Skills

Real Preparedness:  Understanding the Significance of Shutting Off Utilities

shutting off utilities

Emergencies can happen at any time, and being prepared can make all the difference in keeping you and your family safe. One crucial aspect of emergency preparedness is knowing how to turn off your home power, gas and electricity during an emergency. Turning off your home utilities can prevent further damage and keep you and your family safe.  It’s important that everyone of your family members who is capable, understand when and how to do turn off the utilities. 

Benefits of Turning Off Utilities in an Emergency

Shutting off water, gas and electricity during an emergency can prevent further damage to your home and keep you and your family safe. For example, turning off the water supply can prevent flooding in case of a burst pipe or a natural disaster like a hurricane or flood. Turning off the gas supply can prevent fires or explosions caused by gas leaks. Turning off the electricity supply can prevent electrocution or fires caused by electrical faults.

Shutting off utilities can also help emergency responders do their job more effectively. For example, if there is a fire in your home, turning off the gas supply can prevent the fire from spreading.

Knowing When to Shut Off Your Utilities

Knowing when to shut off your home’s utilities is crucial for emergency preparedness. There are several scenarios that may require shutting off utilities, such as natural disasters like hurricanes or earthquakes, gas leaks, electrical faults, and burst pipes.

In an emergency situation, it is advisable to turn off the electricity to avoid any further complications from electrical hazards. Turning off the electricity does not always guarantee safety, but it does eliminate the likelihood that something else will happen, such as a fire breaking out or an electric current that could potentially cause bodily harm.

During Hurricane Harvey, as our neighborhood was starting to really flood, the power company turned off the electricity to the whole neighborhood.  The electrical lines coming into the neighborhood come through overhead lines.  But the lines in the neighborhood are in the ground.  Water and electricity don’t mix!  The electric company did this to prevent further damage to the neighborhood grid.  It was an inconvenience, but because of it, power was able to come back on a lot sooner.

One reason you would want to shutdown the gas is if you hear a hissing sound and smell of natural gas.  You would also want to do this if there is a fire in your home.  Of course, the first priority is getting everyone to safety.

The most likely reason you would want to turn off the water is if there was a leak.  During Winter Storm Uri, one of my church members checked on an elderly neighbor who was cold and trying to keep warm.  However, a water broke in her home and the water was just pouring in.  She didn’t know what to do and was probably in shock!

It’s essential to be aware of the signs that indicate a problem with your utilities and move fast.  Doing so in some cases can mean the difference between life and death.  At the very least, it can mean the difference between a small clean-up or a huge bill for remediation.

How to Shut Off Your Home’s Utilities

Knowing how to shut off your home’s utilities is essential for emergency preparedness. Here is a step-by-step guide for shutting off water, gas, and electricity:

Water Shutoff
1. Locate the main water valve.  You should identify this main meter before you need to shut off the water!
2. Turn the valve clockwise until it stops.
3. Open all faucets to drain any remaining water.

Turning Off Your Gas:
1. Locate the gas meter.
2. Turn the valve on the meter 90 degrees so that it is perpendicular to the pipe.
3. Do not turn on the gas until the gas company or a professional has inspected your system.

Shutting Off Electricity:
1. Locate the main circuit breaker box.
2. Turn off all circuit breakers.
3. If you cannot access the circuit breaker box safely, call an electrician.

Station the Tools Necessary

The last thing you want to happen in an emergency situation is to not be able to find the tools you need to shut off gas or water.  In this case, I recommend stationing some tools that are dedicated to this purpose.

For water, you should have a Water Meter Key or Water Meter T Wrench.  This is a long wrench, about 22-22 inches long that allows you to turn off the water without having to get your hand inside the meter itself.  This because sometimes it just looks nasty down there and a long T Wrench is hard to miss.

For gas, you can simply use a pipe wrench or a channel locks.  Again, I would recommend these tools be dedicated for this task and placed somewhere that everyone knows where they are and agree not to use them for anything else.  Anyone who has kids knows what I’m talking about.

There is an all-in-one wrench that you might consider that will do both water and gas.  The only reason I wouldn’t consider it is because my water meter housing is deep and spiders! 

You don’t need anything special to turn off electricity. You just need to know how to flip the switch!

This is my water meter. I didn’t realize how many leaves were in it. I was just barely able to see the turn off valve. It might be a good idea to check your meter from time to time and clean it up.

Preparing by Being Proactive

Some preppers might want to be proactive in shutting off utilities.  One reason you might want to do this is if you are going on a trip and you know bad weather is heading your way.  There are many stories of people coming back to their homes after Winter Storm Uri to see water pouring out from underneath their doors. 

Another reason to shutoff your utilities is for risk eversion.  When the temperatures were expected to drop during Christmas 2022 below freezing for a few days, many people chose to turn off the water and drain their pipes instead of running the risk of a busted pipe. 

The Training Piece

One of the most important things you can do is to train everyone in your household where the gas shutoff valve and water meter is located and how to use the tools to turn them off in an emergency!  You should stress how to do this and why.  You might not always be around.  It might fall to your spouse or kids to accomplish turning off your utilities in an emergency.

Check Out the Life Saving Skills Toolkit from Ready.gov.

The Importance of Being Prepared for Emergencies

In conclusion, being prepared means some of the simple things like knowing when to turn off your utilities.  This is essential to keeping you and your family safe during emergencies or just to make life easier. Turning off your home utilities during emergencies can prevent further damage and a lot of pain in heartache in dealing with insurance and contractors. 

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Marigold leaves eaten up by a snail!

Peace,
Todd

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