February 3, 1995

Prepare For Quakes, Other Emergencies

Amy Michelson Washington State Energy Office

We’ve seen what earthquakes can do. And, as we know, like Japan, we’re earthquake-prone. But whether it’s potential earthquakes or simply because it’s a good safety procedure, homeowners should know where all gas, electric and water shutoff valves and switches for their homes are located. The following checklist can help you prepare for emergencies:

Gas meters are usually outside but are occasionally located in basements or crawlspaces. Most often the main shutoff valve is on the inlet pipe and the first fitting out of the ground. A quarter-turn either direction (using a longhandled adjustable wrench) will turn the valve off.

Propane systems require a shutoff valve in the home near the propane heater and can be turned off by hand. The main valve is in the storage tank under the access lid to the tank. It may need to be turned off if the quake has disturbed the tank, propane line, or heater.

For electrical shutoff, locate your service entrance and fuse box or breaker panel and mark the main fuse, breaker, or shutoff for easy identification.

Locate and know how to turn off your main water inlet. The water meter is generally located in the ground outside your home near the street or in the driveway. All water meters have a valve near them, although a special T-type wrench may be required to turn the valve in the small space available.

Keep a functional fire extinguisher on hand and know how to use it safely. Fire extinguishers are particularly important during and after a quake, when water may not be available.

If you live in an apartment building, you may have less control over the heating and utility systems. In any case, know how to evacuate the building.

To receive a free factsheet - Earthquake Preparation - call the Energy Hotline toll-free at (800) 962-9731 or 324-7980 in Spokane.

Another guide to aid planning for all types of emergencies is the Family Emergency Preparedness Plan. To obtain a copy, call the Spokane City/County Emergency Services office at 456-2204. Or call the Washington State Emergency Management Division at (800) 562-6108.


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