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Earthquakes

​British Columbia is in a seismically active zone, so it’s important to take preventive measures to protect your home and family in case an earthquake does occur.

In the event of a major earthquake, utilities and emergency services could potentially be disrupted for days or even weeks. So in addition to your basic emergency planning and kits for your family use these tips to prepare for an earthquake and know what to do during and after the shaking.

Do you know how to prepare your home for an earthquake, and what you should do after an earthquake? This video has safety information recommended by FortisBC and Technical Safety BC.

 

 Before an earthquake

 

Prepare your home

  • Securely strap your hot water tank. This is the most important preparation you can make, as it will keep the water line and gas line from breaking and ensure a source of water.The BC Building and Plumbing Codes now require it, and contractors who install and service water heaters can do for you. Consider having the work done as part of regular appliance maintenance. Find a contractor near you with our online directory. 
  • Anchor other gas appliances wherever possible. Use flexible metal connectors to connect appliances to rigid gas piping. Securing all your gas appliances properly reduces the need for a seismic shut-off valve.
  • Always keep the area around gas appliances clear of combustible materials including paper, paints/solvents, laundry, propane cylinders, barbecues and gasoline-powered lawnmowers and vehicles.
  • Locate and learn how to shut off your water and electricity. Keep a clear path to your gas meter, as well as water shut-off valves and breaker panels, at all times.
  • Know where the shut-off valve for each appliance is and how to use it – but don’t actually turn it off unless there is an emergency.
  • Practice taking cover and holding on as if it were an earthquake, and then getting out of the room and/or your home or building. Consider how planned exits could be blocked in a real earthquake.
  • Remove pictures from over beds, or attach them securely.
  • Attach heavy furniture such as dressers to the wall.
  • Install special film on windows to prevent them from shattering, especially in children's rooms.
  • Have your home inspected for sheer wall strength and attachment to foundations.

Make a plan

  • Make an emergency kit. Stock up at least a three-day supply of food, water, clothes, medical supplies and other necessary equipment for everyone in your family. Make sure everyone knows where to find them.
  • Decide where and when to reunite your family.
  • Locate and learn how to shut off your water, and electricity. If you have any questions, call your utility company.
  • Choose a person to contact outside the immediate area if family members are separated. Long distance phone service will probably be restored sooner than local service. Don't use the phone right after an earthquake.
  • Know the policies of the school or daycare centre your children attend. Make plans to have someone pick them up if you are unable to get to them.
  • Know the safest place in each room - it will be difficult to move from one room to another during a quake.
  • Establish all the possible ways to exit your house. Keep those areas clear.
  • If you have a family member who does not speak English, prepare an emergency card written in English indicating that person's identification, address and any special needs such as medication allergies.  Tell that person to keep the card with him/her at all times.

Practice your plan

  • Practice taking cover as if there were an earthquake and learn the safest places in your home and workplace.
  • Practice getting out of your home and check to see if the planned exits are clear and if they can become blocked in an earthquake.

Check your insurance policy

A basic homeowner’s insurance policy does not cover damage caused by an earthquake. Many people appreciate the peace of mind of adding earthquake coverage to their policy.

 

 During an earthquake

 

Stay where you are when the ground moves

  • At home or work: drop, cover and hold under a desk, table or other furniture. If that's not possible, seek cover against an interior wall (preferably in a corner) and protect your head and neck with your arms. If you take cover under a sturdy piece of furniture, hold on to it and be prepared to move with it. Stay where you are until the ground stops shaking and it is safe to move.
  • Avoid windows, hanging objects, mirrors or tall furniture. 
  • In a high rise building: if you are not near a desk or table, get up against an interior wall (preferably in a corner). Protect your head with your arms. Don't use the elevators. Don't run into the street - there is a danger from falling glass.
  • Outdoors: move to a clear area away from trees, signs, buildings or downed electrical wires and poles.
  • On a sidewalk near buildings: duck into a doorway to protect yourself from falling bricks, glass, plaster and other debris.
  • In your car: pull over to the side of the road and stop. Try to avoid overpasses and power lines. Stay in your vehicle until the shaking stops.
  • In a crowded store or other public place: move away from display shelves containing objects that could fall. Don't rush for the exit.
  • In a stadium or theatre: stay in your seat, get below the level of the back of the seat and cover your head and neck with your arms.
  • Wherever you are: stay where you are until the ground stops shaking and it is safe to move.
 

 After an earthquake

 

When the shaking is over


A major earthquake can last from several seconds to several minutes and may be followed by a number of aftershocks.

  • Keeping the safety of your family in mind, check your appliances and utilities for damage. Check the vents, chimney and connections at each gas appliance to be sure they have not been dislodged or blocked.
  • Check your natural gas appliances and equipment.
  • If you do not smell or hear gas escaping, consider leaving the gas on to provide a source of energy for heat, hot water and cooking. Check the vents, chimney and connections at each gas appliance to be sure they have not been dislodged or blocked.
  • If you think you smell gas or hear gas escaping, act fast.
    • leave the building and call 1-800-663-9911
  • Watch for and stay clear of downed power lines. Even if they are quiet and without sparks, they could be live.

Should you turn off the gas?

For safety, your gas should be turned off if:

  • a gas appliance or water tank has broken loose from its connections or has fallen over
  • your building has been seriously damaged
  • there is, or has been, a fire

If you detect the rotten egg or sulphur smell of gas or hear the hissing sound of gas escaping, get outside and call our 24-hour emergency line at 1-800-663-9911.

Watch out for downed power lines

If you’re outside or in your car after a quake, be alert for downed power lines. If you see one, stay at least 10 metres away (about the length of a school bus) as it could still be live. Visit downed power lines for more information.

Will the natural gas system survive an earthquake?

We take the possibility of a significant earthquake very seriously. Built from high-strength welded steel and polyethylene plastic pipe, our natural gas system was designed, installed and tested to meet strict industry standards in order to maximize public safety.

In other areas where major earthquakes have occurred, natural gas delivery systems similar to ours have withstood ground movement extremely well.

It is unlikely that gas lines will rupture or explosions will occur due to an earthquake. However, it is possible that a leak could occur inside your home or building due to earth movement. If you smell gas, do not operate electrical switches or create sources of ignition, get everyone out, then call us at 1-800-663-9911 or 911.