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Island County > Emergency Management > Utility Preparedness

Utility Preparedness

Turning Off the Utilities

When disaster strikes it often affects one or more of the utility systems in our homes. Therefore, it is important to know where the main controls are located and to know when and how to turn them off. It is best to learn these things before disaster strikes.

Here are a few helpful pointers:

Gas :

  • Locate your gas meter valve and learn to turn off the gas. The gas meter is usually found outside your residence where most of the utilities are connected. The shut off valve is usually found just beneath the gas meter on the plumbing coming up from  the ground into the meter.
  • If you suspect the shutoff valve is not working properly, call the utility company for an operational check.
  • Ensure a wrench is immediately available for turning the meter off in an emergency.
  • If you smell natural gas, evacuate immediately. Do not use candles, matches, lighter, open flame appliances or operate  electrical switches. Sparks could ignite gas causing an explosion.
  • Shut off the gas ONLY if you smell gas or hear a hissing noise.
  • Let the gas company turn the gas back on.
  • Seek the assistance of a plumber to repair gas pipe damage.

Sewer :

Your sewer system could be damaged in a disaster such as an earthquake, landslide or flood.

  • Make sure the system is functioning as designed before using it. This will prevent the contamination of your home and possibly the drinking water supply.

If you have one of the more modern septic systems that use an electrical pump to force gray-water into the drain field, you may encounter septic system problems during a power outage. If the electrical power is off for an extended time, and you  continue to use water as you normally would, the septic tank will quickly fill up and sewage may back-up into your home.

  • To maintain the integrity of your septic system during a power outage, restrict the amount of water you put down the drain. 
  • Have a bucket or portable toilet available for disposing of human waste.
  • Plastic bags placed in the toiled bowl will also work.

Electricity :

  • Locate your main electrical switch or fuse panel and learn how to turn the electrical system power off.
  • If a generator is used as a backup power supply remember to:
    -Follow the manufacturer's instructions
    -Connect lights and appliances directly to the generator and not the electrical system
  • Note: Generators connected to a utility company's electrical system must be inspected by the utility and the state electrical  inspector.

Water :

  • Clearly label the water shut off valve and learn to turn off the water supply.
  • Shut off valves may be found immediately adjacent to your home, near the hot water heater or at the main water meter, usually near the street.
  • Ensure valve can be fully turned off. If a special tool is needed, make sure one is readily available.
  • Shut off the main valve to prevent contamination of the water supply in your water heater and plumbing.