How to respond to emergencies

A small fire, burns, electrical shocks and shorts... Know what to do when these - and other - household emergencies strike!

A household emergency can strike at unexpected moments and your response, or lack thereof, could determine how things pan out in the end.

Put yourself to the test and seriously ask yourself… What would I do in these situations?

Electricity

•    First and foremost, if the floor is damp or the wiring has gotten wet, it is dangerous to touch the main switch box.
•    Have the electricity turned off by the municipality in the main meter box.
•    When turning off electricity, most fuse boxes or main circuit breaker boxes have main levers or switches where you can flip them to the Off position. It is that simple.

Electric shocks

•    Never try to touch a shock victim who is still touching the source of electricity - the current can flow right through to you.
•    Use a wooden object, like a broom handle to dislodge the victim from the source, then call for help. Never use a metal object to dislodge the victim!

Natural gas

•    If you smell gas, open windows and shut off the main gas valve.
•    Do not light a flame or turn any electrical switches on or off.
•    Do not use your phone.
•    Leave your house and report the leak.
•    LP gas is heavier than air and sinks to lower levels. If you can, go to the natural gas shut off and turn lever on the meter intake pipe so it’s perpendicular to the pipe.

If you have propane and natural-gas appliances, here is an easy way to distinguish the smells:

•    Sniff around, and if the smell is strongest below nose level, it’s propane. Natural gas is lighter and tends to spread through the air, heavier propane tends to settle closer to the floor.
•    A faint gas odour may signal that a pilot light is out on one of your appliances. In order to relight, set the control valve to off, then to pilot. Release gas to the pilot light by depressing either the red button or the handle, depending on the appliance model. Light with a match; then keep the button or handle depressed for at least one minute. Release it and set the control to On.

Plumbing issues

•    A strong smell of sewage from any fixture may indicate that the trap in the waste pipe leading away from the fixture has gone bad.
•    Pour water into the drain and wait to see if the smell goes away. If it doesn’t, you may have more problems, so call a plumber.
•    Shut off the main water valve if the flood is the result of a broken pipe
•    Shut off electricity to the flooded area, but only if it is possible to reach the main circuit box without touching water!

If you have a flood in progress, minimise the damage with these do’s and don’ts:

•    Wear rubber boot and gloves if leak is in a drain line or has been contaminated with sewage, and disinfect the area after it has been cleaned and allowed to dry.
•    Don’t wade through standing water if it has come in contact with electrical outlets or appliances, the water may be electrically charged.
•    Don’t run a gas powered water pump in the house as it produces hazardous fumes.

Down the drain?

Don’t give up on a piece of jewellery that falls down the drain.

•    Instead, use a pipe wrench to open the plug on the u- shaped trap under the sink, or to remove the entire trap if there is no plug.

Know what to do in the event of a small fire? Read this quick guide and be prepared in case an accident happens.

Janice Anderssen is Women24's DIY and Decor expert. Ask her a question here, or visit her website.

- Women24

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