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. 

Real Preparedness:  Understanding the Significance of Shutting Off Utilities Read More »

Water for Survival – What Happens When Your Water Storage Runs Out?

water for survival

When I was around 11 years old, the family had a big reunion in Mexico.  I have some distant relatives who own a really big orange plantation about 2 ½ or 3 hours outside of Monterrey Mexico.  The reunion was great.  It was at a great location.  We met distant family that we really never knew.  And we had a lot of food and a lot of fun. 

We stayed late in the night, so family members made reservations at this rural motel. Now think about the kind of motels that you might find in a rural setting.  I’m not talking about chain hotels or motels, like Motel 6.  I’m talking about going through rural America and you see an independent motel and it just seems like a little hole in the wall.  Most people would think to themselves, “I’m not gonna stay there!”

Now, think about a rural motel in Mexico! 

Obviously, it wasn’t what you’re used to when you think about staying in a motel or a hotel.  It had two beds, but I would have rather been camping with my own gear!

One of the first things we noticed were the signs in the restroom.  You had to know Spanish.  These helpful signs weren’t written in English.  The signs said, “don’t use the water, there are parasites in the water!”

Your Water Source Matters!

What the heck!  Who has to deal with this type of thing?

When we visited Mexico, we never really would drink the water anyway.  But this took it to another level!  You don’t really want to take a shower or brush your teeth with parasites!

So we slept that evening and at the first sign of daylight, we were out of there!

We don’t deal with parasites in the water where we live!  We’re very used to going to the faucet,  turning it on and having all the water that we want.  But it’s going to be a different story if there ever is an emergency where water is not available to us.

Think about water boil notices.  Some communities dealt with that in Houston during Winter Storm Yuri.  But even at that, it’s very rare.  And even when that happens to us, most people just  go to the store and get water.  And, if it is needed, companies rally to bring water in so everybody has enough water.  

But in an emergency situation, that’s not going to be the case!

Water Storage Is Vital!

As preparedness minded people, we know the importance of having water storage and having multiple ways to make water potable.  This article isn’t about the need to store more water or get another piece of gear.

The question that I would like to ask is what are you going to do when you run out of water and you can’t simply turn on the faucet or go to the store?  What water source do you have around you that you can access to keep you and your family hydrated, healthy and clean?

Those of you who have a water well are in decent shape if your well has water and you can get it up the well.  But people in cities and even in the suburbs will have a really rough time.

Where are you going to find water?

There are a few places where you can get water in an emergency situation if you live in a city or the suburbs.  Here are some examples.

  • Use a 4 way sillcock key wrench to access outside water faucets around big buildings, schools and churches.  
  • Drain your hot water heater tank and your toilet flush tank.
  • Use the water in rain barrels in the backyard.

You should still use a water filter in these options.

But the issue with the above examples is that you are talking about a relatively small amount of water that will get used up quickly.  

What do you do if you need to find water for the long term?

This is going to be the dilemma for those living in the cities and suburbs in a true SHTF situation.  It is kind of scary if you think about it.

Retention Ponds and Purifying Water

The suburbs are filled with retention ponds.  Communities put these in as water features, but also to control flooding.  So when the rains come down, the water from yards and streets run-off into these ponds.  This means that the water in these big retention ponds are filled with all sorts of nasty things you don’t want to drink.  Really, this isn’t something you want to put through a Lifestraw to drink!  We are talking about chemicals, oil and possible sewage (in a flood) that will find their way into this pond from your neighbors yards and their vehicles.  

You still might be able to make this water drinkable.  But you would have to do some serious processing if you want to be safe.  I would do multiple levels of pre-filtering, then distilling/boiling and then filtering again.  It takes quite a bit of time and fuel/power to distill or boil.  In a long term emergency situation, this will be a fulltime job for someone.

Another possible way to get water in a long term situation is to use a catchment tarp.  I wrote about this a few years ago and I still think it is relevant.  I mean, it will be my go to during rain if I’m ever in a long term survival situation.

You can see that this is a big topic that really needs a lot of consideration.

In the meantime, you need to be storing water.

The Easiest Entry to Water Storage – Water Bottles

The easiest entry point for everyone is going to be stocking up on cases of bottled water.  One 24 case of 16.9 oz water bottles equals 3.17 gallons of water.  That’s not a ton of water, but it is a start, especially if you have the room in your home to stock-up on cases.  You don’t want to put these cases in a hot garage or shed.  They need to be in a climate controlled environment.

As I’m editing this article, the city of Houston is under a water boil notice because one of the main water plants lost power and their water pressure went under what is safe to deliver clean water to residents.  The issue has lasted more than 24 hours in a city with over 2.28 million people.  Schools were closed and of course, stores ran out of water bottles.

