A kitchen fire, a power outage, pipes bursting... These events are especially frustrating in family homes, where many people use the space. We’re going to look at the most common emergencies and first-response steps you can take.
Before that, though, a word of warning: if you’re a passionate DIYer, check if you’re actually allowed to do house repairs. For example, in some countries, like Australia, doing your own plumbing is mostly illegal. Make sure to research your own national, state, and local laws.
Cooking accidents are the most common cause of house fires in the USA. To prevent them, be an attentive cook, don’t leave the kitchen, and monitor what’s going on. In addition, keep your smoke detectors in good shape. Test them about once a month and replace their batteries regularly. Also, replace the detectors completely every ten years.
If you do end up with a kitchen blaze, here’s what to do:
- For an oven fire, immediately turn the oven off and keep it closed. The flame should run out of oxygen and die down.
- For a stovetop fire, don’t throw water on it! Stovetop fires are usually grease-based, and water just scatters them around. Instead, turn off the stove and smother the blaze with a metal lid or by throwing baking soda on it.
- If the fire doesn’t stop, evacuate your family, shut the door, get a safe distance away, and call emergency services.
If there’s a smell of rotten eggs seemingly out of nowhere, your gas might be leaking. It’s a sickness risk and an explosion hazard, so don’t look for it on your own. Don’t risk anything that could provide ignition: cigarettes, open flame, or even switching appliances on/off. Get everyone outside immediately and call emergency services.
In the ceiling: first, prevent water damage to the rest of the space. Place some buckets, pots, or plastic sheets to collect the water, and empty them regularly.
Anywhere else: turn off the main water valve if it’s a big leak. That’ll prevent any water from flowing to your home until you can locate the broken pipe. The main valve is usually in the basement or if you don’t have one, near the front of your house.
Then, call a professional to diagnose the situation. Many services can also check your roofing, gutters, and even gas lines for problems contributing to the leak, so make sure to inquire about those, too.
Look outside. If the outage affected your street or neighborhood, report it to the power company. If it’s just your home, look at your breaker box. Until the problem is fixed:
- Turn off the switches for any lights that were on when the outage hit, and unplug any electronics.
- Keep your fridge closed. Opening it will make the food spoil faster, especially if the outage lasts longer than four hours.
- Forgo candles (they’re a fire hazard) and use flashlights or your phone to move around.
Don’t go down there. First, call your utility company to turn off the gas and electricity. Then professionals will need to clean up and try to minimize the damage to your home. Floodwaters carry the risk of disease, so you’ll also need to trash and replace anything that can’t be thoroughly disinfected.
Rodents: if you see a mouse or rat, chances are there’s more than one. Check the inside and outside of your home for their traces: nests, chew marks, and droppings. Cover any small holes and other potential points of entry with wire mesh or fast-acting sealant, then set up traps.
Ants: remove any ants you see. Treat everywhere they might’ve been with vinegar spray to remove any scent trails that would attract other ants. If you can’t figure out where they’re coming from, set up ant traps, then call a professional to check for nests nearby.
After the initial emergency is over, you can assess the damage and decide whether to fix it yourself. Hiring professional help can seem pricey but could save you stress and money in the long run.