“Triangle of Life” – Watch Out!
It’s been 3 years since I warned my readers about this, so it’s time to re-visit it.
Every so often, I get an email from someone passing on information from a person named Doug Copp, who is a self-proclaimed “expert” on disaster management. His ideas run around the internet every few months.
He says that, in a serious quake, the “drop, cover, and hold on” advice from the Red Cross and other American disaster agencies is wrong, and that, instead, you should find some “triangle of life” area in the room to protect yourself.
Please don’t listen to this advice. His observations are based on buildings in third world countries, and, even if his ideas may have value there (as they would in un-reinforced concrete construction), they DO NOT have value here. Engineering researchers have demonstrated that very few buildings collapse or “pancake” in the U.S. as they might do in other countries.
One man was injured when he tried to run out of his house. He tripped on fallen furniture, fell and got hurt. Then he tried to run out of the house, fell, and hurt himself again. There were many other stories just like this one. So note: if a quake hits when you are in bed, STAY IN BED and cover your head with a pillow.
Parents: you won’t stay in bed, so be careful (crawl if necessary) when you go to your children’s rooms – and keep them in bed until the shaking is over.
Daytime quakes: if you can safely stay in the room you’re in, do that – preferably get under a table or desk. If you’re in the kitchen or bathroom, carefully get out. There is almost never a safe spot in those areas.
Our instinct during a big quake is “I’ve got to get out of here!” DON’T run from one room to another and especially don’t run outside.
QuakeConsult – part of the consultation includes Larry checking the retrofit: is the house correctly attached to the foundation so that it won’t fall off during a serious quake?
The Consult (usually 2 hours) covers much more – see https://www.quakeprepare.com
$275 – $325, depending upon your location
Your PG&E manual shut-off valve is probably “frozen”
This is very important, whether you have an automatic gas shut-off valve or not!
If you do not have an automatic gas shut-off valve and you smell gas after a big quake, you need to be able to go out to your meter and turn the gas off at the manual valve.
The photo shows an arrow pointing at the manual shut-off valve, “NW natural riser valve.”
If you do have an automatic gas shut-off valve, after a big quake, you can re-set your valve, allowing gas to flow again.
Then you do what PG&E suggests: walk through your house (especially by the gas appliances), and, if you don’t smell gas, re-light any pilots on gas appliances. If you do smell gas, you need to go back out and turn off your gas.
Your automatic valve may or may not have a “manual” feature allowing you to turn it off. The ASSI and Northridge valves have a manual feature, but the Little Firefighter horizontal valves do not. So, if you have a Little Firefighter valve, turn the gas off at the PG&E manual valve.
NOTE: When I check this valve during my QuakeConsult, about 70% of the time it is FROZEN SHUT.
You should check your manual valve NOW to make sure it will easily move just a little when you turn it with an ordinary crescent wrench or a gas shut-off tool. You should NOT have to use a plumber’s pipe wrench. When testing, DO NOT turn your gas off – just barely make the valve move.
If your valve is frozen (rusted or painted shut), call PG&E at 800-743-5000, choose option #4, and then say “speak to someone” until they transfer you. This cannot be done on-line.
Yes, we install automatic gas shut-0ff valves, in most cases from $235 to $245. 707-965-3299 or go to: https://quakeprepare.com/quakevalves/
A couple years ago, I challenged PG&E to stop their “field” employees from telling folks what they must know isn’t true: they routinely advise people not to get an automatic gas shut-off valve because “a garbage truck going by will activate it.”
A fellow with PG&E government relations got in touch and reminded me that the company was “neutral” when it comes to automatic gas shut-off valves. When I told him that I heard over and over again that the company field employees were saying this, he was surprised and promised to bring the issue up with senior management.
If PG&E management got the message, they certainly haven’t done anything. I am still getting reports of this (untrue) warning – the last time being just a week ago.
I think it’s important that the facts are clear: all the automatic gas shut-off valves approved by the state are calibrated to activate at about 5.2 – 5.4 shaking. No truck, not even a tank, will activate them. Only serious earthquake shaking.
And yes, we’re still installing the shut-off valves – we’ve done around 1,850 of them in the bay area over the past few years. Most standard installations cost $225 – $245.