How to turn off utilities in an emergency

Household 3 min read

Emergencies in your home can strike at any time. A burst pipe might force you to turn off the water to your home or shut off the power to prevent electrocution. A leaking gas pipe could result in you turning off the gas lines to your home. Knowing where the shutoff points are to respond appropriately in an emergency is essential.

Learn what utilities to turn off in a home emergency, including how and when to turn off hot water, gas, and electricity in your home.

How to turn off the hot water in your house

Turning off the hot water isn’t the answer if you have a burst pipe. You’ll want to turn off all the water in your home. The main water valve is typically either in your basement or outside your home near the water meter. This valve is usually in the ground with an easy, removable cover. Turn the handle clockwise until you can no longer turn it to shut off the water flow. You might also need a special tool called a meter key to turn the water off. You can also purchase an emergency shutoff utility tool, which you can use to turn off both gas and water.

If the leak is localized, you don’t have to cut off the water main. Most appliances and fixtures have a dedicated valve. If your toilet leaks, you can turn off the water to only that toilet by turning the valve near the wall. Your water heater, refrigerator, and dishwasher likely all have a similar valve.

How to shut off the gas in your house

A gas leak can be dangerous. The buildup of gas in your home can result in levels high enough to ignite if left ignored. The risk of fire aside, vapors can cause breathing difficulties, dizziness, and much more. Contact your gas company immediately if you smell leaking gas. They can provide further directions. Only turn off the gas if they tell you to do so. Otherwise, open the windows and allow the fumes to air out.

If the company does tell you to turn off the gas, follow their directions to find the gas shutoff valve in your home. Gas lines have different setups, so blanket instructions can’t cover all situations. Stoves, water and space heaters will have individual gas shutoff valves. You can turn these devices off individually rather than turning off the gas to the entire home.

How to turn off the electricity in your home

If you have a burst pipe in the house or are performing wiring work, turning off the power is important to eliminate the risk of electrocution. The good news is that turning off the power is a simple task. Find the electrical panel in your home (often called the circuit breaker), which you might find in a utility room or basement, or a closet in some older houses.

Once you find the circuit breaker, flip all the switches to the off position. Turning the switches off will stem the flow of electricity throughout your home and make it safe to work with wiring or navigate a flooded space.

Other tips for turning off utilities in an emergency

Know where your home’s shutoff valves are

When you move into a new home, it’s a good idea to walk around and familiarize yourself with the space. Look for shutoff valves for water lines in your home and locate the main shutoff to the water supply. If there are gas-powered appliances in your home, locate their shutoff valves, too.

Finally, find your circuit breaker’s location. Check the chart within the breaker itself to know which switch correlates to which room. If you aren’t sure it’s accurate, have an electrician check for you. Knowing where and how to access these features is essential in an emergency.

Know how you’re covered

Water damage is typically covered by homeowners insurance. However, if a neglected repair causes damage, your policy won’t cover it. Home insurance won’t cover water damage from leaking plumbing or burst pipes resulting from improper plumbing maintenance, so it’s essential to know how to protect your home from water damage. Learn when home insurance covers appliances, how a home warranty works, and what the difference is between a home warranty vs. home insurance.

Prepare for emergencies

A natural disaster or other emergencies can leave individuals, neighborhoods, or cities without necessary supplies. Take the time to make a home emergency preparedness kit to help keep you and your family safe. A home emergency kit contains enough supplies to help you and your loved ones meet basic needs while you wait out the emergency or look for severe weather resources. Learn more about how to prepare for severe weather.

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