How to Turn off Utilities During a Disaster

Sometimes during a disaster you will need to shut off your utilities.  It is very important that every family member know how to shut off all of the utilities in case of an emergency.

Electricity

All family member s should know where the electricity circuit box is in your home.  It is usually located on an interior wall near your meter.

Breaker Box

Breaker Box
Picture By: James Williams

Teach your family members how to shut off electricity to the entire house.  It is best to shut off all individual circuits before shutting off the main circuit breaker. Also it is a good idea to make sure that all appliances and electrical equipment is off so that when the power is turned back on it doesn’t cause an overload on the system.

To turn off the power on a fuse box, you will pull out the two main fuses.

If you have flooding or have to step in water to get the electrical box it is best to call an electrician.

If a disaster damages any walls in your house it is a good idea to turn off the electricity because there could be wiring/electrical damage which could cause a fire. You should have the house inspected before turning the power back on.

Water

Water is probably one of the easiest utilities to turn off.  It is important that all family members know how to turn off the water at the main house valve.

Water Valve

Water Valve
Picture by: Michael Pereckas

Many things could happen that warrant you turning off your water.  Some would be cracked lines which can cause flooding. The water supply can become polluted during disasters and by shutting off the water it will keep the polluted water from polluting the water supply to your home.  Also, the water in the hot water tank can become a precious commodity during times that there is no water. Gravity will cause the toilets and hot water heater to drain if you do not turn off the main water valve.

Teach all family members where the main water valve is for your home.  Some of the common places that it could be located is near the garage where the water line enters the house, or by the hot water heater or washing machine.

It is best to label the water valve so family members can easily identify it.

To turn off the water, all you have to do is turn the valve until it is fully closed.  It is best to check this valve every so often as it can get rusted and not want to turn.

Gas

Gas leaks after a disaster are responsible for many fires and explosions so it is vital that every member of the family be able to turn off the gas.

If you smell gas or hear blowing or hissing noise, open a window and quickly leave.  Turn off the gas at your meter immediately. Don’t use your telephone, cellular phones or any devices that have a battery. They can spark and cause an explosion. Also, I would think it would go without saying, but don’t use matches, lighters or open flame appliances. You also should not turn on or off any electrical switches.  You need to just evacuate immediately.

The gas meter will require a special tool or an adjustable wrench to turn it off.  I do not have gas in my home but if I did I would connect or tie a gas shut off tool next to the meter so I wouldn’t have to look for it in an emergency.  In order to turn off the gas turn the knob a quarter of a turn clockwise to where it is in a horizontal position. Once the gas is off go to a neighbor’s house and call 911 and the gas company.

Gas Shut Off Tool

Gas Shut Off Tool

VERY IMPORTANT: Once your gas has been turned off by the meter, you cannot turn it back on.  It has to be turned back on by a professional. 

How to Evacuate Safely

Evacuations are more common than most people realize.  Hundreds of times each year there are transportation and industrial accidents that release harmful substances, forcing people to leave their homes. Of course there are always weather related evacuations.  Since I live in Florida, hurricane evacuations are always something that we have to consider.

Hurricane Rita Evacuation Traffic

Hurricane Rita Evacuation Traffic
Picture By: Houstontransar

Here is a link that lists all states evacuation routes.

http://www.ibiblio.org/rcip/evacuationroutes.html

It is a good idea for you to know what your evacuation routes are.  Know your evacuation routes from home and from work.  I have my evacuation routes printed and keep them with my bug out bag.  Even if you don’t live in a state that is known for evacuations it is still a good idea to know them and have them printed in case of emergencies.

Helpful Hints to Prepare for an Evacuation:

You should always have at least a ½ tank of gas in your car for emergencies.  For example, if you are awakened in the middle of the night and need to go to the hospital to see a family member, the last thing you want to do is have to put gas in your car.  Another example would be a chemical spill near your house and you need to evacuate immediately, you don’t want to be driving on fumes praying that you have enough gas to get to a safe gas station.

If you know an evacuation order could be imminent such as in the path of a hurricane, then you should make sure to fill up your gas tank prior to the evacuation order.  Gas stations are sometimes closed during emergencies or they run out of gas during evacuations.  They also don’t work if there is a power outage.

If you don’t have a car you should make arrangement with neighbors or friends to help you evacuate.  You should talk to a couple of neighbors or friends to make sure that there will be someone available to help you evacuate.

