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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Earthquake Preparedness - natural gas, water & electricity

There are a number of things to do to be prepared for earthquakes. For now, let me mention just three things to prepare for in advance.

1. Natural gas - If you have natural gas, you should know where the main gas shutoff valve is located and how to turn it off in the event of a possible leak. Store an adjustable pipe or crescent type wrench in a safe place nearby to turnoff the gas in case of emergency.

If you experience minor damage to your home, DO NOT shut off the gas unless you smell gas, hear gas escaping, or see a broken gas line. If you suspect a possible gas leak, sniff the air for gas but DO NOT place your nose up close to any gas pipe or use any matches or open flames to try to locate the source of a gas leak. IF you smell gas or there is significant structural damage to your home, turn off the gas.

REMEMBER: "DO NOT TURN OFF THE GAS IF NO LEAK IS SUSPECTED. Once you turn the gas off, you will need a professional to turn it back on." FEMA

The meter shut-off valve is located next to the meter. Use a wrench to turn the valve a quarter turn in either direction to the "off" position. The gas valve is closed when the tang (the part you put the wrench on) is crosswise to the pipe. Notify the gas company or 911 of the gas leak. DO NOT attempt to turn the gas back on!!!

Depending on the severity of the emergency and the number of meters that have been turned off, you may have to wait some time for your gas service to be restored, even if there is no damage to the gas pipelines in your area.

2. Water - Everyone has water. There are water shutoff valves normally located below every water faucet and there is most likely a main water shutoff valve located somewhere inside your home, and or just outside. If there is a big leak, it is nice to be able to know where to go to shut off the water quickly. If you are on city water or you have a well, there is another main shutoff valve for your home located at the water meter in front of your home or inside the well pump house. Know where these shutoffs are located and how to turn them off in an emergency.

When you need to shut the water supply off to the entire house or when a local plumbing fixture has no local shutoff valve, the place to go is your home's meter. There is a shutoff before the meter, and another shutoff is located between the meter and your home, (or inside your home as mentioned above). Know where these two shutoffs are located. Some of these are shutoffs are faucets, which must be turned counter clockwise all the way to shut off the water. Some have a raised tang like that found on your gas meter shutoff and you will need a pipe wrench or an adjustable crescent wrench to shut off the water. Some have a recessed valve that requires a special tool (or very large screwdriver) to turn the valve a quarter turn to shut the water off.

In case of a disaster such as a severe earthquake or flooding, or possible contamination of your main water supply, shut off the main water valve to keep contaminated water from entering your home. If there are water leaks in your home or between your home and the meter, the water valves should be turned off to maintain pressure. Once the leaks are repaired, the water can be turned back on. Open all faucets to run until all pipes are cleared of air in the lines and any debris or contamination that may have entered into the pipes.

If you are on a well and the well head or ground area surrounding the well has been flooded or if the ground water in your area becomes contaminated, your well may need to be "shocked" by adding a gallon of non-scented plain Clorox or other bleach (without additives). After "shocking" your well, the water will need to be side vented outside the well until the bleach smell has dissipated. Afterwards you will need to have a sample of your well water checked again by a professional company to verify that all of the contamination and bacteria are gone and that the water is safe for human consumption again.

3. Electricity - Know where and how you can turn off and on your electricity at the electrical service panel inside your home. If you have a mobile home, you also have a second electrical service box that is located outside your mobile home at a nearby post or pole.

If there are downed power lines STAY AWAY. DO NOT TOUCH! If you see or hear electrical sparking, DO NOT TOUCH or attempt to operate any electrical appliance or switches.

If possible go directly to your electrical service panel inside your home. Open the metal panel on the box and turn the switches to the "off" position or pull out the main fuse. If you are unable to locate the internal service panel, or unable to get to it, find the electrical "meter" box on the outside of your home and turn the switch to "off".


American Prepper said...

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foodstr2 said...

If you can turn OFF your natural gas with a wrench, WHY do you need a "professional" to turn it back on??

Can only a homeowner turn a valve counterclockwise ... but it takes a "professional" to turn it clockwise??

Give me a break!

Bruce Hopkins
Best Prices Storable Foods

American Prepper said...

Hate to put you in your place Foodstr, but have you ever heard of CYA...Stands for Cover Your Ass. Bill was very correct is saying to ask a professional to turn the gas back on. he was following the common sense CYA program that anyone who posts information to the public should do. Is it physically possible to turn the gas back on yourself, sure it is, but it's stupid to advise someone to do something illegal....or potentially dangerous. Ever heard of liability?

Bill said...

Bruce, I wish to thank you for your comments. You have a valid question asking why we need a professional to turn the gas back on. And by the way, you were partly correct; turning a gas line back on by ¼ turn is simple and would not appear to require a professional. We do not need to be trained to do this simple act, we basically just SHOULD NOT in the case of a possible gas leak. Turning off all gas to the pilot lights throughout the house at water heaters, stoves and ovens, furnaces and gas fireplaces is also pretty simple. We just need to remember that they all need to be shut off before we can have the gas turned back on at the meter, and each location must then be again turned on and the pilots reignited, one at a time.

Many adults may feel confident, as you do, to perform these procedures. HOWEVER, the gas company warns all individuals (everyone) to never turn the gas back on themselves once it has been shut off.

PLEASE DO NOT take any chances on possibly blowing up your home by making the mistake of trying to turn the gas back on yourself. The gas companies of Washington State provide the FREE service of checking all possible leaks and fixing any broken pipes. They will also check your gas appliances for a gas leak for free.

Remember, we only turn the gas off if we suspect a gas leak, or if we know that there is a gas leak due to visible damage to the pipes or severe damage to our home. If a gas line is broken or leaking, you can usually hear it blowing and just a little bit of natural gas will smell like rotten eggs/sulfur because of the odorant mercaptian which is added to natural gas to assist in detection.

Without the proper equipment, (which 99.9% of us do not possess), we should not re-touch the gas valve that we shut off, but follow their recommendations and wait for the professionals to find and fix the leak and check everything out properly.

I have learned to never underestimate the value of having a professional visit from someone trained in working with gas leaks. Most of us do not have experience in repairing gas leaks and broken pipes. In fact, most of us do not even have experience in relighting all of the various pilot lights that may exist in our home.

Once we experience a gas leak, we shut off the gas at the meter immediately. We then wait for the gas company, who can check over our entire gas system and all of the pilot lights for damage and further problems. Locating the actual leaking location is not always simple and can actually be dangerous if we are searching for the gas leak problem ourselves. Attempting to Repair a broken pipe or meter is basically opening ourselves up for liability. If it is the EOTWAWKI, then I might consider it. Nothing less.

Turning the gas back on isn’t the problem. Turning the gas back on while there is still a leak, this is a potentially deadly and very dangerous problem and should not be a DIY-er.

My recommendations are to error on the side of safety. Be prepared, keep the gas company’s phone numbers written down for emergencies.

For Western Washington, those numbers are Northwest natural Gas Company 1-800-422-4012, Puget Sound Energy 1-888-225-5773. For Eastern Washington, that number is Avista Corporation 1-800-227-9187 or Cascade Natural Gas Corporation 1-888-552-1130

American Prepper said...

Thanks Bill for a full and thorough explanation. Not my expertise, I don't have Gas in our home. But I do subscribe to the school of common sense. When in doubt, ask a professional.

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