Home Basics

Home preparedness includes knowing how to shutoff utilities, having warning and prevention equipment, and having food and water. Much of home preparedness includes basic things such as having pantry food, working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and knowing how to shutoff utilities.

Shutoff Utilities

You should know how to shutoff all of the utilities that come into your house. In the event of an emergency have some simple knowledge and a few tools could save your entire house or your life. Store shutoff tools where they are very easy to find such as near the shutoff valve. Clearly mark and label the tools so that others can find and use them in the event of an emergency.

  • Water: Can you turn off your water main in the event of a pipe burst or water leak? You should have a shutoff wrench and know the location of your main shutoff valve. You can purchase a shutoff wrench at a home and hardware store. Practice shutting off the valve to make sure that you have the proper wrench type. Usually 1/4 turn is all that is needed to shutoff the water.
  • Gas: Know how to turn off the gas main to your house. If you smell gas then shutoff the gas main, open doors and windows, and leave the house.
  • Electrical: Know how to access and shutoff your electrical panel. If you have an major electrical problem then cut off the electricity and have the problem diagnosed and fixed. One day I came home and a wall switch would not work and the wall was hot. I shut off the electricity and found out that the wall switch had failed, it turned into a resistor, and the wires got so hot that the insulation on the wires melted. It is also good to label your circuit breaker switches using a Sharpie pen or a label maker so that you can quickly identify each circuit. Make sure that you can easily access the panel.

Be sure to place the tools and wrenches where they can be easily found and accessed. Perhaps you can place them hooks at the entrance to your garage. If you have a problem you may need to access these tools very quickly.

Home Equipment

Your home should have some basic equipment including smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and fire extinguishers.

  • Fire Extinguishers: You should have at least one fire extinguisher that is ready, fully charged, and easy to access. Use a high-grade fire extinguisher and have it inspected and/or recharged as per its maintenance schedule. Fire extinguishers degrade over time so it is best to spend a little extra and purchase a fire extinguisher that can be rebuilt and recharged.
  • Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors: Have smoke detectors that are in working order and have fully charged batteries. Test the smoke detectors and change the batteries periodically. Smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors now have expiration dates. Be sure that your detectors are working and not expired. You can also get devices that detect both smoke and carbon monoxide. Some building codes require wired detectors with battery backup.

Be sure to check and maintain your detectors and fire extinguishers. Some fire extinguisher dealer add a dated safety and inspection tag. These extinguishers can be inspected, refilled, and rebuilt when necessary.

Home Preparation

Proper preparation can eliminate or lessen problems after an emergency. There are simple things that you can do to prepare your home.

  • Secure heavy objects such as bookcases, water heater, etc. so that they will not fall and cause injury.
  • Move loose object that could fall away from chairs, bed, and desks.
  • Secure chemicals (kitchen, garage, etc.) that could fall, leak, and mix. Some ordinary household products can produce very toxic gases when mixed.