Make sure to have a battery-powered radio in your emergency kit/bug out bag so that you can listen to local evacuation instructions.

If you are being evacuated due to severe weather don’t wait until the last-minute.  You don’t want to be trapped in traffic when trying to leave. I’m sure you have seen the news when they show miles and miles of backed up traffic trying to evacuate an area. Having your bug out bag and emergency kit ready at all times will allow you to leave ahead of the crowd.  It is also a good idea to have an evacuation checklist of things that you need to gather in case of an evacuation.  If you have several hours before an evacuation you will be able to grab more things than if it is an immediate threat evacuation.

It is important that you take the instructed evacuation routes.  Even if you think you know a shortcut.  The roads may be blocked or authorities may not let you through.

During severe weather evacuations, be alert for washed out roads or flooding.  Don’t drive in flooded areas and watch out for downed power lines.

If You Have Time Before an Evacuation:

  • Make sure to close and lock all your doors and windows.
  • Unplug all electrical equipment except the refrigerator/freezer.  You should only unplug the refrigerator/freezer if you know there is going to be flooding.
  • Attempt to reach other family member and loved ones to let them know where you are going.
  • Put on sturdy shoes and clothing that provides protection.

Evacuations, Emergencies and School Children

  • Talk to your child’s school and ask how the school will communicate with you during an emergency.
  • Ask about their emergency supplies such as water, food, first aid and other supplies
  • Find out if they will shelter in place or move the children during an emergency.
  • Map out your evacuation route from your child’s school in case you need to pick them up first before evacuating.

Don’t Forget Your Pets:

One of the other things to consider is your pets.  Do you have everything you will need to evacuate them too? Make sure you have food, leashes and pet records in a place that you can grab-and-go. I have a large dog which means his food is in a 50lb bag. I wouldn’t want to take that large of a bag of food due to space in my truck, so I have a small bag that is part of his “bug out bag” and it will be easier to manage if I have to evacuate with him.

These are just a few things to consider if you have to evacuate.  What do you have ready in case of evacuation? Would you be able to get out within a short period of time with more than the clothes on your back? The time to think about what you need to take with you during an evacuation is not during the evacuation order.

 

Are You Prepared for Winter? Home and Car Emergency Kits

Winter Storm

Summer is not over yet, but we are not far from the colder months. When winter temperatures drop below normal, staying warm and safe is vital. This is the time to start preparing for colder weather and planning ahead. You should have a winter … [Continue reading]

27 Uses for Mint: The Best Growing Herb in Your Garden

Uses for the Herb Mint

Mint is one the most versatile herbs to have around .  It is easy to grow indoors or outdoors.  There are over 40 varieties of mint and just as many uses for this fantastic herb. To preserve this herb you can dry for later use or lay the flat dry … [Continue reading]

Can Animals Predict the Weather?

Can Animals Predict Weather?

Can animals really predict the weather or is it all "wives-tales and folklore"? There are many observed characteristics among animals that seem to infer that they can actually predict impending bad weather. If you are not near a TV or radio to hear … [Continue reading]

Home Canning Troubleshooting

Home Canning Tomato Paste

I love home canning. There is huge satisfaction in seeing the beautiful canned goods lined up on the counter after I have finished canning a batch of food.  However, not all of my canning efforts are successful.  Listed below are seven things that … [Continue reading]

Food Safety During a Power Outage

Everyone has been through a power outage. Depending on how long the power outage lasts will depend on how you should handle your food in the refrigerator and freezer. It is imperative that you have some knowledge of food safety after a power outage … [Continue reading]

What If I Have to Evacuate? How to Prepare

emergency shelter

Who Should Evacuate During a Hurricane? If you live in a mobile home, RV Park or in a temporary structure – these type homes are hazardous during a hurricane no matter how well fastened to the ground. If you live in a high-rise building – … [Continue reading]

Easy Nutritional Recipes for Bean Sprouts

In the last blog post I wrote about how to sprout beans in your kitchen.  Now that you have sprouted beans here are some great ways to use those sprouts. Use fresh bean sprouts in omelets for a quick, healthy crunch Add them to soups, salads or … [Continue reading]

How to Sprout Beans: A Storehouse of Nutrients During a Food Shortage

What Are Bean Sprouts? Bean sprouts are the shoots that grow from germinated beans.  They have more protein per ounce than leafy green vegetables such as spinach or kale.  The also contain vitamins B, C, B1, B6, K and A as well as iron, calcium, … [Continue reading]