AUSTIN (KXAN) — This week, the City of Austin began giving out winter weather supplies, but one tool that’s going fast could save your home: water keys.

In the instance of a pipe burst, it’s essential to halt the flow of water by shutting off the main supply.

If you are unable to access your property’s shut-off valve, you will have to open the nearest city water meter box. To do this, you need a water meter key.

How to use the water key

The tool consists of a handle and two prongs at the end or a slot that fits over the “fin” of the shutoff valve. Most meter boxes will have a hole on the outside that the key fits in.

Once the tool is in place on the shut-off valve, you are able to rotate the fin until it stops, shutting off the water.

Austin Water demonstrates how this works in a video.

In Austin, the most common type of city water meter box will look like a small circular metal plate or a large green or black plastic box with concrete around it.

Shutting off the water supply from a city meter is not ideal, as it will affect other residents nearby, so it’s important for homeowners to locate their personal water meter and keep it clear of debris year-round.

For most homes in Austin, the shut-off valves are located outside, on the side of the home’s water meter. Renters can contact their property manager to find this.

Where to get one

The city said it would be giving out water keys at the City Utilities Customer Service Centers on select dates in January.

You can also purchase the tool for less than $20 on Amazon or at your local Home Depot and Walmart.