How To Shut Off Natural Gas
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The information on this page refers ONLY to above-ground gas valves for typical single family dwellings as they tend to be found in the Southern California region.  Residentially sized valves sometimes support duplexes etc., but apartment complexes and business buildings frequently either have larger, commercially-sized valves, or are engineered somewhat differently.  Also, there are often additional issues, even with a residentially sized valve, if it is located in a street vault.
 
When Should You Attempt To Turn Off the Gas?
 
For response after earthquakes, most authorities state that you should only turn off the gas when you have evidence of a leak, such as hearing it (the hissing), smelling the gas (rotten egg smell), or seeing visible damage (e.g. broken supply line to an appliance).  Many commentators are concerned that if too many people shut off their gas supplies when not necessary, the waits for service to turn those utilities back on will be very burdensome on both utlity workers and those without service. There is more to the story however, including the fact that it is`one of the recommended preparations for evacuating a neighborhood in advance of a raging brushfire.  For more detailed information about the issue of under what circumstances to turn off the gas, please sign up for one of our seminars.
 
Next we will cover the basics of locating and turning off the gas, with further information on wrenches later below.
 

residentialmeteroverview.jpg

First, you should locate your meter long before an emergency occurs.  Keep it clear of shrubbery or other things that would obscure access or create a hazard.
 
Many people look at the whole meter and piping set up, and have no idea what part to turn, when and if needed.  Per the diagram above, the proper shut-off valve is typically the first shut-off that occurs after the pipe emerges from the ground and before the piping gets to the pressure regulator.  That is where you will need to focus.
 
It's a good idea, in advance, to locate the actual turn-off spot, and paint it red.

gasmeteron.jpg

When you have located the valve, and absent an emergency or unusual situation, you will normally find it in the "on" position.  That means the valve is "in line" with the pipe.  This is a straight line running in the same direction as that segment of the pipe itself. 

gasmeteroff.jpg

The above picture shows the valve in the OFF position.  Your goal, should it become necessary for safety reasons, is to shut off the gas by only moving the valve from a position "in line" with the pipe (on) to perpendicular to the pipe (off).  That is only a 1/4 turn.
 
It may help to think of looking into the center of a circle, such as a pipe, ring, or frying pan.  When the valve is perpendicular to the pipe, it is the equivalent of putting a cover over a pipe opening, or a lid on a frying pan. 
 
It is important NOT to overcrank the valve when you turn it.  If you try to turn it as if it were similar to a water faucet, you will never hear a "click" and you will be re-opening the lines.  So, stick with the 1/4 turn rule, and the aim of simply being perpendicular to the pipe. 

What Kind Of Wrench Should I Use?
 
The wrench in the pictures is just an adjustable wrench.  Many times finding a good adjustable wrench is a problem after an earthquake, because most people store them in the garage.  Garages are not only possible points of building failure, but frequently have stuff fly and fall all over the place.
 
Those who put adjustable wrenches near their gas meter also sometimes find they've been stolen, or that the mechanisms have rusted and they cannot adjust them.  The latter problem can be overcome, but the big thing is that adjustable wrenches are not spark-free.  The LAST thing you need near the gas meter when pipes may be damaged is something that could create a spark.
 
We recommend the On Duty spark-free gas-shut-off wrench.  See the following link here on our site for more information: