Relieved householders who feared they would be without domestic gas for up to five days were last night told most could have supplies back within 48 hours.

Around 8,000 properties in the Falkirk area were affected by an equipment failure on Sunday morning, leaving them without gas for heating and cooking.

Support centres were set up in Stenhousemuir and Bainsford by the council and electric hotplates and heaters were distributed to vulnerable families and individuals. Libraries offered residents a place to shelter from freezing temperatures and leisure centres run by Falkirk Community Trust said anyone could come and use their showers for free.

Fourteen Schools and nurseries across the area were closed on Monday, but Falkirk Council said all but three –would reopen on Tuesday. Those still unable to open are Bainsford Primary School and Nursery Class, Kinnaird Primary and Larbert Early Learning Centre.

The problem was blamed on the failure of equipment used to manage pressure in the gas network. While engineers repaired this quickly, gas infrastructure company SGN had initially warned turning supplies back on safely could take until Friday or even the weekend. But by Monday evening, supplies were being restored to homes across Bainsford, Carron, Carronshore, Larbert, Langlees, New Carron Village, Skinflats and Stenhousemuir.

SGN said the revised timescale was due “incredible efforts from our engineers over the past 36 hours”.

Despite this, efforts were continuing to ensure the safety of vulnerable people last night and many residents decamped to stay with relatives or friends rather than remain in unheated homes as temperatures dropped.

SGN set up an information point at Camelon Community Centre. The company added: “We’re still providing electric hotplates and heaters for people with young children, a disability, a long-term mental or physical condition or who are a bit older.”

Meanwhile the region’s libraries offered those affected a place to spend the day. Falkirk Library Trust tweeted: “Falkirk Libraries are open, warm and free. You can sit in any library for as long as we’re open-no pressure to do anything. You don’t need to be a member... Some libraries have drinks machines, if not, bring one in. Bring the kids!”

The company said engineers needed to visit individual homes to ensure appliances were safe before they could be reconnected. SGN said in a statement: “Our engineers will be revisiting each affected property to reconnect your gas supply, which involves carrying out safety checks. It’s important you don’t try to turn on your gas supply yourself. We have more than 8,000 properties to visit and it will take us a couple of days to reach everyone.

“We’re prioritising those most vulnerable members of the community first but we’ll be making every effort to get gas back on to everyone’s homes as soon as possible.”

With many homes relying on electricity, if they could, as a substitute fuel, power network company SP Energy Networks said it was concerned about increased demand in the area and engineers were monitoring usage.

“Electric heaters and hotplates use a lot more power than their gas equivalents, “ the company said. “With this in mind we’d ask that everyone in the area thinks smart about using electricity just now – heat the rooms you’re using, wrap up warm and don’t have all your devices turned on at once.”

The company added: “Please remember to always check the ID of anyone calling at your home. All our engineers carry photo ID badges, as do other official organisations.”

Local businesses were also affected. The Malcolm Allan butchers in Larbert had to stop production at the bakery where it makes steak pies after losing its gas supply on Monday morning. Director Gordon Allan said: “We’ve staff to pay and we’re not producing, it’s not looking good at all. It’s a major incident, we don’t know when it will be sorted and this is a busy time of year for us because we do lots of steak pies for new year.”

Forth Valley Police said it expected relief efforts to conclude on Tuesday evening, and also appealed to homeowners and tenants to be careful who they gave access to. A spokesman added: “The public are urged to be a good neighbour and check in on anyone they think may be facing difficulties right now.”