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By James Pruitt, Senior Staff Writer

Shutoffs can ruin businesses when bills are not paid. However, business owners may need to shut off services as emergencies arise. Climate change has increased the frequency of weather events, and events of the past year highlight the challenges of social change as well.

One advantage of a small business is the ability to adapt better than larger organizations. As such, Veteran Small Business Owners should plan for survival in tragic situations. 

Shutting off Electricity:

Weather events could bring a host of problems for the electrical grid. Businesses might need to close due to a variety of local climatic phenomena. Windstorms, brush fires, and snowstorms could each render transportation systems unusable, preventing the involvement of utility companies and first responders. An earthquake could damage the wiring in the business structure itself. 

The first contact in a natural disaster should be the electric company. Use extreme caution before tampering with electrical equipment. Hopefully, an on-site maintenance person can handle any issues. 

Only a worst-case scenario warrants the presence of an untrained small business owner in the utility room. In such a case, wait for instructions from the electric company or fire department. However, shutting off the electricity is actually fairly straightforward. Just remember the danger absent proper safety precautions. First, make sure the power is off. A voltage tester can accomplish this task. Then, switch all circuit breakers to the off position. Finally, do the same to the main circuit or fuse.

Never perform these tasks in the case of flooding. Avoid water in contact with electrical equipment. In such a case, the electric company is the best contact for the long-term resolution of the problem.

Shutting off Gas

As with electricity, the gas should only be turned off on the advice of the utility company or the fire department. Once the gas is turned off, wait for a professional to turn the gas back on. However, everyone should at least know how to turn off the main valve.

The scent of natural gas should be a red flag, as should the sounds of hissing and blowing. Each could indicate a leak. The main shutoff valve, often called the street-side valve, is generally where the main pipe first enters the building, just before the gas meter. A tool such as a wrench is usually necessary in such a circumstance. Additional shutoff valves may be located near any appliances that utilize gas.

Generally, gas companies don’t want consumers tampering with their equipment. Small business owners should only resort to such measures after outright instructions from the company or the fire department. A natural disaster may provide the context for such a situation.

Shutting off Water

Natural disasters may often involve flooding. Dangers from flooding may extend well beyond the water damage to physical property. Contact with electrical equipment could create a deathtrap.

Additionally, turning off the water protects from contamination, and ensures that clean water won’t drain through damaged water lines. In fact, business owners are well-advised to turn off the water during periods of vacancy.

As with gas, the main shutoff valve maybe near the meter. Proprietors may find the meter outside the house or in a basement area. A plumber may help locate the correct meter for use in emergencies. Never confuse the water meter with the gas meter. 

Again, as with gas, individual shutoff valves may be located near appliances that use water, such as refrigerators, toilets, and sinks. These valves are useful whenever these appliances need repairs.

Overall Safety Considerations

Always consider the safety ramifications of tampering with gas and electricity. Generally, only professionals should handle these utilities. Given an emergency or natural disaster, the fire department or utility company should give the green light before the involvement of a layperson. However, an understanding of the gas and electrical systems could come in handy in the event these services become unavailable. 

Smaller businesses have the advantage of tighter understanding and control over their instrumentalities. This understanding should include the last resort in the case of emergencies and disasters. Given changes in the social and environmental fabric, such events may only increase over time.

VAMBOA, the Veterans and Military Business Owners Association hope that this article has not only been valuable but provided some unique perspective.  We work hard to bring you important, positive, helpful, and timely information and are the “go-to” online venue for Veteran and Military Business Owners.  VAMBOA is a non-profit trade association.   We do not charge members any dues or fees and members can also use our seal on their collateral and website.   If you are not yet a member, you can register here:

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