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Put Out a Grease Fire: Teaching Teens to Deal with Home Emergencies

Among the key life skills for teens: dealing with home emergencies. Toilets overflow, faucets leak, grease fires happen. Sometimes home emergencies pop up in an instant and you have to act quickly—before there’s time to call the landlord or mom and dad. Does your son or daughter know what to do?

5 Home Emergencies:

1. How to deal with an overflowing toilet

Your teen should know how to find the shutoff valve. On the pipe coming out of the wall behind the toilet, locate the water valve and turn it clockwise. If there is no shutoff, remove the tank lid on the back of the toilet and find the ball/float. Lift up the ball while someone else turns the water off at the main water shutoff. To prevent water from refilling the tank, wedge something under the ball.

2. How to deal with a water leak

Of all the home emergencies, water can cause damage the most quickly. Look for the shutoff valve closest to the fixture that’s leaking. Turn clockwise to turn off all the water. Some appliances such as washing machines, dishwashers, or refrigerators may have a water shutoff switch on the body of the appliance or on the hose that connects to the wall. If you cannot locate this valve, find the main water shutoff valve to cut off the stream of water into the home. The main shutoff is usually located in the basement or part of the house closest to where the water pipes enter the house from the outside.

3. How to deal with a gas leak

With a gas leak, seconds count. If there is a strong odor similar to rotten eggs, or a roaring or hissing sound coming from a gas appliance, leave immediately and take everyone in the room with you somewhere safe. Do not light a match, smoke, or turn appliances or lights on, as doing so can produce sparks that might cause the gas to explode. Call the power company or landlord when you are away from the area.

4. How to flip a circuit

If the power goes off or an appliance does not have any power, the breaker may have flipped and you will need to reset it. A breaker is a switch that turns off the flow of electric current, and it is located in the circuit panel. Turn off the lights and all appliances in the room. Locate the circuit panel, which will be a metal box mounted on the wall either in the garage, utility room or other accessible location. Look for a breaker that has moved from the On to the Off position, or is halfway between the two. Turn the breaker fully to the Off position, then flip to the fully On position.

It the power doesn’t come back on, try flipping it off and on again. If the breaker shuts off again, you have a short or some other problem that needs to be fixed before you attempt to switch it on again. At this point, it’s time to call the landlord or electrician.

5. Grease fire

If you have a fire in the oven, turn the oven off and keep the oven door closed. The lack of oxygen will suffocate the flames. If your oven continues to smoke, a fire may still be going on in there. Call the fire department. If you have a fire in a cooking pan, use an oven mitt to clap on the lid, then move the pan off the burner, and turn off the stove. The lack of oxygen will stop the flames in a pot. If you can’t safely put the lid on a flaming pan, use a fire extinguisher. Never use water to put out grease fires! Water repels grease and can spread the fire by splattering the grease.

Jane Parent, former editor at Your Teen, is the parent of three.

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