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Utility Safety
E-Prep Program: Month #7

Water quickly becomes a precious resource following many disasters. It is vital that everyone in your household learns how to shut off the water at the main valve for two reasons:

  • Cracked water lines may pollute the water supply to your house. It is wise to shut off your water until you hear from the authorities that it is safe for drinking.
  • The effects of gravity may drain the water in your hot water heater and toilet tanks unless you trap it in your house by shutting off the main water valve.

Electrical sparks have the potential of igniting natural gas if it is leaking. It is wise to teach all responsible family members where and how to shut off the electricity.

Natural Gas

Natural gas leaks and explosions are responsible for a significant number of fires following any major earthquake. It is vital that everyone in your family knows how to shut off the natural gas supply and has been instructed as to the following:

  • Shut off the gas immediately ONLY if you smell the characteristic warning odor of gas and/or you notice a large consumption of gas being registered on the gas meter.
  • DO NOT use matches, lighters, open flame appliances or operate ANY electrical switches until you are sure that no gas leaks exist. Sparks from electrical switches could ignite the gas and cause an explosion.
  • If you smell natural gas, immediately get everyone out of and away from your house. Open the windows and doors to provide ventilation. Shut off the gas at the meter and warn neighbors close by.
This month's E-Prep activities:
  • Click on the Information Sheets folder below. You will find detailed information on how to shut off a gas meter, the water main and water meter, and the power supply to your house. Print these information sheets and add them to you Family Disaster Plan notebook for handy reference.
  • Calendar a morning or afternoon this month to get together as a family and review this information as well as practice shut-off procedures.
  • First, locate the shut-off valve for the water line that enters your house.

    • Make sure this valve can be completely shut off. If your valve is rusted open or only partially closes, replace it.
    • Label this valve with a tag that says, "water main," or use a permanent marker to write the word, "water main," on the pipe.
    • If your house does not have a water main valve, you will have to turn off your water supply at the meter.
    • Locate the concrete meter box for your house. If it is located near a neighbor's water meter, put your house number on the lid with a permanent marker.
    • Follow the directions on our Information Sheet.

  • Second, locate your electricity circuit box.

    • Follow the directions on our Information Sheet for shutting off the power to your house.

  • Third, locate the gas meter for your house if you have natural gas service.

    • Make sure that the on/off valve will turn. It only takes 1/4 turn in either direction to shut off the gas, so be careful. Moving it about 1/8 of a turn is all that is needed to assure yourself that it can be turned off.
    • If your valve is rusted open, try soaking it with a WD-40 type product for a few days.
    • If you accidentally turn the gass off while practicing, you MUST call a qualified gas representative to come and turn it on for you. Turning it on yourself will create a gas leak in your home.
    • Attach a wrench to the meter or to the wall directly behind the meter.
Information Sheets
Emergency Utility Shut-Off Procedures