Home Inspector Shares Some Things You Should Know In Case Of Emergency

Your families' safety plan should include a list of things that everyone living in the home should know.  This should include maintaining a list of emergency shut-off locations, basic tools, and information sources.  As a home inspector, I typically tag all of the gas and water valves for the homeowner during the process of inspecting a home.  In addition, when performing the final walkthrough with clients at the end of the home inspection process, I will point out and explain the location and function of these valves and other power sources such as electrical shutoffs.

Main Electrical Disconnect.
This will be located in the main fuse or breaker panel, typically located in the basement or garage.  In Condominiums or Townhomes, the main electrical disconnect can sometimes be found at the end of the building at a large service panel.  Each unit's disconnect should be plainly marked.

Main Water Valve. 
This valve turns off all of the water to the home.  If you are on a municipal water supply, the valve should be located somewhere on the "street side" of your home near the water meter.  If you are on your own well, the valve will be located next to the pressure tank.  If this is the case, in addition to shutting the valve, you will also want to shut off the power to your pump to disable the main water system.

Hot Water Shut-off. 
This valve should be located on the cold water side, (inlet) near the top of the water heater.  The valve can be closed to turn off the hot water supply to the home.

Natural Gas Main. 
The natural gas main should be located at the gas meter.  Many of the gas main valves will require a wrench to operate.  Occasionally there will be an additional valve at the gas regulator in the home, typically in the basement. A quarter turn will close these types of valves.

Local Gas Valves. 
Water heaters, furnaces, gas fireplaces, and stoves all require a valve to be located at the appliance.  Again, these types of valves are typically quarter turn valves.

Furnace and Air Conditioning Main Switch. 
This switch looks like a typical light switch on modern installations, and is located at the furnace.  On older homes there may be a single fuse box with a switch attached at the side of the box.

Central Air Conditioner Main Disconnect. 
Central Air Conditioners require a main disconnect at the unit location on the exterior of the home.  This switch allows the service personnel control over the electrical power at the A/C unit.

Emergency Phone numbers. 
Maintain a list of how to reach the Fire department, ambulance, police, mom, dad, relatives, workplace and others as appropriate for your household.

Fire Extinguishers. 
Fire Extinguishers should be placed in the Kitchen, Basement and Garage.  Everyone in the home should know their locations and how to operate them.

Escape Plans. 
Your family should have an escape plan on how to get out of the house in case of an emergency.  A meeting place should also be established so that all can be accounted for.  Practice your escape plan.

Garage Door Emergency Release. 
In case of a power failure, the overhead garage door has an emergency release.  The release is typically a red handle attached to a rope located near where the garage door opener attaches to the garage door.  Disengaging this release will allow you to manually open the garage door.  If the garage door is not balanced properly, or if springs are broken it may be very heavy and difficult to lift.

Emergency Tool Box. 
Set aside basic tools in case of emergency,  Adjustable wrenches screw drivers, hammer, flash light and batteries etc should be located in a place that everyone knows.

Keep in mind that this is just a basic list and that everyone's situation is unique.  Be sure to take careful consideration to your home and family needs and be prepared.  It is important that each family member knows how to react to emergencies and to know that emergency shut offs will work when needed.  You can also contact you local utility companies, police and fire department for additional information.