Utility Failure

Water, electricity and gas are key services in our daily lives. Yet, these services can also be special dangers – especially during disasters. Learn ahead of time how to turn off the water, gas and electricity safely.

Report service outages directly to the service company. Then, take basic steps to keep your home safe. NEVER try to turn the gas back on yourself. Call a trained professional.


If there is no power in your neighborhood:

  1. Turn off and unplug appliances and computers. Leave one light on to show when the power has been turned back on.
  2. Find the electrical circuit box. Turn off individual circuits before shutting off the main circuit.
  3. Try not to use candles. They are fire hazards.
  4. Do not use a gas stove for heating. Do not use generators indoors or in the garage. They can cause deadly carbon monoxide poisoning.
  5. If you see downed power lines, assume they are energized and stay away from them. Then call the service company to report it.

Electrical sparks can cause natural gas to spark if it is leaking. Teach all responsible household members where and how to turn off the electricity. Locate you electrical circuit box. For your safety, always turn off all the individual circuits before shutting off the main circuit.

Food Safety Tips Following a Power Outage

The Guilford County Department of Public Health is offering these food safety tips to help you determine if the food in your refrigerator and freezer will be safe to eat after your power comes back on. Knowing how to determine if food is safe will help minimize the potential loss of food and reduce the risk of foodborne illness.

First of all, NEVER taste food to see if it is safe! It may taste and smell fine but make you very sick. Don’t take the chance of getting ill.

Keep your refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible during the power outage. Food kept in a closed refrigerator should last about four hours if the door remains closed. All refrigerators should have a thermometer to regularly check food temperatures. All refrigerated foods should be kept at 40 F or lower. Refrigerated foods can be stored in ice-filled coolers for a short period of time.

Refrigerated perishable food such as poultry, fish, meat, soft cheeses, milk, eggs, deli items and leftovers should be discarded after four hours without power. Remember do not taste them!

A full freezer should hold the temperature and keep food frozen for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if half full). If the power has been out for several days, the temperature should be checked with an appliance or food thermometer. Food may be safely eaten or refrozen if it still contains ice crystals or is at 40 F or lower.

Always remember, if you doubt if the food is safe, throw it out. Do not taste it!

For more information, you may contact:

Guilford County Department of Public Health at 641-3771.

US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service at (301) 344-4743

USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854), available in English and Spanish from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (Eastern Time) Monday – Friday. Recorded food safety messages are available 24 hours a day.


Water quickly becomes a prized resource following many disasters.

Before an emergency happens, locate the shut-off valve for the water line that enters your house. Label this valve with a tag so you can find it easily. Be sure everyone in the family knows where the valve is and how to shut off the water. Test the valve to be sure it can be completely shut off.

The valve may be rusted open or may only partially close. If so, replace it. Cracked lines may pollute the water supply to your house. It is wise to shut off your water until you hear from authorities that it is safe for drinking.

The effects of gravity may drain the water in your hot water heater and toilet tanks unless you trap it in your house by shutting off the main house valve. (This is not the street valve in the cement box at the curb – the street valve is extremely difficult to turn and requires a special tool.)


Natural gas leaks and explosions can cause fires after disasters.

Be sure everyone in the house knows how to turn off natural gas. Call the local gas company to find out what the correct way(s) to turn off the gas and to learn what are the types of protection regarding gas service to your home. Once you know the correct turn-off procedures, share this information with everyone in your home.

Do NOT actually turn off the gas when practicing the proper gas shut-off procedures. If you smell gas or hear a blowing or hissing noise, open a window and get everyone out quickly. Turn off the gas using the outside main valve. Call the gas company from a neighbor’s home.

Caution: If you turn off the gas for any reason, a trained person must turn it back on. NEVER attempt to turn the gas back on yourself.