We recently had a gas scare at our house. The stove was incessantly clicking and there was a smell of gas permeating the kitchen. As we rushed outside and asked ourselves what to do next, it soon dawned on us that no one had an idea of how to turn the gas off.
We were able to call the gas company, but imagine if it was the aftermath of an earthquake: likely the gas company will not be able to come to the phone. You need to learn and show your family how to do three important things post-earthquake:
- Turn off the gas
- Where: the gas meter and gas shut-off are usually on the outside of the house in the front or the side, although some houses have gas meters in a cabinet enclosures inside.
- When: since gas meters can only be turned back on by the gas company, it is important to shut-off the gas only if you smell gas, hear gas escaping, see a broken gas line, or if you suspect a gas leak. There can be a delay in getting your gas turned back on, so turn it off only if instructed by your gas company or if you see the above indicators.
- How: using a crescent wrench or adjustable pipe, turn the shutoff valve a quarter turn in either direction, so that it is running crosswise to the gas pipe. In the picture below, the shutoff valve is the highlighted part, the actual valve is on the left hand side of the picture. In the picture, it is in the "on" position because it is running with the flow of the pipe, up and down.
- Note: these instructions are for the main gas shut-off to the house. Gas appliances have individual shut off valves if it is an isolated incident.
- Where: the water meter is usually close to the street or alley so that it can easily be reached by your public works. It usually has a cover on it that says "Water Meter." In colder areas, it is not uncommon to find the main water valve inside the house where it is less likely to freeze. If you are not sure where yours is located, you can call your local public works for help.
- When: in the event that you have broken water lines inside or outside the house, you can shut off the main water valve on the street. Some cities do not allow homeowners to turn off the street water valve, please check with your local public works.
- How: the water meter has a valve similar to that of the gas meter. In the on position, it runs with the flow of the pipe. To turn it off, turn the valve so that it is cross-wise to the pipe. You may need some tools for this, try a pair of adjustable pliers.
- Note: as with the gas shut off, these instructions are for the main water valve that sends water to your house. You have smaller water shut-offs inside the house for fixtures that use water, such as sinks and toilets. These can be shut-off by hand or with pliers just by turning the valve cross-wise to the pipe.
- Where: time to locate your electrical panel. It's usually inside the house or the garage, housed in a metal box. You're looking for the main circuit breaker inside the panel, it's usually at the top of the panel and turns off the electricity to your entire house.
- When: if you see smoke or sparks.
- How: inside the electrical panel are a main circuit breaker as well as area circuit breakers that go to specific rooms in your house. To turn off the main circuit breaker, flip the breaker to the "off" position. Ready to turn it back on? Flip to the "on" position.
- Note: if you have exposed wires in your electrical panel, time to call the electrician for a repair.
Next, it's time to teach your kids how and when to call 9-1-1, the police and fire departments.
- When: call 9-1-1 to save a life, stop a crime, or report a fire. It's for emergency use only, when prompt assistance from fire, police, or an ambulance is needed.
- How: dial 9-1-1. Then be prepared to answer the following questions:
- Do you need Police, Fire, or Medical Help?
- State the emergency
- What happened?
- Where is the location?
- Where are you calling from?
- What is your name?
- What is your phone number?
- Stay on the line until the dispatcher says you can hang up.
- Note: if you dial 9-1-1 by accident, stay on the line and tell them you dialed by accident. Don't just hang up.
- Non-emergency lines: Keep a list of non-emergency numbers to the fire and police departments next to your phone just in case. Use this number for non-emergencies, such as reporting a crime that happened overnight or yesterday, or giving more information to an open case.
Now that you've taught your family these important skills, run a mock drill with them. Role play a call to the 9-1-1 dispatcher where you are the dispatcher and your kids are the ones explaining the situation. A little practice goes a long way.
We're halfway through our 6 part earthquake preparedness series! Up next: Earthquake Preparedness Step 4: Have Emergency Supplies on Hand.
Get a jump start on Step 4 by purchasing your ready-made emergency kit from Ready Set Go Kits' online store.
Missed the earlier steps? Read:
Earthquake Preparedness Step 1: Check for Hazards in your Home
Earthquake Preparedness Step 2: Identify Safe Places Inside and Out