Safety Tips: Earthquake Preparedness

SAN DIEGO GAS & ELECTRIC reminds customers that advance preparation is critical and offers these safety tips to help reduce the possibility of injuries or damage to property that may occur during the next quake.

Before an earthquake:

*Follow the rules contained in current plumbing codes, requiring that water heaters be secured to the wall studs to prevent them from moving or toppling over. The water heater should be fastened securely to the wall studs in two places -- the upper and lower one-third of the tank -- with heavy bolts and metal straps. A quake may cause an unsecured water heater to move, possibly breaking the gas connectors, which may result in a fire. The loss of a water heater also would deprive a home of a valuable water source that may be needed for cooking and drinking.

*Replace semi-rigid (aluminum or copper) gas appliance connectors with approved connectors made of corrugated metal. These are less likely to crack during an earthquake.

*Have a 12-inch or larger adjustable wrench handy to manually turn off the gas meter should it be necessary.

*Know where all the electrical panels are located in and around the home and how to turn the electricity off in case of emergency.

After an earthquake:

Do not turn off the gas meter after an earthquake, unless there is the smell or sound of gas escaping.

*If an appliance appears to have a leak, turning off the valve between the appliance and gas line may stop the leak. If this does not stop the leak, the gas should be shut off at the meter.

*If there is the smell or sound of gas escaping, do not light a match, candle or cigarette, and do not turn electrical devices -- not even a light switch -- on or off. (If calling the utility for assistance, call from a safe location, away from the leak.) The gas should be manually turned off at the meter. Using an adjustable wrench, make a quarter-turn of the valve, moving it from a vertical position to a horizontal position. This will shut off the flow of gas. (A diagram and instructions for turning off the gas meter are printed in the "Survival Guide" section of most telephone directory white pages and is also available at

*If the gas is shut off at the meter, do not attempt to turn it back on without the help of the utility. Gas service should not be restored until the utility determines that the customer's facilities, appliances or other gas equipment have been made safe.

*Should there be a downed electrical line, do not touch the equipment. The line may still be energized and dangerous.

*If running an emergency electric generator during an outage, do not connect it to the home's electrical system. Doing so could result in death or serious injury and also threaten any utility employees on nearby power lines. Plugging the generator back into the electric system also can damage appliances.

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