Sunday, March 7, 2010

Emergency Electricity and Gas Shut Off Tutorial

The recent earthquakes in the world reminded us of some instructions that we put together in the last century when we lived in Vacaville. They had an emergency preparedness seminar. Peggy and I put on a tutorial on how to turn off your electricity and gas. This information is taken from the handout we made.
During an earthquake or disaster, an appliance may catch on fire or your natural gas piping may develop a leak. I thought that appliance fires were a thing of the past, but a couple of years ago we got a rather urgent call from Melissa that her TV was on fire.  As fortune would have it, we were in the car and nearby. We told her to shut off the electricity to the house. She said she didn't know how. Well, we got there quickly and took care of things. No damage was done to the house (but the TV was toast). Every now and then you hear about a house explosion--natural gas is the problem. So let's get started.

In an emergency, shut the power off to the whole house. Find your power meter. It should look something like this:

The door is already opened on this one. Figure out how to open your door.  Once you open the door, it should look like the picture. Those switch like things are called breakers. They do two things. In case of an electrical short, they're supposed to trip the power off, and they let you use them as a switch to turn off or on the power.  To turn off the power, flip all of the switches to the off position. They are harder to flip than your standard light switch, but they work basically the same way.

OK, now that you can turn the power off to the house, it's time to learn about turning off the gas. This is a gas meter. We'll wait here while you go find yours.

Shutting off the gas takes a little more preparation. You need a wrench to turn the valve. The above picture shows a valve wrench on the valve. We bought it at a local hardware store for a couple of dollars. You can also use an adjustable end wrench or even a pipe wrench.


If you smell natural gas in your house and your stove and oven are turned off, go outside and turn your gas off. Do not turn your lights on or off (things could explode).

1. To close the valve you need to turn it 90 degrees (90 degrees is like an "L" shape, or a right angle). It will be hard to turn, but if you put the wrench on the valve the way it is shown in the first gas meter picture above, you can stand on the end of the wrench to start to turn it.

2. If you had to step on it to get it to start, then to finish turning the valve, turn the wrench around and close the valve the rest of the way. The stem on the valve lines up with the pipe when it is open (straight up and down--see the hand-drawn picture with the "on"/"off". It will be ninety degress (left/right) to the valve when it is closed.

3. Then call the gas company (from a neighbor’s phone) to locate the leak. Once the leak is fixed, they will relight pilots for you.

4. Air out the house after you make the call by opening doors. Don't go back inside, wait for the gas company.

We like to keep the emergency wrench wired to the gas pipe. That way it will be there if we ever need it. Otherwise you may waste precious time looking for a wrench.

These pictures were taken in the last century at our old house. But everything at our new house is essentially the same.  I was trying to remember if I wired a valve wrench on at this house, so I looked. Sure enough, there it was. We are ready.

Things may be a bit different at your house. Go look. Learn about the electrical panel, learn how to open it and shut off the power. Look at your gas meter; figure out how you can turn it off. You'll be glad you're prepared and can even go help your neighbors in an emergeny situation.

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