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Earthquake gas shutoff protocol

MarkBigelow Member Posts: 1
I live in--and am on the safety committee for--a multi-story 181 unit condo building in Northern California. All of the residential gas meters are collected into two rooms in the parking garage.

In the event of a significant earthquake, we would like to develop a protocol for quickly checking all of the gas meters to see if any are spinning too fast--indicating a broken pipe and gas leak. The question is how fast is "too fast"?

Each residential unit has a 62,000 BTU water heater (also used for space heating), a kitchen range that can apparently consume up to 90,000 BTUs, and a decorative fireplace, perhaps 25,000 BTUs. This suggests that no unit could consume more than 177,000 BTUs (per hour?) of gas, which I believe comes out to about 3 cu ft of gas per minute.

Is the 1/2 cu ft hand on the meter making a half revolution in less than ten seconds a good indication that too much gas is being drawn?

How fast might the meter spin if a pipe were broken?


  • Sal Santamaura
    Sal Santamaura Member Posts: 348
    In my opinion...'re taking the wrong approach.  After a temblor is no time to be checking 181 gas meters with a stopwatch.  Instead, do what I did at my home down here in the south.  Have a State of California-approved automatic earthquake shutoff valve installed on each meter.  See this page

    for more details.

    Since these condo units are attached to each other, gas leak hazards in any one affect all the others.  Therefore, it seems reasonable to mandate the equipment and have your homeowners association coordinate this project, perhaps by means of a special assessment.  Unit owner grumbling you'll get now will probably change to praise when (not if) the next 'big one' hits.
  • Henry
    Henry Member Posts: 988
    earthquake valves

    we are in a moderate zone but insurance companies are requiring auto shutoff valves in case of an earthquake. We have done many installations in commercial buildings including ice arenas and major high-rises.

     Our rules are that they have to be after the  meter with exceptions, such as multiple meters or meters inside a building. Normally, permission is needed from the gas utility to install the emergency shutoff before a meter. Check with your gas supplier if you can install one emergency valve before your set of meters.