This can happen anywhere nowadays.   You just need the water plant in your area to break down and not be able to get the parts that it needs to be able to repair things and you’re out for a while!  I have a feeling this will happen more and more as infrastructure fails and utility companies focus on making a profit.  

Your Water Collection Needs

As someone in preparedness, you should take the time to do a little math and figure out how much water you have on hand for your family.  The minimum, and I do stress minimum you need is 1 gallon a day per person.  That is only for drinking, cooking and brushing your teeth.  Most people waste more than that with a single flush of the toilet!

After you figure out how much your family needs a day (1 x the amount of family members you have in your household), you should divide the amount of gallons you have on-hand by that number to see how many days you can go.

I can tell you, unless you have a huge water tank in your backyard, you don’t have enough!

You then need to decide how much water you want to have in-case of an emergency.  

But ultimately, you need to think about where and how you will replenish your families supply in a long term scenario.  That’s the one no one wants to think about!

Water Treatment – A True Survival Skill

Water treatment is a true survival skill that everyone should know. It is one of the most important aspects of survival, as water is essential to life. As we already mentioned, water can contain many contaminants that can make it unsafe for human consumption. By learning how to treat water properly, you will be able to ensure that the water you drink is safe and clean. Learning how to treat your water is an invaluable skill and will help keep you alive in an emergency situation.

In a true survival situation, where all that is around is contaminated water, you might have to go through several processes to get drinkable water. But first, let’s understand the difference between water purification and water filtration.

Purification vs Filtration

Many people use water purification and water filtration interchangeably. They are similar in that they make water safe to drink. But they do have their differences.

Water filters remove solid contaminants from water. These contaminants include solids like dirt, sticks and other material. The water usually goes through a medium to remove these solids. In a primitive filter this might be a selection of different sized rocks and sand. In a pinch, you could also filter through a t-shirt or a shemagah (large bandanna). You can also purchase a water filter like the Hydroblu Versaflow that uses many hollow fiber tubes with tiny 0.1 micron holes. The tiny holes in these types of filters help to remove 99.9999% of bacteria like Giardia, E. coli, protozoan cysts and Cryptosporidium.

Watch my video on how you can turn the Hydroblu Versaflow into a family sized filter that will give your family a lot of safe drinking water in an emergency.

Although water filters work well, they don’t filter out viruses and other chemicals. For that, you will need to purify water.

Water purification includes taking questionable water and making it safe water. It is a more thorough process. At the most basic level, boiling water is the desired process for purifying water. This has been done for thousands of years and is still done today.

The problem with boiling is that is takes fuel to get the fire hot enough to boil the water. One alternative is to pasturize water. In my article, WAPI – What Is It and Why Do You Need One, I shared…

“A WAPI is simply a small polycarbonate tube that contains a special wax. A washer or metal weight on the small device keeps the WAPi submerged as it is placed inside a pot of water that is being heated. As the water reaches the point of pasteurization, the wax at the top of the tube melts and moves to the bottom of the tube. Once all the wax is melted and at the bottom of the tube, the water is sufficiently pasteurized and ready to drink.”

Emergency Water Supply

Putting It Altogether for Your Emergency Water Supply

In a true survival situation, when you are living in the city and need water to drink and have to depend on questionable water sources, you will need to incorporate several processes to make sure you have potable water for your family to drink. Here are some steps you might have to take.

  • Gather your water supply. Remember you need one gallon of water per person per day.
  • Pre-filter your water. This will remove the biggest of solids from your raw water.
  • Filter your water through a water filter. Again, remember you are trying to remove as much solids (bacteria) as possible.
  • Use a wapi to pasteurize and treat your water.

The above process will take time. In a survival scenario, it might be a full-time job depending on how many people you have in your group.

Other Methods of Water Purification

There are other methods of water purification that I haven’t mentioned here. Some of these include chemical, reverse-osmosis, distillation and the use of ultra-violet lights. However, for this article, I focused on what would be more reasonable in a survival situation with limited supplies.

Making Water Safe to Drink

Clean water is essential to our health and well-being. This increases in a survival scenario. The Preparedness Community always highlights that you can only go three days without water. You don’t want to find yourself desperate to find fresh water to drink. It might be real important to your survival to know how to treat the water that is available to you so you and your family have enough drinking water to stay hydrated, for cooking and hygiene.

