Knowing where your utility mains are and how to operate them is key to household safety and can significantly decrease property damage during an emergency. Make sure every member of your household is familiar with the location of your main water, electric, and gas switches and valves and knows how to operate them.
Electrocution can be a very real risk during emergencies, resulting from exposure to live wires or anything that might have been electrified by them. Know where the main electric switch is in your home; it may be a pull handle or large circuit breaker in your fuse box.
Make sure you shut off the electricity when:
- You smell burning material during a complete power outage.
- The area around electrical switches or plugs turns black or is hot.
- Burning occurs in electrical devices or large appliances.
- You smell burning insulation (sort of like hot cat urine or ammonia).
- If it's loose fiberglass it shouldn't burn because it's glass, it will melt however and any odor would be the product of dirt/dust trapped in the fiber.
- If it is paper wrapped fiberglass you will get the odor of burning paper with an oil overtone since most of the paper has a waterproof coating on the inside
- If it's blown paper insulation you will get a strong paper odor because the mat will smolder a long time before it burns
Undetected gas leaks can cause explosions and fires when not dealt with properly. The main gas valve should be next to your gas meter on the outside of your building. Since it may take several days to restore your gas, only turn it off if you detect a leak, either by smell or because the unmarked wheels on the gas meter are spinning.
If you detect a leak:
- Shut off the main valve and open all windows and doors
- Store a crescent wrench near your gas valve for emergency shut-off
- To turn off the gas, turn the lever a quarter turn. The gas is off when the lever crosses the direction of the pipe across the flow.
- Do not use any open flames like candles or matches and do not turn on electrical switches or appliances.
- Do not attempt to turn your gas back on - call your local natural gas utility.
In addition to property damage, water can cause electrocution when exposed to electrical wiring. Be sure to shut off your water when you notice that there is a severe leak in your building.
Your inside water shutoff valve is usually identifiable as a red or yellow wheel attached to a riser pipe in the basement, garage, or alley.
To shut off your water, turn the wheel clockwise.