended to turn off your water utility in case water lines have cracked. When water lines break, the water supply is compromised. So keep your water shut off until you know it’s safe to drink.

Water lines usually have an easy-to-identify shut-off valve, but it’s still important to locate it as part of your disaster plan. You can always contact a local plumber to help you find the valve. It might be a good idea to label the water valve so everyone in the house can locate it quickly after a disaster.

If your house doesn’t have a hand-operated master shut-off valve, you may want to consider installing one. It will make it much easier to shut off your water in an emergency.

These are the basic steps for turning off your water.

    1. Find your shut-off valve in the basement. It may be set into a wall or on the water pipe leading to the water heater.
    2. Locate the shut-off valves on either side of the pressure tank if your water comes from a ground well. Turn off both valves.
    3. Shut off the water by turning the valve clockwise until it won’t turn anymore.

Your sewer system could be damaged in a disaster so make sure to set up a backup method for waste collection in your emergency plan.

How to Shut Off Electricity and Fire Warning Signs

A natural disaster can disrupt your electrical service or create fire hazards. If you see sparks or smell any burning, you should shut off your electricity immediately. Electrical sparks can ignite even more disasters in your home. It’s recommended that all responsible household members know where and how to shut off electricity.

If you have a basement that is usually where the electrical circuit box is located. Be sure everyone in your home knows where the circuit box is located. If you have trouble finding your circuit box, contact a qualified electrician so they can help you complete your disaster plan.

Make sure you have a working flashlight available, with extra batteries before turning off electricity.

These are the basic steps for shutting off electricity.

    1. For a circuit breaker panel, shut off the power by turning all circuit breaker switches to the “off” position – individual circuits first, then the main circuit.
    2. For a fuse box, pull out the two main (cartridge) fuses.
    3. Never step in water to get to the fuse box or circuit breaker.

If you are using a generator as a backup power supply, make sure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure you’re running the generator safely.

Safety and Utilities

Your emergency plan is not complete without knowing how to turn off your utilities safely.

Emergency kits are an important part of disaster preparedness. Read more on what should be included in your emergency plan here .

It’s important to be prepared because anything can happen.