Water for Survival – What Happens When Your Water Storage Runs Out? Read More »

Safe Water to Drink – Having Enough Stored and Ready

You probably don’t think about this as much as you should, safe water to drink! Water and water storage is a big topic in the preparedness community. We all know it! But how much do we truly store? How long would our water storage really allow us to survive? Then, the ugly truth smacks us in the face, it doesn’t matter how much water we have stored, at some point, just like everything else, it will run out. We can do without many things, but preppers need to know how to get clean and safe water for their survival.

We don’t talk about this enough or have the skills necessary to filter and purify water because it comes so easy to us. It’s hard to imagine that we wouldn’t have water coming out of our faucets to drink, to flush our toilets, brush our teeth or take a shower. We need to go deeper than just purchasing a water filter or two. We need to have a good understanding of the topic so we can work from a place of confidence when we are in a survival situation.

Not Having Confidence in Water

The inhabitants of ancient Jericho realized that something was wrong with their water. They weren’t in a short time survival situation, they were in a long term survival situation because of their water!

When I say Jericho, I mean THAT Jericho, the one you learned about in Sunday School. The one Joshua and the Children of Israel marched around and the walls came tumbling down. In the Book of Joshua, after the Israelites conquered the city, Joshua pronounced a curse on the town. “Then Joshua made them take an oath at that time, saying, ‘Cursed before the Lord is the man who rises up and builds this city Jericho; with the loss of his firstborn he shall lay its foundation, and with the loss of his youngest son he shall set up its gates.’” Joshua 6:26 NASB

Jericho stayed uninhabited for hundreds of years, until the time of Ahab, King of Israel. In 1 Kings 16:34 we read, “In his days Hiel the Bethelite built Jericho; he laid its foundations with the loss of Abiram his firstborn, and set up its gates with the loss of his youngest son Segub, according to the word of the Lord, which He spoke by Joshua the son of Nun.”

Cursing Even the Water

But the inhabitants of Jericho soon realized that having a city that looked good on the outside didn’t mean everything was OK on the inside. When the Prophet Elisha came around, they asked for his help because they realized something was very wrong!

19 Then the men of the city said to Elisha, “Behold now, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord sees; but the water is bad and the land is unfruitful.” 20 He said, “Bring me a new jar, and put salt in it.” So they brought it to him. 21 He went out to the spring of water and threw salt in it and said, “Thus says the Lord, ‘I have purified these waters; there shall not be from there death or unfruitfulness any longer.’” 22 So the waters have been purified to this day, according to the word of Elisha which he spoke.

2 Kings 2:19-22 NASB

The actual issue was that something in the water was causing the women to not get pregnant. This was a long term survival situation because if women didn’t reproduce, the population would dwindle down to nothing. They asked Elisha for help and he prayed that the curse would be lifted. The salt and new jar really didn’t have anything to do with it. We can guess it was for effect, maybe a point of faith. You don’t purify water with salt and a new jar. It had to be a God thing! For more of Elisha, watch the video below.

Using Your Head and Using Some Faith

Readers of my site know that I’m a person of faith. I believe in prayer and it is a big part of my devotional life. But the Lord has also given me a brain. And when it comes to having safe water to drink, I want to use my head and the skills that I’ve learned to have clean, safe water for my family.

Like the people of Jericho, I know that everything can “look” OK, but that doesn’t mean that everything “IS” OK! Just because the water looks clear, doesn’t mean that water is safe to drink. The best thing to do would be to test every water source by sending it to a lab. But in a survival situation, that won’t be an option. So what are you going to do when there isn’t a prophet around?

What Do You Need to Know?

When most people talk about having safe water to drink, they refer to filtering water. That term is a catch all for making water safe to drink. But if you are only filtering water, you might be drinking some nasty stuff still. You also need to know about water purification.

At the most basic explanation, a water filter will remove big particles, protozoa and bacteria. An example of this would be the Hydroblu Versaflow. The small backpacking filter is very versatile and can be made into a family-sized water filter. I made a free PDF and video tutorial about this a while back. But the water filter will only filter out 99.999% of Bacteria, E.coli, Salmonella, and Cholera and 9.99% of Protozoa, Giardia, and Cryptosporidium. It will not filter out viruses and metals.

In order to get viruses, you will need to purify water. In an SHTF or survival situation, this usually means boiling water or pasteurizing the water by getting it to 149 degrees Fahrenheit for 6 minutes. The best way to make sure you pasteurize long enough at the right degree is to use a WAPI.

I also shared an idea for obtaining water in an SHTF situation in my article, The Rain Catchment Tarp. And I would also recommend downloading the 2014 edition of The Preparedness Review that includes an article by my friend Gaye Levy on Using Pool Shock to Purify Water. It is a FREE download on Dropbox (you do not need to join Dropbox! Just click the download link on the top right).

