Earthquake Safety—Evaluate Your Home
The most common earthquake damage to a building's gas system results from structural damage to the building and the movement or toppling of gas appliances. Inspect your building and appliances to ensure they are able to withstand a significant earthquake.
Gas Appliance Safety
- Restrain water heaters and other gas appliances or furniture to prevent tipping. Significant improvements in gas safety can be accomplished by preventing gas appliances from moving or falling over during an earthquake, especially water heaters. California law requires that all new or replacement water heaters are braced, anchored or strapped to resist falling or moving during an earthquake. Commercially available hardware kits provide a reliable means to restrain water heaters, and other guidelines for earthquake bracing of water heaters are available at the State of California website.
- If your water heater is on an elevated platform, assure the platform is properly reinforced to withstand the weight of the water heater during an earthquake.
- For all gas appliances, flexible gas piping connections should be used to connect them to the gas houseline (the gas pipe connecting your appliances to the gas meter) to reduce the likelihood of damage if movement should occur.
- You should have an appliance gas shutoff valve installed at each gas appliance that lets you turn off the gas to that appliance only if there is a gas leak, or the appliance needs to be replaced or serviced.
Building Structural Safety
Appropriately constructed or strengthened buildings are less likely to collapse or sustain significant damage, and therefore reduce the potential of damaging the buildings' gas systems. You may want to consider taking steps to assure that your buildings are structurally designed and constructed, or retrofitted, to withstand a significant earthquake. One building type in particular to be aware of is a "soft story" building. These are constructed with large open wall areas on the ground floor, which put them at greater risk for collapse in an earthquake than other buildings. Constructed prior to building code changes in the 1970’s they are generally wood frame with ground floors dedicated to garage or retail space and residential units above.
More information about soft story buildings
Some specific examples of types of retrofit measures for a variety of building types include: reinforcing building foundations and walls; anchoring the building to the foundation; bracing perimeter foundation cripple walls; and reinforcing masonry chimneys.