Southern California is earthquake country. If this area is your home, you get to enjoy all the beauty and fun of the area, but you also have to be prepared for the next quake.
Earthquakes are unpredictable and can strike at any time. While we may be lucky and avoid major shakes in the foreseeable future, residents need to be prepared, just in case. You’ve probably already learned the basics of what to do in an earthquake to stay safe, but one danger that too many people overlook is the risk of natural gas leaks and fires.
Keep your home, your family and your neighbors safe by managing the risk of a natural gas fire. This blog will teach you how to prepare for an earthquake and what to do if one happens.
How to Prepare
First, begin by identifying the appliances in your home that use natural gas. For most people, that’s the water heater, the furnace and the range, though you may also have space heaters and dryers that run on natural gas. Once you’ve found which appliances use natural gas, you’ve identified possible threats during an earthquake.
If an earthquake happens and shakes your home, the lines connecting these appliances to your gas line may break, releasing natural gas into the air. While natural gas isn’t toxic and therefore isn’t harmful in itself, it’s highly flammable. The smallest spark can set it off, which may result in an explosion, and the constant flow of the gas leak ensures that the fire will keep burning and set fire to other objects in your home.
Earthquake-Proof Your Appliances: You can minimize your risks by taking care of your gas appliances. Start with your water heater. Make sure it’s secure by bolting it down or strapping it to the wall or ceiling. If you need help, contact a professional. You can make your other appliances safer by making sure that flammable liquids like cleaning products aren’t stored near them.
Your appliances will be even safer if you have flexible gas connections, which will bend instead of break during an earthquake. A plumber can also install gas shut-off valves on each appliance so you can turn off the gas supply to that appliance if you suspect a problem.
Earthquake-Proof Your House: You can minimize your home’s risks by learning in advance how to turn off your main gas line during an emergency. You should be able to find the shut-off valve on your home’s gas meter. That way, you’ll be prepared if you suspect a leak. Just be warned; you need a professional to turn the valve back on again, so don’t turn it off if you’re not sure there’s a problem.
You can also have a professional plumber install an earthquake shut-off valve on your gas line, which will automatically turn off the gas supply to your entire house if there’s a quake.
What to Do After an Earthquake
If an earthquake happens and you’re safe, make your first priority checking your home’s gas appliances. Can you see any damage? If so, turn off the gas to that appliance if you have individual gas shut-off valves.
You may need to turn off your home’s entire gas supply if you think there’s a problem. For example, while natural gas is odorless, most gas utility companies mix it with an odor (usually the smell of rotten eggs) so that homeowners can smell leaks. If you think you smell a natural gas leak, turn off your home’s supply and get out of the house as quickly as possible. You may also hear a hissing sound caused by the leak.
You should also turn off your gas supply, if possible, if your home has structural damage or if there’s a fire. However, if you can’t safely get to the gas meter to shut off the gas, don’t go. Instead, call your utility company immediately, as well as emergency services if there’s a fire.