Storing Safe Water to Drink

Now, not only do you need to know how to make water safe to drink, you need to know how to properly store water. This is a problem for a lot of families because the minimum (notice I said minimum) amount of water to store for each person is 1 gallon a day. That amount doesn’t include water for hygiene (other than brushing your teeth) and flushing your toilet. So in reality, you need a lot more. But let’s just stay with the 1 gallon amount.

For a family of four, you are looking at 120 gallons for just one month! That is a lot of water! That equates to more than two 55 gallon barrels. Then, you need to consider that you can’t store this water in the garage or outside. Then, water is heavy. You just can’t man-handle a 55 gallon drum of water easily. And you can’t hide them easily either.

You can always buy bottled water and just rotate out the cases. But again, water takes up a lot of space. Those of you who have basements, might be better situated for water storage. Those who live in apartments or small spaces, really need to think this through!

Lastly, it’s already been mentioned, but it is worth repeating, if you are using plastic containers, like water bricks, 55 gallon drums or even water bottles, you want to remember to store your water in cool places. You can’t store water in garages, sheds or even leave a case of bottled water in your vehicle if it gets really hot. Heat wears down plastic. And although plastic containers used for food and drink have come along way, you still want to be careful.

Water Storage Containers

I really like water bricks. They are easier to handle than a 55 gallon drum and stackable. You can also easily hide them in plain sight if you get creative.

One thing that is always talked about in the Preparedness Community is using 2-liter soda bottles. The key here is to get them really clean! The problem with using a soda bottle is the sugar that is left behind. If it isn’t cleaned very well, the sugar will cause bacteria to form.

A 2011 article on Ready.gov shares the proper procedure for sanitizing a soda bottle.

Thoroughly clean the bottles with dishwashing soap and water, and rinse completely so there is no residual soap.

Sanitize the bottles by adding a solution of 1 teaspoon of non-scented liquid household chlorine bleach to a quart of water. Mix the sanitizing solution in the bottle so that it touches all surfaces. After sanitizing the bottle, thoroughly rinse out the sanitizing solution with clean water.

Fill the bottle to the top with regular tap water. If the tap water has been commercially treated from a water utility with chlorine, you do not need to add anything else to the water to keep it clean. If the water you are using comes from a well or water source that is not treated with chlorine, add two drops of non-scented liquid household chlorine bleach to the water. Let the water stand for 30 minutes before using.

A slight chlorine odor should be noticeable in the water, if not, add another dose of bleach and allow the water to stand another 15 minutes.

Tightly close the container using the original cap. Be careful not to contaminate the cap by touching the inside of it with your finger.


Sources of Water Around You

When it comes to long term survival, you will eventually have to find a water source. Is there water around where you live? You want to know where those sources of water are before the SHTF.

One thing that I like to do is pull up my neighborhood on Google Maps. I then change the view to “satellite” and zoom out. It can show you where there are ponds, lakes, rivers, streams, etc… One thing to remember though, if you live in suburbia, chances are that many homes use chemical fertilizers, weedkillers, etc. on their yards. Some of these chemicals will run-off to those ponds and retention lakes around neighborhoods. It will be very hard to remove these chemicals. In some cases, even using a distiller might not work for heavy chemicals. You need to think this through and weigh your preparedness needs for safe water to drink.

Lastly, having a 4-Way Sillcock Key would allow you to access water from local buildings. This is a cheap tool that every prepper should have in their toolkit.

Water Is Too Important!

When we consider all the plans, gear and stockpile in our preparedness, we need to seriously consider water. Thinking we will always have it coming out of the faucets is a false sense of security. And not only do we need to store it, but we need to understand the dangers of drinking contaminated water. This makes it even more important to know how to filter and purify water so we have safe water to drink for ourselves and our families in a survival or SHTF situation.

What would you add to the conversation? Leave you comments below.

If you would like to watch the devotional that this article is based on, see the video below.


Safe Water to Drink – Having Enough Stored and Ready Read More »

All About Water

Water is one of the most important preps you can prepare for.  This is a special interview with Rich Gilbreath of SHTF and Go.  Rich and I talk about water treatment, water storage and more.



Mentioned in this Episode: 

Items of Interest:

Remember, there is a HUGE selection of great preparedness content at Prepper Website!

All About Water Read More »

EP. 496 – Food and Water in Your Vehicle in Winter

EP. 496 – Food and Water in Your Vehicle in Winter Read More »

EP. 456 – Water Storage Containers and Safety

EP. 456 – Water Storage Containers and Safety Read More »

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