Following an earthquake or other major disasters it is important to know how and when to turn off the major utilities, such as gas and hydro.
It is extremely important to know when and how to turn off the gas. Fire is the second leading cause of destruction following an earthquake.
When do You Turn Off the Gas?
According to FortisBC you should turn the gas off when you smell gas, hear the hissing sound of gas escaping or a gas appliance or water tank has broken loose from its connections or fallen over. You'll recognize the smell of the gas because it has been treated to give it a distinctive “rotten egg” smell.
When you smell a natural gas odour under any circumstances, shut off the main gas supply to your home. Ventilate the building. Natural gas is lighter than air and will dissipate through the open windows and doors. Do not smoke, turn electrical switches on or off, use the phone, or create any other source of ignition.
If the gas odour is strong, especially when accompanied by the sound of escaping gas, evacuate the premises IMMEDIATELY. Shut off the main gas supply to your home.
To shut off the main gas valve (normally located at your gas meter on the exterior of your home) use a specially made gas shut off wrench. A crescent wrench also works but you have to adjust it to fit the gas valve so keep it lubricated and store in plastic to keep from corroding if you store it outside. It is a good idea to designate a wrench just for emergency shut-off of your gas so that you will know where to find it. Attach it directly to the meter or show everyone in the family where it is stored.
If your home is not in danger from fire or leaking gas consider leaving your gas supply turned on. It may be your only source of energy for some time. The system must be purged and all pilot lights relit by qualified personnel only. It can be dangerous for you to turn the gas supply back on after an earthquake without having inspected the gas piping venting and appliances. Immediately following an earthquake FortisBC personnel will be extremely busy responding other calls. So know when you need to turn off your gas.
In January 1994 after the Northridge earthquake 120,000 people turned off their gas. Only 15,000 to 20,000 of these people needed to. It took two weeks with 3,500 qualified gas personnel to reactivate everyone’s gas service.
In Penticton during the Garnet fire in the summer of 1994, the main gas line was turned off leaving 8,000 residents without gas. It took one week using gas personnel from all over the Province to re-activate everyone’s gas service.
Teach all responsible family members where and how to shut off the electricity.
First assess the extent of the power outage. If the power outage is limited to only your house then:
- Turn off electrical power at the fuse box or circuit breaker panel. When operating a breaker, always face away from the panel.
- To turn off, first switch off the main breaker, then the small ones. At the fuse box, first unscrew the fuses, then turn off the main breaker. Then switch off all appliances and tools for three reasons :
- Appliances or tools left on will start up automatically upon restoration of service; turning them off will minimize the risk of injury or fire.
- If a power surge follows start-up, it could damage sensitive electronic equipment such as computers, microwaves and VCRs.
- Power can be restored more easily by reducing the load on the electric system.
If your neighbours' power is off too, turn off all your appliances but leave one light switch on so you know when the power is restored. When power returns, that one light will let you know that service is restored. Re-introduce the load in this order: furnace, fridge, freezer etc. Slowly start to turn machines, appliances back on. Too much of a rush on the electrical load could cause it to trip and go out again.
Contact the electric company before trying to restore service. During a widespread power failure, automatic systems attempt to recycle power. This attempt may send out power surges that could damage appliances.
Downed Power Lines
If you see a downed power line please call BC Hydro with the exact location. Keep back 10 metres (33 feet) from wires or anything in contact with them and warn others of the danger. Always assume that the lines are energized.
Shuffle or Hop - Don't Step
If your vehicle makes contact with an energized line remain inside until help arrives. If you must get out due to fire, jump out with your feet together. Then shuffle away, keeping both feet close together. Never contact the ground and your vehicle at the same time.
It is safe to call for help from inside your car using your cell phone provided it is not connected to the vehicle systems.