GAS: keep a gas turn-off wrench attached to your gas meter with a cord or wire, but bury it to keep it out of sight. If you are using a crescent wrench, set it to the exact setting and keep it in a plastic bag. It will probably rust anyway but will be set to do the job.

You can always turn your gas off if you have reason to fear a gas leak. Questar says that you should turn it off if:

-- your house is severely damaged (like by an earthquake or tornado)
-- you smell gas or hear it leaking

“Stop, look, listen, and smell” to test for a gas leak

• It is very important to know that if you do turn your gas off, you should NOT turn it back on yourself even if you know how to relight the pilot lights. You can void your homeowner’s insurance policy if you have anyone other than a certified technician turn your gas back on. Actually, this isn’t as dumb as it might seem. Certified technicians have the equipment needed to check for leaks in your outside gas line and other places that you would be unable to detect but which could blow up your house.

The picture below shows how to turn off your gas. With the wrench turn the valve 90 degrees = a quarter turn. We recommend that in a disaster you label your meter with a tag that says you have turned your gas off, so that some well-meaning person who comes along and smells gas too, doesn’t accidentally turn it back on while meaning to turn it off.

**We have noticed that the turn-off valves on many gas meters are so tight or old that it is almost impossible to turn them . This is terribly dangerous. Although your gas wrench is probably strong enough to break the seal, your arm might not be. Please have someone get your gas meter turn-off valve loosened up: the muscle-man or Amazon of the house, a friend, or someone from Questar. If you do it yourself, be careful not to turn the gas all the way off. Just move the valve enough to get it loose (an eighth of a turn or less). If your valve won’t budge and you’re nervous, call Questar.

WATER: Your water can usually be turned off in 2 places, one in your basement or crawl space where the water main comes into your house from outside, and in the water meter can outside near the street. If we have a crisis that could either break water lines or do anything to contaminate our water supply, you should immediately turn off your water out at the street. This will protect you from pulling in contaminated water, and it will keep the water in your pipes from being sucked out by the neighbors down line. To have the use of the extra water in your pipes, having turned off your water valve at the street, open all the faucets in the upper part of your house, and the water will drain to the faucets downstairs. You should probably turn off your water if ever there is a severe earthquake even if your house seems fine, because the city water supply could be contaminated elsewhere by the quake.

To turn off your water in your basement or crawl space, see the picture below. To turn it off at the street, use channel locks to rotate the pentagonal nut on the meter can lid until it feels loose. Then you can pry the lid up. You probably need a sprinkler key to reach the valve and turn it, not because it is so far down, but because of its awkward placement near the meter. (You can buy 4’ water keys at Lowe’s for about $10). Some water main valves turn off with a quarter turn, like your gas meter, BUT SOME TURN OFF WITH 180 DEGREE TURN! It is really important that you figure this out before a disaster happens. Just go out and turn on your hose in the front yard, and then see how far you have to turn your water main valve to turn the hose water off.
ELECTRICITY: Being able to turn off your electricity is also very important. Inside your home you probably have individual breakers or fuses for different things in your home, but outside within 3 feet of your electric meter you will have a box on your house with the master breaker for your entire house. You should turn this off first, and then turn off all the little switches inside so that you don’t get power surges frying your appliances and computer when your electricity comes back on. To turn your electricity back on, reverse this process and do the little ones first and the big one last.

TYING DOWN YOUR WATER HEATER: Your water heater can be an extra source of water for you in an emergency, but it can also be the thing that blows up you r house in and earthquake if it falls over and breaks the gas line. If you haven’t done it already, you need to take steps to get your water heater tied down. This can be accomplished by hiring a plumber to bolt it to the floor with a steel brace (more expensive, but easy), or you can go to a hardware store (Lowes, Home Depot, Anderson Lumber) and buy plumber’s tape, which is metal tape with holes in it for screws to go through, buy some heavy duty lag screws. See the picture below for how to strap your water heater down in this way. For those of you who have free-standing water heaters which have nothing to tie them to, or water heaters in finished utility closets, you can hire a handyman or carpenter to do this for you for a reasonable cost.

(pictures described above will be forthcoming soon on this page.)

Neighborhood Notebook Table of Contents