After a recent article in the New Yorker, many have come to be aware of the fact that the Pacific Northwest may be due for an earthquake. Dubbed “The Really Big One,” it has been estimated that the chances of us Portlanders experiencing a major Cascadia earthquake in the next 50 years are about 1 in 3.

There are many things that homeowners in Multnomah County can do to prepare their residences for earthquakes. Here we will discuss plumbing-related safety practices you can implement as part of getting ready for an earthquake of any scale.

Secure Your Water Heater

Whether you live in downtown Portland or uptown Vancouver, your water heater should be securely fastened to the wall. Having a properly secured water heater in case of earthquake has more than to do with the risk of it teetering over and crashing on something or severing a gas line. Water heaters themselves can be volatile, particularly when fueled by natural gas.

Specific Plumbing Codes for Earthquake Readiness

Plumbing codes vary by city, state, and county. FEMA itself (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) has a set of national building codes related to seismic rehabilitation, or ways in which buildings should be constructed or retrofitted for earthquake readiness.

Due to the volatile nature of water heaters, much of plumbing codes in relation to earthquake safety is in regards to its secure attachment to the wall, as well as its proximity to other objects in the home.

Specific water heater safety policies actually tend to vary by state. Additionally, state policies change from time-to-time. For example, due to the fact that in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, many water heaters broke through their strapping, experts modified the recommended procedures. Many state codes later updated to reflect this change.

Special Precautions with Gas Water Heaters

There are many types of water heaters on the market, some with more substantial risk factors than others. Natural gas heaters, popular in the US as a practical and inexpensive option, also happen to be one of the more risky types of heaters in terms of things that could go wrong.

In addition to securely fastening this type of tank to the wall, it is absolutely imperative to keep any flammable or combustible materials far away.

Safe Water Heater Installation in Portland, OR

If you’re not sure whether your water heater is securely fastened to fastened to the wall, we are happy to help!

As a resource, we have Oregon water heater safety code available here, and also a step-by-step tutorial for how to safely fasten a water heater to the wall on Instructables.

If you would like us to come and inspect your water heater, or have a new water heater installed by the pro’s, give us a call today!

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