I brought the kids into the garage and showed them the underside of the garage sink. I told them about how eleven years ago,just after we moved in to the house, we got home from vacation and a water line broke while my wife was washing her hands. We had been home all of 10 minutes. (Talk about good timing... Though I wonder if it only broke because of the change in pressure. Maybe it would have stayed intact until the next time the faucet was used...) I asked them what they would do if the water started gushing out.
"I'd go get a tool from the garage. I've seen people on television use a tool under there to stop leaks," said the twelve year old.
"I'd get a towel!" said the 10 year old.
"Oh, I'd get a tool _and_ I'd have my sister hold a towel or a bucket!" added the older sister.
I showed them the standard water shutoff valves that are on all of our sinks. I explained that if the leak was coming from the copper pipes and not the water line, shutting off the valve wouldn't help. Then we went over to the main water shutoff. It's a big yellow lever on the water pipe where it comes into the house via the garage. I explained how to shut it off, which was was off and on, and I even let them move the lever.
Then I explained about the gas. This one was trickier because there's not a shutoff inside the garage for that. Well, actually there are at least 5 red levers on the gas pipes in the garage, but each one only shuts off a single item (hot water heater, dryer, etc.). In order to shut off the gas to the house they would have to shut it off at the meter on the side of the house. I showed them the valve/bolt/whatever they'd have to turn. But we don't have a wrench outside. Some people keep wrenches right by their gas meters for emergencies. Maybe we should. I've always been reluctant to do that, as it just seems like someone would take the wrench or it would get lost somehow. So, anyway, I showed them where I kept a wrench for that in the garage.
Overall, they seemed genuinely interested and they were certainly paying attention. I'm fairly confident that they'll manage to shut off the water in an emergency. Not so sure about the gas though. I didn't have them practice with the gas because I didn't want to have to re-light the pilot lights in the house. Maybe that was a mistake. I don't even know how hard it would be to turn that valve -- maybe they wouldn't be able to...
Next up: Fire Extinguisher!