Day 3 – Earthquake Prep – Gas Shut Off

Natural Gas shut off

Today is a quick one.  It will either be a trip to the garage or a trip to the local hardware store.

When earth moves, things in the earth that don’t normally move on regular days…tend to move.  Outside under our flower beds and lawns lie the things that make our houses run.  Water lines, power lines (these might be overhead too) and Natural Gas or sometimes propane lines.  Where I live Natural Gas is the fuel that keeps us going so that’s what we need to take care of.

Often after an earthquake, fires are often an issue.  This is because of broken gas lines (and other fuels) that get ignited.  Natural Gas is a colorless, odorless gas in its natural state.  (Who discovered this invisible stuff anyway?)  That can be a problem in detecting leaks, we would never know.  So they add a foul-smelling odor to it so there’s no mistaking when it leaks out of pipes.

In the past, we thought that everyone should turn off the gas after a quake.  That isn’t the case anymore.  Not every gas line breaks.  With flex lines and other improvements, gas lines have a better reputation for not causing problems.

So the current advise is;  If you smell Natural Gas then you shut it off at the meter.  To do this you’ll need a tool.  You can buy a specialized tool for this.  It’s a flat piece of metal that has some rectangle openings that should fit the valve on the meter.  Meter valves knobs come in different sizes so make sure that it fits your meter if you get this kind.  These are inexpensive and you can just attach it to your meter.  One downside is that if your meter valve hasn’t been turned in a while, you might have a semi-permanent imprint in your hand from the pressure that it might take to turn it off.

Natural Gas Shut off

You can also just use an Adjustable Wrench.  These come in longer lengths so the force needed to move that valve will be less.  If you choose this route, I would lubricate the adjustment dial and wrap it in a gallon zipper bag to keep it out of the weather if you plan to attach it to the meter.  Mine is going to hang on a nail right inside my garage so that it doesn’t walk away.

The way you shut off the gas is to turn the valve 1/4 turn so the knob is not in line with the pipe. Once the meter is off, YOU are not allowed (and it’s not safe for you) to turn it back on.  A Natural Gas Licensed service person must do that.  Keep in mind that if everyone goes out and turns off their gas, it could take a while for the Natural Gas Techs to get yours back on.

Here’s some more Earthquake safety info from our local gas company.

What do you think?