When a water device breaks, it can cause major damage in a very short time. To prevent major plumbing repairs every member of the household should be comfortable with water emergency response.
Emergency Preparedness Planning
The first step to preventing major water damage is to create and implement an emergency preparedness plan. Gather all members of the family together for a meeting. Take a tour of the house and identify different areas where water can break through and places where you can turn off the water. If you have small children, you may want to role play different scenarios and have them practice actually turning on and off the water valves.
Locate the Water Main Valves
Generally there are two water valves you can turn off to halt the flow of water in your house.
- Inside Main Valve: The inside main valve is usually located in the basement or near a wall where the water line enters the house. Typically it is equipped with either a gate valve or a ball valve. The gate valve is shaped like a wheel and is operated by turning the wheel clockwise until the water is off. A ball valve is a lever that you turn clockwise for a quarter of a turn to turn off the water. When the ball valve lever is parallel with the pipes, the water is on and when it is perpendicular to the pipes, the water is off. Keep in mind that many slab foundation homes are not equipped with an inside water main valve. For those homes, the outside main valve is the default water shut-off valve.
- Outside Main Line: The outside main line is the city meter and is usually located near the street or curb. It is beneath the ground in a cement casing and covered by a heavy metal lid. To turn off the valve, you will need a water key. The specific type of water key will depend on the type of valve you have. If the valve has a tab on the top, you will need a key that has a two-pronged fork on the end. If it has a square nut, you will need a key that is similar to a lug wrench. To turn off the water, turn it clockwise until it stops.
All appliances that use water have their own shut off valves. If possible, this is the best way to deprive the area of water. For instance, you can turn off the shower valve while you wait for the Roto Rooter repairman to come and make the plumbing repairs in your home. While you are waiting for it to be fixed, the rest of the house can still have water.