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How to handle 4 emergencies

Safety of self, family, home paramount in these cases

By Paul F.P. Pogue, Ask Angi
Published: June 8, 2024, 6:03am

Some repairs on your home can wait. Others demand attention RIGHT NOW. While it’s never fun to think about how things can go wrong in your home, planning ahead and preparing is essential.

That way, when emergencies develop, you can stay calm and make the right moves. Last week, we discussed how to handle the threat of fire in the home. Now, here are tips on handling four of the most difficult home interior emergencies you might encounter.

Gas leak

Leaking gas is one of the most dangerous possible emergencies in your home. The most immediate sign is the distinct rotten-egg, sulfurous smell. You might also notice a hissing sound, or people in the house could experience dizziness or fatigue. A carbon monoxide monitor can also give an early alert.

If you believe your home is leaking gas, remain calm and evacuate the home or people and pets IMMEDIATELY. This is a hazardous situation. Don’t open windows, don’t make a phone call, don’t even turn any light switches — even that tiny spark could ignite a gas leak. If your car is in the garage, don’t try to start it. Once you’re a safe distance from your home, call 911 and your local gas company. Do not re-enter the home until a professional has deemed it safe to do so.

Flooded basement

Many things can lead to a flooded basement: large amounts of rain, a poorly sloped lawn, a failed sump pump, or even clogged gutters. Whatever the case, once your basement starts filling up with water, act quickly. Your first step is removing as many items as possible, especially bedding, towels, upholstery and anything that can easily start to rot. Then, call a professional to address the problem.

If you can determine the cause of the problem and solve it quickly, do so. It will usually be out of your hands, but sometimes a simple sump pump reset might solve the problem.

Work quickly to dry the basement. A wet vac or dehumidifier can quickly remove water. Look for wet drywall, carpeting, wood or insulation. These materials can quickly develop mold, and if mold gets out of control, your problems will multiply quickly.

Burst pipes

Few things can spread chaos as quickly or efficiently as a broken pipe spurting water into your home.

Your first priority is containment. If the pipe has an individual shut-off valve, turn it off and contact a plumber for repairs. However, in the event of a major pipe breaking, you’ll need to turn off the home’s main shut-off valve. If you don’t already know where it’s at, find out before it becomes an emergency.

Once you’ve turned off the water, call a licensed plumber immediately to have them address the problem. In the meantime, do what you can to mop up whatever spill has already made it into the home.

Power outage

Many elements might be responsible for a power outage. If your power goes out, your first step is to identify the extent of the problem. Is it one part of your house, your whole house, or the entire block around you? If the whole block or more is down, your best bet is to sit tight and wait.

If it’s just one outlet losing power, see if it’s a GFCI outlet with the small buttons between the two plug-ins. Press the “reset” button, and your problem may already be solved.

If that doesn’t work, or the problem extends beyond a single outlet, check your electrical panel. Use a flashlight or the light on your phone (if you have one) to see if it’s as simple as a tripped breaker. Most tripped breakers revert back to the center, so if any breakers have tripped, flip them into the “off” position, then back on. Don’t forget to check the main breaker, which is usually a much larger switch at the top.

If this doesn’t help, contact an electrician. You have a problem that’s beyond your ability to solve.