Utilities Information for Disaster Preparedness

Long before an emergency situation occurs, homeowners should know where the main shutoff valves are located for the water, gas and electricity and how to shut them off in the event of a disaster. It would be wise to mark the location of the shut-off valves and post instructions where they can be easily located in an emergency.


If you are unable to locate the shut-off valves on your property, or are unsure of how to safely turn off the system you should contact your utility company and have them send someone out who can show you how to properly shut off the utility in question.

Identify your utilities company in advance of an emergency and have their contact information handy for ease in reporting emergency situations.

Natural Gas

Natural gas has a distinctive odor added to it by the gas company so that a leak may be easily detected by smell.

If you smell natural gas:

  • Stay calm.
  • Do not light matches, a lighter, a candle or cigarette.
  • Do not turn appliances that run on electricity on or off, as that may cause a spark.
  • From a safe location contact your gas company and report the leak to them so they can repair it. All gas companies have 24-hour phone numbers for people to report suspected leaks. If you feel it is an emergency, call 9-1-1.

How to Shut Off Your Gas

  • Facing the meter, you should see a pipe that runs from the ground to the meter. You should see a shut-off valve running parallel with the pipe approximately 6 to 8 inches above ground.
  • Using a 12" or larger adjustable wrench, turn the valve 1/4 turn, either right or left, until the valve is crossways to the pipe. Make sure you keep a 12" or larger adjustable wrench with your emergency supplies or near the gas valve.
  • For safety purposes, a shut-off valve should be installed at every gas appliance in your home, such as a gas stove or gas-powered water heater. This way if there is a leak at a particular appliance you can shut-off the gas to that one appliance, rather than to the entire house.
  • If you turn off your gas at the meter, you will need to leave it off until you have someone from the gas company come to turn it back on and relight all of the pilot lights.

How to Shut Off Your Electricity

  • Locate the breaker box(es) outside of your house.
  • Turn off all of the single breakers first, then turn off the main breaker.
  • To turn the electricity back on, turn the main breaker on first, followed by the individual breakers.

If an electrical fire occurs:

  • Do not use water on an electrical fire, as you could be electrocuted.
  • If an electrical appliance catches fire, unplug it as soon as you safely can.
  • Call 9-1-1 and report it to the fire department.
  • If you see smoke or fire, or if you smell an odd odor coming from electrical wires, an appliance or an electric motor, turn off the appliance and the main switch at the circuit breaker or the fuse box.
  • If you have one, use a "C" class fire extinguisher, which is safe to use for electrical fires. If you do not have an appropriate fire extinguisher, baking soda can also be used to extinguish an electrical fire.


Downed power lines

Power lines bring electricity to your home or office, but touching a power line, whether overhead or on the ground, may cause serious injury or death.  The following guidelines will help you stay safe  around power lines.


If a person or piece of equipment comes in contact with an energized power line, or if a power line has fallen to the ground:

  • Do not approach or touch the line or anything in contact with the line.
  • Call 911. Inform the operator that it’s an electrical emergency.
  • ALWAYS assume that all wires are energized.


Other Safety Tips

  • Beware of a downed power line touching a vehicle. Stay clear of the vehicle and the power line. If a power line touches your vehicle while you are inside, remain calm and follow these directions: If you can do so safely, stay inside the vehicle until emergency assistance arrives. Warn others to stay away from the vehicle and have them call 9-1-1. If you must get out of the vehicle for safety reasons, jump clear. Do not touch the vehicle and the ground at the same time.
  • Never make contact with overhead power lines. When you're outside, check to make sure any tools or equipment you handle are well clear of power lines overhead. Your equipment may be closer to power lines than you think when you're:

    • Trimming trees
    • Using fruit-picking poles
    • Working on a roof
    • Installing or removing an antenna or satellite dish
    • Using a long-handled pool skimmer
    • Using and carrying metal ladders
    • Moving a boat with a mast
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