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Utility Safety During an Emergency

There’s never a good time for an emergency, and natural disasters often occur without warning, threatening the safety of you and your family. When a storm hits, your home could be faced with a range of problems, including utility failure or damage – an extremely common occurrence during severe weather. Downed power lines, wind and water damage can quickly create a  dangerous electrical situation, instantly transforming your utilities from useful to hazardous. Be prepared by knowing the ins and outs of utility safety during an emergency.

Utility Failures

When an emergency occurs, it’s important that you know where all your utilities are located and how they can be safely turned off. Planning ahead for an emergency could save you from scrambling and unknowingly putting yourself in a dangerous situation.

In the event of an emergency, know how to turn off your:

  • Electricity
  • Natural gas
  • Water

Having a plan and knowing how to correctly shut off electricity, natural gas and water will save you a lot of stress during a crisis. Every home has a different way to access utility shut-off valves. As soon as you move into a new home, take time to learn how your utilities are regulated. Make sure each member of your household is familiar with their locations and how to operate them.

Electricity

utility safety during emergency - breaker boxElectricity is a luxury we often take for granted until we’re without it. Sparks can easily ignite materials surrounding the electrical box, especially during a storm. For this reason, you should immediately turn off the electricity in the wake of a natural disaster. Learning where your electrical box and circuit breakers are located before an emergency can help you quickly and safely secure your home.

Dangerous situations can be avoided when you take the proper precautions. For example, if your electricity is still on after your home floods, DO NOT enter. A light socket or outlet can cause electrocution. Always turn your power off before entering a room that has flooded.

Most homes have an easily recognizable electrical box. If your home is older, it may have a fuse box. Typically, turning your power off simply involves locating the box and flipping the main breaker. Every member of your household should know exactly where and how to shut off the main source of power. If your home is equipped with a generator as a back-up power supply, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Your lights and appliances should be connected to the generator, not your home’s electrical source. 

Remember: Never turn your electricity back on until you receive confirmation that it’s safe to do so. 

Natural Gas

utility safety during emergency - stove top burner and flameIf you suspect a gas leak, open your doors and windows and turn off the supply at the shut-off valve immediately. Once it’s turned off, do not attempt to turn it back on. Evacuate the home (pets included) and call the gas company or 911. A trained and experienced gas crew will ensure there’s no gas flowing from your property before it’s turned back on. If your home has natural gas, your gas supply will most likely be located near the gas meter or, if your home has one, in the basement. Always make sure you have easy access to your tools. A wrench or pliers could come in handy by saving you time and stress when trying to shut down your gas line.

Do not enter your home if you notice a strong odor. Because natural gas is colorless and odorless, a small leak can easily go undetected, so utility companies add a chemical that produces a smell in order to warn you. Natural gas in your home smells bad for a good reason.

Remember: It’s always better to err on the side of caution. If you suspect a leak, call your gas company right away. 

Water

utility safety during emergency - hot water coming out of kitchen sinkNatural disasters can wreak havoc with your home’s plumbing. If you aren’t sure where the shut-off valve for your water line is located, find where the water line enters your home. It’s important that you and others in your home know where the water shut-off valve is before you’re faced with an emergency. Having a plan when it comes to shutting off your water could save you from a flooded home.

Remember: Damage to pipes can contaminate your water, making it unsafe to drink.

Prepare Today

Texas residents are often faced with the possibility of natural disasters, especially during the spring and summer months. When a tornado, hurricane, or severe weather occurs, utility and emergency service providers are swamped with calls for assistance. Understanding your particular utilities can help protect your home, you, and your family.

Be proactive. After you move, take some time to find out where all your utility sources are, and keep that information noted in an easily accessible place, like your phone. If you’ve been in your home for a while but aren’t sure how to shut off the utilities, call the professionals for consultation. Preparing ahead of time will keep your family safe and your home’s damage to a minimum. 

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