Here are some common home emergencies and how to deal with them at the moment, plus how to prep your house for the future.
Fire in the Kitchen
When too large a flame appears, or a small fire has started, you need to react quickly. If a grease fire occurs, first turn off the heat source, and don’t use water to put it out: this will likely spread the flames around. Have the pot or pan lid handy when you’re cooking to cover a fire, or else pour a lot of baking soda or salt on the flames. A fire extinguisher could spread the light if you’re too close, but you can attempt from a distance. Read these suggestions for grease fires.
If a fire has started in the oven or elsewhere, use a fire extinguisher at the base of the flames. Err on the side of caution with fire and exit ASAP if you can’t quickly deal with it and call 911. If you’re on fire yourself: drop to the ground and roll to smother the flames. For other advice on what to do with a light anywhere in your home, read these fire safety and evacuation steps.
If water is rapidly (or even slowly) flooding into your house from a pipe that has burst or cracked, turn off the main water valve. It is usually in your basement. If you’re away for an extended period in cold weather, it’s a good idea to shut this off for safety while you’re gone. Call a 24-hour emergency plumber who can ascertain what the problem is and replace the pipes. You might need better insulation if freezing was the culprit. Pipes also degrade over time, and they might have just worn down. It’s a good idea to occasionally hire a plumber to perform an inspection and do any preventative work before a plumbing or drainage emergency occurs.
Always keep a working flashlight and have a few candles and a lighter or matches handily. A hand crank flashlight never needs batteries. See if the power is out on your whole street or it’s just your house. If it only seems to be your home in the dark, check the breakers and reset them to see if something overloaded the system. You might have blown a fuse that will need replacing. If your whole street is out, or you can’t figure out the source of the problem in your house, call the power company.
Note the time the power went out and ascertain when it will be running again (they should be able to estimate). If it’s going to be awhile, fetch some extra ice from the store to protect your freezer food, and throw it out if it gets too warm.
An unpleasant odor is added to natural gas so we can notice it, and it smells like rotting eggs or sulfur. Your carbon monoxide or fire alarm is useless for detecting gas – so don’t rely on any warning other than this. The danger comes from the gas’s extreme flammability, so if you suspect gas is in the air, get yourself and anyone else out of the building immediately and call 911. They’ll get the gas company in on the situation for you. Don’t use anything that could ignite the gas nearby: electronics, switches, your phone, a door opener, your car, a lighter, a match, etc.
If the emergency is life-threatening, always call 911 first.