Are You Ready For The Big One?

Here in Southern California we all deal with a third certainty in life besides death and taxes. That’s the knowledge that eventually the San Andreus Fault will break free from its moorings.

The Importance of Earthquake Preparedness

Most of us deal with it like we handle the specter of death. We know it’s coming but we cross our fingers hoping it will happen much later than sooner, and for the most part we try not to think about it. However, every so often articles like this one pop up in the news media to remind us of the risk.

Almost all of us who have lived in California for any length of time have experienced minor earthquakes, and some of you may have lived through severe temblors, such as the 1989 Loma Prieta quake that registered 6.9 on the Richter scale, the 1994 Northridge quake (6.7), and the 2014 event that hit South Napa (6.0). These were terrible earthquakes that caused deaths, injuries and extensive property damage. But they were child’s play compared with the so-called “Big One” predicted by seismologists.

The Richter scale is a logarithmic one, meaning each point represents a 10-fold increase in intensity. So a 7.0 earthquake is not merely 16% greater than a 6.0, but 10 TIMES as strong. An 8.0 earthquake, which is not out of the question for the Big One, is 10 times greater than a 7.0 and an astounding 100 TIMES more devastating than a 6.0.

As this article also points out, most earthquake deaths and injuries occur not from the shaking itself, but from subsequent fires and building collapses. There are important steps you can take to minimize the risk at home if and when the Big One hits.

I addressed this issue a couple of other times in the past, back in 2014 and again last September. The topic is so important, I’d like to repeat some of the advice here.

From a plumbing standpoint, one of the most important areas of disaster preparation is to make sure your home’s water and gas piping and related equipment are properly protected against earthquakes. The California Health and Safety Code requires that gas mains in all homes need to be protected by automatic gas shutoff valves. Dutton Plumbing can install these devices where needed. If you already have them, be sure to sign up for one of our Family Plan service agreements to make sure they stay in good working order.

The California Health & Safety Code also requires that water heaters be braced, anchored or strapped to resist falling or horizontal displacement due to earthquake forces. If you sell your property you are required to certify in writing to the purchaser that water heater bracing requirements have been met. Again, call us if you’re not up to code.

Something else Dutton Plumbing can do to safeguard your home is to put labeled tags on key water and gas shutoffs in your home so you can quickly shut them off in the event of a disaster.

For a more detailed list of things you can do to protect your loved ones and property, visit this Department of Homeland Security website.

I’d like to end this somewhat downbeat blog on a positive note. Despite the dangers, today’s Californians are more knowledgeable about earthquakes and precautions to take than ever before. We know what to expect and large numbers of us are taking part in drills like the Great California Shakeout, as well as preparing for earthquakes and other natural disasters with home and car disaster kits and a family disaster plan. Meanwhile, seismologists are hard at work trying to hone their earthquake prediction capabilities and building codes have been enacted to minimize property damage and protect life and limb.

That’s all we can do for now. Except continue to cross our fingers.