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Know How to Turn Off Your Water in an Emergency
Locating your home's main supply valve long before water begins gushing from a pipe is crucial. Ten or twenty minutes can make a world of difference in the amount of water damage. That's why everyone in your household needs to know exactly where to go and what to do in a water-related emergency. Make it a family adventure if you need to, but do it today
1.Find the main shut-off valve
In most homes, this is a brass valve with a round handle. The main water line usually takes the shortest path into the house from the outdoor water meter and is most often located near the perimeter of a room at ground level. On the ground floor, look down. In the basement, look at eye level or higher. In warmer climates where freezing is not an issue, the main valve may be on the home exterior near the water meter. It is possible but unlikely that the valve is hidden behind an access panel, and they are rarely placed under a sink. Don't confuse the gas shut-off to the furnace or water heater lines with water lines.
If you have your home inspection report, the main water valve location is indicated-probably in Section 6.1.
2.Turn the valve clockwise
Once you shut off the cold-water flow into the home, the only water that remains is the small amount that was already in the pipes. In the case of flooding, that water will empty quickly. If the problem is less threatening, you can speed the drainage process by running a faucet until the flow stops.
3.Consider any electrical danger
If your home is flooded, take the safety precaution of shutting off the flow of electricity at the main breaker. Standing in water that is near electrical wiring and outlets can create bigger problems than flooding. It is always a good practice for any homeowner to keep alternative, non-electric emergency lighting handy.
4.Restore water by turning counter-clockwise
Turning the water back on is a cinch. Just remember that the entire time the main water valve remains closed, nothing that requires water will be functional including commodes and faucets. Depending upon your situation and the speed of repairs, you may need a short hotel stay or the help of neighbors, family and friends.
5.Make a water emergency plan
Many Floridians have hurricane and disaster plans, but few think about their response to a home flood from a burst pipe or other water emergency. First, take every precaution by keeping all plumbing and hoses in top shape with regular inspections, repairs and replacements. Second, know exactly what you need to do in the case of sudden trouble. You may only need to turn the shut-off valve to a single commode, sink, or appliance. Know where they are. At other times, you will have to stop the flow of water into the entire home. Don't just guess that you have found the location of your main home shut-off valve. Give it a test run by turning the valve all the way off and see if the flow stops when you run a faucet or shower.
What about shutting off the main street valve?
Only three things will make it necessary to shut off the flow of water from the street: The home shut-off system fails, a pipe between the house and street is leaking, or the main house valve is being replaced. The water valve at the street is designed to be difficult to access and usually requires special tools. Always begin by contacting the water company for guidance. As part of your water-damage plan, ask your water company right now how it handles emergencies that require a street shut-off and keep that information handy.
No one can predict the future, but anyone can be aware and prepared. So often the nightmare of water damage can be completely avoided or dramatically reduced with diligence and nimble response.