Knowing how to turn off the water supply is important knowledge for the entire family, including children. Children can learn where the shut-off valves are located and how to turn them off and on. In addition, you might want to have them practice operating the valves, hold annual family meetings, and keep your valves well-maintained.
There are three different types of valves that household members should know how to operate.
Many plumbing devices, such as toilets, water heaters, and dishwashers, are equipped with their own valves that stop the flow of water to the device. Since every appliance or fixture is different you should check the owner's manuals for detailed operating instructions.
Most homes are equipped with a valve that will shut off the water to the entire house. It is located on a utility wall outside the house or in a basement. It will be near the spot where the main water line enters the house.
Near the edge of the property line is the main water valve where your water lines connect with the city's lines. This valve is usually buried in a box that is covered by a metal plate. You need a shut-off key to operate this valve.
Simply telling, or even showing, children how to turn off the water valves is not enough. Once you have demonstrated how to turn off the water it is a good idea to let children practice doing so. Devise different emergency scenarios and have the children pretend that the emergency has happened. Let them act out what to do, as long as it is safe. Let them actually turn off the water and turn it back on.
Children tend to forget where the water, gas, and electricity valves are located. Even if they do remember, they may not remember how to turn them off. Once a year, hold a family meeting where you review the procedures to turn off the water and turn it back on. During this family meeting you might also want to talk about other emergency scenarios such as what to do in case of a tornado, fire, or other natural disaster.
Since these valves are not used very often they can begin to stick. We recommend that once a year you turn the valves all the way off and then back on again to keep them moving smoothly. If necessary you may want to lubricate them. If the valves won't turn with moderate effort, don't force them. You can break them. It is better to call a plumber to fix them. Also, as you turn them on and off you may notice that they begin to leak. If that happens, call an expert plumber.
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