Emergency plumbing issues can leave you scrambling to get a bad situation under control before it gets worse. Aside from calling a professional, there are some things you can do to address the problem before a contractor gets out to your place.
Find and Turn Off the Source of the Issue
If at all possible, you want to track down what is causing water to flow or sewage to back up. The supply lines to different parts of your house should be clearly labeled. If they haven't been labeled, you have two options.
First, if the problem isn't causing immediate destruction that has to be stopped ASAP, there's nothing wrong with the patented pick-and-stick method of turning valves off until you get a winner. Locate the shut-off valves in your basement or closet where the water lines run.
A valve is in the closed position when it is perpendicular to the pipe. If there is identifiable water flow, have a friend or family member stand near the spot where the trouble is and give you a holler when it stops. Otherwise, turn all the valves off.
Second, you might have to turn the water off at the mainline that comes into the house. This is usually located further down the line from where all the lines branch out and go to other rooms. If this fails, contact your municipal water authority or company and have them disconnect the water from the outside.
When dealing with sewage, there isn't a lot you can do except stop adding to the problem. Turn off the water supplies to anything that flows into drains and then instruct everyone to not use the fixtures.
Play It Safe
Many water systems are located close to other systems and can make situations dangerous. In particular, don't mess around with anything that's located close to the electrical box. The risk of electrocution isn't worth it unless someone's life is immediately in danger. If the electrical system is posing trouble while turning the water off, contract your electric company and have them turn off the electricity from outside.
Similarly, don't take chances in spots where there is sewage backed up. Unless you have the appropriate equipment, such as rubber boots, don't come into contact with sewage.
Lastly, don't assume that drying out right away is ideal. Rapid drying can damage wood flooring and drywall. If possible, open things up to get airflow, but refrain from directly using fans to dry things out faster.
Contact a company like Peace of Mind Plumbing for more information.