Though they are often associated with bad weather or certain times of year, household emergencies can pop up at any time.  When the situation is dire, you may not have time to research what to do or figure out what tool to use.  While some emergencies may require professional help, you should at least be able to take some preliminary steps on your own.

Kitchen Fire:  One of the most dangerous kinds of crises you may experience, kitchen fires can start up quickly and spread just as fast.  It’s wise to be educated on the use of a fire extinguisher, and be sure that the one in your kitchen is rate for grease fires.  Never throw water on a grease fire, as this will only cause it to spread.  Instead, keep a box of baking soda handy.  A pot lid works much better to smother the flames than a dish towel or anything else that may catch fire.  Keep an oven fire enclosed, and don’t open the door.

Toilet Troubles:  The toilet is one of the most-used fixtures in the home, and calling a plumber to take care of small issues can run up a bill quickly.  Clogs can be fixed with quick, short bursts of a plunger.  Leaks can be caused by bad seals or a flapper that won’t sit in the bottom of the tank, and supplies can easily be purchased at your local hardware store.  If the commode won’t flush, open up the tank and be sure that the flushing mechanism is still attached to the handle.

Burst Pipes:  If water is gushing out onto your floor, then you need to take care of things right away.  You might need to call a plumber to fix the pipe itself, but at the very least you need to be able to stop your home from drowning.  After all, water can cause a lot of damage!  Find the shut off valve that is closest to the source of the leak.  Toilets and many sinks will have individual valves.  Depending on where the broken pipe is, you may need to turn off the water supply to the entire house using the main shut off valve.  Know where this is ahead of time so you won’t need to wonder when you need it.  Use a canister vacuum to clean up any excess water.  Never use a space heater to dry up moisture; the higher temperatures can cause mold problems.

Gas Leak:  Natural gas is great for heating your home and cooking, but it can be very dangerous if this flammable substance leaks.  If you smell gas, get everyone out of the home as quickly as possible.  Don’t do anything that may cause a spark and start a fire, including flipping light switches.  Your gas company should have a 24-hour hotline you can call to request a technician.

Power Outage:  Here’s another situation where being prepared can go a long way.  Make sure you have flashlights and fresh batteries on hand, and always keep them in the same spot.  Be careful when using candles for illumination, as this can cause more problems if you accidentally start a fire.  Open your fridge and freezer as little as possible to keep food cold.  Unplug appliances and electronics to protect them from potential power surges when the electricity comes back on.

Remember that even though you should be prepared to handle emergencies as much as possible, don’t get in over your head.  Never put yourself in danger when a quick call to the professionals seems like a better idea.  Be ready before any accidents occur:  know where your water valve, circuit breaker box, and fire extinguishers are located.  Most of all, remain calm and stay safe.