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Gas line safety might not be on your mind, but of all emergency preparedness topics, gas lines deserve extra consideration — both in the event of natural disasters and for day-to-day living. If not properly installed, monitored, and maintained, natural gas is without question the most potentially dangerous item in your home. Gas can cause instant flash fires and devastating explosions that can result from negligence and carelessness.

Don't pour concrete or put asphalt around the rigid gas delivery pipe leading to the meter. This pipe must remain in soft, pliable dirt to ride out any seismic activity safely.

An exposed gas meter is always susceptible to being damaged or dislodged by contact. For protection from housework and gardening and to keep gas meters near driveways and sidewalks from being hit, place two heavy metal pipes in concrete (much like you would set a fencepost) in front of and on both sides of the gas meter.

To keep the gas line shutoff wrench easily accessible in a gas emergency, attach it to the main line at the shutoff valve with a piece of chain and a hose clamp. If you ever have to close the main gas valve, rotate the bar on the valve only one-quarter turn so that it runs across the gas line (closed) rather than parallel to it (open).

Inspect all gas line connections in your home. Those leading to appliances, furnaces, and water heaters should be only corrugated stainless steel or new epoxy-coated flexible connectors with shutoff valves where they meet the solid gas delivery lines (unless the manufacturer or local building codes specify otherwise).

Always call before you dig. Many types of underground lines serve your home, ranging from gas and electricity to water, telephone, and cable TV — and they're often only a few feet beneath the surface. So before you dig a ditch, sink a fencepost, or plant a tree or shrub, call your local utility companies for location information.

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