Its happening—The BIG ONE.

What do you do . . . now?

Will you remember?

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in the midst of the aftermath to shut-off your gas lines...
possibly saving your house...your possessions...your family.

Our automatic seismic shut-off valve remembers for you. 
If you are interested, please peruse our site...and if not,
please remember to shut off the gas.

There is great provincial, municipal, and public concern regarding the effects of earthquakes upon our cities. The consensus among the experts is that a large earthquake is imminent.

The recent earthquake in 1995 in Kobe Japan has raised the awareness of many Southwestern British Columbians concerning the importance of earthquake preparedness. Many will recall visions of destruction and fire projected on the nightly news days after the massive quake.  Twisted bridges, smoldering homes and businesses, and injured people were evidence of the earthquake's mighty force.

The Problem

One of the major contributors to the destruction in Kobe was fire. Broken gas lines coupled with disabled water mains is a recipe for disaster in an earthquake. Liquefaction and soil subsidence can cause rigid pipelines below ground to snap and release natural gas into an already hazardous environment. Recent utility PVC plastic piping upgrades to distribution lines, while in theory may be commendable, have singly transferred the energy and increased likelihood of snapping lines to inside the structure. This will create the worst possible scenario.  The pipelines which distribute water throughout the Lower Mainland, can also be broken and thus render the system unusable to fight the many fires which will inevitably start. The appended report by Byrne and Anderson (see Figure 1 below) clearly states that "fires will be initiated by the earthquake. The disruption of water lines together with damage to the transportation system will hamper fire-fighting so that some fires may get out of control, and a conflagration is a possibility".

Residents of the Pacific coastline have much to worry about concerning earthquakes. We reside on an area aptly dubbed 'The Ring of Fire' because of its potential for destruction and fire caused by a major earthquake. More specifically, The Ring of Fire is a belt of recently active tectonic areas surrounding the Pacific Ocean. Tectonic movements cause the earthquakes in the many countries bordering the Ring of Fire.

The Lower Mainland is located over the Cascadia subduction zone, an area whose boundaries extend from the southern tip of New Zealand, around to the top of the Pacific Ocean, north all the way to the Aleutian Islands and south to the tip of South America. A subduction zone is a region where one plate of ocean lithosphere is being forced under another plate. This causes pressure to build up between the two plates resulting in an earthquake when they break free of each other. Although the Cascadia subduction zone has been relatively quiet in recent history, scientific research suggests that we should expect a major earthquake in this area within the next century.

Figure 1:  Earthquakes and Fire in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia*
1. Fires will be initiated by the earthquake.
The disruption of water lines together with damage to the transportation system will hamper fire-fighting so that some fires may get out of control, and a conflagration is a possibility.
2. Fires are commonly associated with earthquakes.
In the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, most of the damage to buildings was caused not by the earthquake itself, but by fires which were initiated by the earthquake and which raged out of control for many days after the earthquake.
3. The source of fires is readily available during an earthquake: gas from broken gas lines, shorted electrical cables, spilt flammable chemical, etc.  A key factor in controlling the fire and preventing a conflagration is the speed at which appropriate fire-fighting measures can be applied. In San Francisco, lack of water due to failure of the water supply system was the prime cause for the loss of control and the resulting conflagration. At Niigata, there were nine fire origins and all but one were quickly brought under control. The one fire which burned out of control started at the Niigata Oil refinery.  Here, because of damaged highways and bridges, the first Fire-fighting unit did not reach the fire for over 4-1/2 hours.  The fire spread into a conflagration in which more than 300 residential homes were burned.
4. In the delta, it can be expected that fires will break out in a number of locations in the event of a major earthquake. 
Key factors in controlling these fires will be, (1) the water supply, and, (2) access. In the event that the main water supply is severely damaged, water can probably be obtained from the ditches and storm drains. Rapid access to fires may be a more severe problem because of the damaged state of the road and highway system. Because of these delays, it is possible that one or more fire sources may result in a conflagration.
*  Byrne, P. M., & Anderson, D. L. (1987, March), Earthquake Design in Richmond, B.C. Version II.  Vancouver, BC: University of British Columbia, Department of Civil Engineering.