Month 4: Utilities Shut Off and Water

This month’s steps are:
Step 1: Turning off utilities
Read the attached handout to access where, when and how to turn off utilities should you need to. There are a few things you need to think of now so you know how to handle the situation in a safe and appropriate manner in an emergency. The checklist will walk you through how to do this.
Step 2: Securing water
In Month 3, we looked at where can you find water and other liquids to keep you hydrated should we lose water. This month we’re going to access how much water you may need in case of a major disaster. For some disasters, such as a major earthquake, you could be without running water for several weeks or longer. The checklist will walk you through accessing how much water you will need and what might be good containers to store the quantity of water you need.

Here is the Month 4 Emergency Preparedness Steps letter.

Month 4 video – coming soon; also watch the “Proper Way to Shutoff Your Natural Gas Following a Disaster” video below in the Additional Resources section.

Tip of the month: If we lose water, bathing is a luxury. Not all body parts need the same level of cleanliness. Instead of taking a shower, use a washcloth, a little soap and water to clean up. Put aside the amount of water for bathing and stay within your water budget.

3-Gallons/Day 3 Day Challenge: Take the 3-day challenge. Can you use 3 gallons of water or less for drinking, cleaning, cooking and bathing? (We’ll assume that you have your sanitation plan in place and you can use the toilet.) Many people have prepare for only 1 gallon a day. So see how you would do with 3 gallons. It’s doable but it requires some forethought and creative bathing (bucket baths or sponge baths). Put your 3 gallons out in the morning and stick to your budget. Get your family and friends to join in.

Community Organizing Tips:

  • Make sure you have emergency turn off wrenches available in your community and that several people know when and how to properly turn off utilities.
  • Buy several wrenches collectively and have them accessible.
  • Discuss emergency shutoff procedures at a neighborhood or community meeting.
  • Price some larger rain or water storage barrels and see if you can get a discount for bulk purchases or on shipping.
  • Have someone price out the cost of some 30- and 55-gallon tanks and take orders by going around to neighbors or presenting the idea at a community meeting. Many people are willing to write a check if the research and options are presented, but are less likely to make the effort to do the research and purchase one on their own.

Teacher Resources:

  • Here is the Student Version of Month 4 Emergency Preparedness letter.
  • Students will also pick 3 consecutive days (preferably a Friday, Saturday and Sunday) to do the 3 Gallons a Day 3 Day Challenge. They have to record and reflect on how they managed to use a limited number of gallons in this simulation activity.
  • Since people’s resources and space may vary greatly, the main thing was to get people to secure at least 3 days’ worth of water. See the “Low Cost” section on the handout.
  • Full credit for this assignment is given for having it filled in and signed by a parent or guardian.
  • Encouraging people to do on-line research about different food-grade water storage and sharing it can help to increase the likelihood that people purchase larger containers.
  • Make sure several people at your school, besides the maintenance staff, knows how to turn off emergency shutoffs and where emergency shutoff wrenches are located. Have a few people go along with a maintenance person and have them show where and how to turn off different emergency shutoffs. I did this with a camera and made a short 10-minute video that all the people on the Utilities Shutoff Team watched.  Each year we can simply watch the movie to remind ourselves of the basics or use it to inform new staff of the procedures. Remember: when practicing, do not turn them off. Record on a school map where these shutoffs are located. Go through a drill about every half year to remind yourself of the shutoff procedures.

Additional Resources:
Gas Shutoff Devices – an explanation of when and how to shutoff gas. Source Pacific Gas & Electric Co.
Turning Your Electricity On & Off – visuals and explanation of how to turn your electricity off. Source Pacific Gas & Electric Co.
Utility Shutoff and Safety – an overview of when and how to turn off gas, electricity and water. Source
Proper Way to Shut Off Your Natural Gas Following a Disaster – YouTube video . Source Washington State Emergency Management Division.