Locating the Utility Shutoff Valve
Can you, right now, locate and turn off the various utilities in your home? If not, you really need to take the time to learn how. Luckily, locating the utility shutoff valve or valves for your home is an extremely important skill to have. This is particularly true if you live in an area that has a lot of earthquakes, or you have a history of plumbing issues. Here is how you can locate, and shut off, the two major utility shutoff valves in your home.
- Find the gas meter. In most cases the gas shutoff valve can usually be found near the gas meter of your home. This is often located outside the home, and is usually has the appearance of a pipe that comes out of the ground, which then goes into the gas meter. To turn of the gas, simply turn the handle on the pipe counterclockwise.
- Keep the area clear. When you find the gas meter, take a quick look around. Is the area around the meter free from any obstructions? You don't want to have any bushes, plants, or even covers in the way. These types of items can often delay you in an emergency situation when you aren't thinking very clearly.
- Place the right tools. Many times these shutoff valves are not firmly attached to the pipes so that they do not accidentally get messed with. Instead, these types of shutoff valves are attached by a cord or chain to the pipes themselves. Identify these tools, and then paint them in a bright eye catching color. Some examples of the colors you may want to choose are bright red or yellow.
- Turn off the pilot lights. Whenever you do shut off your gas lines you will also want to make sure that you turn off all the pilot lights in your home. This will help ensure that no gas leaks into your home when you do turn the gas back on.
- Practice. Just knowing where your shutoff valve is located isn't enough. To be truly effective in an emergency situation you should also practice several times to become familiar with the process. It would also be a good idea to teach all the adults, as well as older responsible children, the process so that they too can shut off the gas when the need arises.
- Look into automatic options. A great alternative method that you could use are called automatic gas shutoff valves. These valves are designed to shut off the flow of gas to the home in the event of an emergency, such as an earthquake. In fact, in some cities and states these are even required for your home to be considered up to code.
- Locate the main. In order to ensure that the water to your home is truly shut off, you need to actually find the water meter box to your home. This box is typically in the front of your home near the driveway or sidewalk. In the event that you cannot find the box call your local water company to have someone come out and show you where it is. Open the box and look inside you will find a valve that is similar to those found on the gas meters. To turn off the water, simply turn the handle counterclockwise until it won't turn any more.
- Keep it clear. One of the drawbacks to water meter boxes is that they are "natural" homes for spiders, snakes, mice, bugs, and other critters. Periodically you will want to remove the cover to the meter box and check to ensure that it is free from any critter. Further, you will also want to ensure that the shutoff valve has plenty of room to move the handle.
- Prepare the area. It can often be difficult to see the handle of the shutoff valve in an emergency, one way to help make this an easier task is to paint the handle an eye catching color. While red is a good color for a handle that is in the open, for a box environment you will want to use a brighter color such as yellow.
- Practice, practice, practice. As with most things, shutting off the water to your house is something that you should practice. This way you can make sure you are able to do it in a high stressed situation, such as an emergency. Furthermore, it would also be a good idea to teach all the adults, as well as older responsible children, the process so that they too can shut off the water when the need arises.
While it doesn't use a valve, it is a good idea to also learn how you are supposed to shut off your electricity. This is a particularly good idea if you have any gas lines in your home. Usually the best place to shut off electricity in your home is at the electrical panels. Simply throw the circuit breakers into the off position and you will have the electricity shot off throughout the house. Keep in mind that some houses have several electrical panels, so you will need to make sure you know where all of these panels are so that you can shut the electricity off when and if you need to.