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Checking utilities in the aftermath of an earthquake

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

One top priority for homeowners after an earthquake is to ensure all utilities remain in proper working order.

“Just like items in your home can shift in an earthquake, utility lines and wires can be jarred out of place or otherwise damaged,” said Gina Peek, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension housing and consumer specialist.

In addition to checking all gas lines, homeowners should be alert for the smell of gas both indoors and outdoors and especially near the stove, furnace and water heater.

Property owners also should inspect all gas appliances to ensure they did not shift or sustain damage, said Scott Frazier, OSU Cooperative Extension engineer.

“If you smell any gas, evacuate immediately. If you can, turn off the gas at the main then contact the gas company,” Frazier said. “Keep in mind, if you turn the gas off, only the utility company can restore service.”

Homeowners should search for water leaks both inside and outside the house. Test drains and toilets as well as faucets to make sure the water flows correctly and is clear.

“If you discover any water leaks, turn off the main and call a plumber,” Frazier said.

For families using wells, take the time to inspect the yard for soil movement, cracks or sink holes. Before using the plumbing, ensure water and sewer lines are intact. Plug drains to prevent sewage backup.

Finally, check electrical lines throughout the house and especially in the attic. Stored objects in the attic can fall over onto exposed electrical lines and damage them.

Do not touch exposed wiring, downed power lines or broken electrical appliances. If there is damage to wiring, turn off the electricity and contact a licensed professional.

“In cases where electrical equipment or wall plugs aren’t working, it’s important to figure out why. Shorts or disconnects in the walls, floors or ceiling could be fire hazards,” Frazier said. “Be aware, too, that furniture or other household items could shift or fall on electrical lines, which could spark a fire.”

For more tips on checking your utilities for earthquake damage, visit the county Extension office.

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