PEMCO Poll: Young residents often ill-prepared for household emergencies



​​​SEATTLEAsk most young Northwest residents how to tweet, connect a wireless router, or program a DVR, and you’ll most likely get a fast accurate answer. But ask the same people where their circuit breaker is located, or how to shut off their home’s main gas line, and you’ll likely get a blank stare. That’s the finding of the most recent PEMCO Insurance poll, which shows that the younger the residents, the less prepared they are for household emergencies.
PEMCO, the Northwest’s leading locally based insurer, found that only 47 percent of respondents in Washington and Oregon under age 35 know where they can turn off their home’s main gas line in an emergency.  Exactly half (50 percent) know where to locate a water shut-off valve, and fortunately, nine out of 10 (91 percent) can find their electrical panel, according to the poll.  
“Clearly, some household precautions are not top of mind for many Northwest residents,” said PEMCO spokesperson Jon Osterberg.  “While you may rarely need to access your gas or water shut-offs or even your electrical panel, it’s important for people of all ages to know where they are and what to do in an emergency. It’s a matter of personal safety and protecting your home.”
The poll found that older generations and men, in particular, are more likely to know where to find household electrical panels, water valves, and gas lines.  About seven out of 10 drivers over age 35 in Washington and Oregon (71 percent) say they know where to find their home’s water shut-off valve, and about six out of 10 (61 percent) in that age group said they can find the valve that controls the natural gas. 
“If you smell a gas leak, call 911 or the emergency line of your utility company immediately,” said Osterberg. “Follow their instructions before you act, but if you need to shut off the main gas-line valve, it’s important to have a wrench near the valve – for example, store a crescent wrench inside a zip-lock bag.”
PEMCO’s poll also revealed that some residents expose themselves to the dangers of household fires.  Three-quarters of respondents who own their home say they have at least one fire extinguisher in the home, but just 60 percent of renters say the same. 
For a fire extinguisher to be effective, PEMCO recommends keeping it in an accessible location, such as a kitchen or garage, or near a door or exit.  Any time a fire extinguisher is used, regardless of how much or how little of its content is discharged, the extinguisher needs to be recharged or replaced according to its manufacturer’s guidelines. 
To put out small household fires, PEMCO recommends the “PASS” technique – pull, aim, squeeze, and sweep:  Pull the pin from the handle and aim the nozzle low. Squeeze the handle and move in toward the fire, aiming at the base of the flame. Sweep the extinguisher from side to side until the fire is out.
To learn more about the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll and to view a summary of the results, visit, where the public is invited to participate in an informal version of the poll and see how their own responses compare with those collected by FBK Research of Seattle in November 2011.
About the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll
PEMCO Insurance commissioned this independent survey that asked Washington and Oregon drivers several questions about driving habits and attitudes toward current Northwest issues. The sample size, 600 respondents in Washington and 402 respondents in the Portland, Ore., metro area, yields an accuracy of +/- 4.1 percent and +/- 5.0 percent respectively at the 95 percent confidence level. In other words, if this study were conducted 100 times, in 95 instances the data will not vary by more than the associated error range.
About PEMCO Insurance
PEMCO Insurance, established in 1949, is a Seattle-based provider of auto, home, boat, and umbrella insurance to Northwest residents. PEMCO Insurance is sold by community agents throughout the region and through PEMCO offices. For more information, visit