Turn Off The Gas!


 “OMG, I smell gas, don’t you?”

“And what’s that hissing sound? Quick, quick! Turn off the gas before the whole house blows up. . .!”

O.K., this is you. You’ve determined that yes, you have a real gas leak: you smell that rotten-egg smell, you hear gas escaping, maybe you even see where the line has broken. There’s no fire, no sparks, so you feel it’s safe to approach the meter.

So you need to turn off the gas. Now what?

1. Find the meter! If it’s dark, use flashlights, NOT lanterns, matches or candles.  An open flame may set off an explosion if gas has accumulated!

Gas Meter

Where’s the turn-off?

2. In this setup, the turn-off valve is in the lower left corner, 6-8 inches above the ground on the standpipe. When you look at it straight on, you can tell the turn-off valve by its distinctive shape: a circular face with a rectangular section sticking out. The photo below shows the pipe and the turn-off valve from above, but you can easily see the round face and the rectangular part.

Gas turn-off valve

Turn-off valve seen from above

3 . Now, how to turn it off? Fingers just won’t work. Search for the gas meter wrench.  Below is a photo of my wrench. Note the rectangular cut-outs.  One cut-out should fit over the rectangular section on the pipe.  (You can also use a 12 inch crescent wrench.) I store my wrench near — but not directly on — the meter.  (According to one of my experts, “Metal attached to, or hanging on, the meter can disrupt the cathodic protection system that helps to prevent underground gas pipes from corroding.”)


Gas wrench has two options.

4. Fit the wrench onto the valve. Turn one-quarter turn. (You may actually need to step on the wrench to get enough leverage to get the thing to turn.)

Open or closed?

Open or closed?

5. Confirm that the valve is closed — see the right-hand diagram above.

Should I practice opening and closing the valve?  NO, NO, NO!

DON’T TURN OFF THE GAS unless it’s a real emergency. Why? Because you can’t turn it on again! “Only Gas Company field employees are allowed to turn on the gas to the meter.” It’s not just a question of the gas in the line. The gas company will have to go through the house to relight all the pilot lights!

We had a gas main leak in the street outside our community last year.  All the gas to the neighborhood was turned off — 360 homes.  It took the gas company a full day and a half, with a DOZEN EMPLOYEES (all being paid overtime), to get everything turned back on!

Again, this is something you should not do to practice!

But, in a big emergency, you should know how to turn the gas off if there’s a leak.

Share this information with family.

Share it with neighbors, since a gas leak next door could impact you.

Here’s to safety!

Virginia Nicols
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team



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2 Responses to “Turn Off The Gas!”

  1. Russ Flanigan Says:

    I have never seen one of these wrenches in California or Vermont!!

    More and more the pilots are being eliminated…which has its pro and cons…pro…less gas burned…con need electricity to lite pilotless gas appliances and furnaces

  2. Commander Says:

    Russ, these wrenches are available at The Home Depot and at Amazon for $5 for the cheap ones, and up to $25 or so for wrenches that serve other purposes as well as being small pry bars — good for the earthquake survival kit. What DO you see, if you don’t see these wrenches?


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