Los Angeles is no stranger to earthquakes. According to the Los Angeles Almanac, there are approximately 30 earthquakes hit LA per day. Most are 2.0 or smaller, so they aren’t even felt. Still, just because we can’t feel them doesn’t mean they don’t affect our homes and, subsequently, our plumbing systems.
The last earthquake with a magnitude of 4.9 or higher hit La Habra in 2014. Though there were no deaths, the shaking did result in over $10 million worth of damage to the area.
What an Earthquake Can Do to Plumbing
Earthquakes are caused by a seismic shift in tectonic plates under the ground — where most plumbing is installed. When the ground shifts, it drags everything along with it. This means that pipes that aren’t built to move get pushed or pulled in new directions. Some areas of your home that could be affected include:
- Plumbing pipes. Severe earthquakes can cause burst or splitting pipes, but smaller earthquakes can also have an effect by loosening pipe joints.
- Water heater. Your water heater can dislodge from its installation, or the gas line can be damaged in the seismic activity — causing gas leaks.
- Main water line. If this pipe bursts or splits enough, foreign objects or contaminants such as pesticides or groundwater may enter your home’s water supply.
Although some earthquake damage is obvious, sometimes smaller shockwaves can result in minor, unseen damage. Water damage and mold growth are both common side effects of burst pipes that can cause hundreds or even thousands of dollars to fix.
What to Do After an Earthquake Hits
Once the shaking has stopped, and the dust has settled, it’s important to get back into your home and take stock of what the damage may be. In a residential building, the three most important areas to check are the sewer line, gas line, and main water line.
Check for Gas Leaks
Check for a gas leak first since this can be the most dangerous to you and your family if ignored. Walk through your home smelling for a sulfuric scent. You can also listen for a gas leak. If the leak is loud enough, it should sound like a constant hiss.
How to Handle a Gas Leak
If you suspect a gas leak, it’s important to act quickly to keep your family safe:
- Don’t use electronics. Open windows to air out the home.
- Gather your pets and have everyone evacuate the home as quickly as possible.
- Contact the gas company to alert them of the leak and await professional assistance.
- OPTIONAL: If you know where your main gas valve is, turn off the gas to your home to prevent further leaking.
The gas company will be able to investigate the source of the leak for you, but you’ll have to turn to your trusted local plumbing team to help you fix the leak.
Check for Water Leaks
In the event that your main water line is damaged during an earthquake, you could be dealing with water damage this is obvious or hidden. Here are some things to look out for when checking for a burst pipe:
- Abnormally low water pressure from sinks and other sources of water.
- Wet spots on the floor, ceiling, or walls.
- Puddles of standing water in and around the home.
- A dripping, trickling, or another sound of water running.
If you spot a leak — or suspect that you may have a hidden leak — contact your trusted plumbing team as quickly as possible.
Check Your Sewer Line for Damage
All wastewater in your home goes through your sewer line. If this is disrupted, it can cause backups or flooding — both not things you need to deal with on top of existing earthquake damage.
Check for these signs of sewer damage in your home after seismic activity:
- The smell of wastewater or sewage in or around your home.
- Sewage backups on the floor of your home.
- Strange wet spots in your yard (that weren’t there before the earthquake hit).
Like with your water line, sewage problems may not be obvious initially. Over time, you may start to notice an increase in your water bills (without a change in your water usage) or mold growth and other signs of water damage in your home. Contact Red Lilly Plumbing to solve your plumbing problems before they affect your daily life (or home) too much.
How to Protect Your Plumbing
The best way to protect your home from unnecessary damage is to take precautions before The Big One hits. The team at Red Lilly Plumbing can help you protect your home or business by installing an earthquake shut-off valve (AKA a seismic valve). This automatic safety feature is installed on the gas meter of your property and turns off the gas when it registers an earthquake above 5.4. The valve prevents explosions and fires that can result from broken gas lines during earthquakes.
For more information or to schedule your appointment, reach out to our team online or by phone at (323) 319-4102 today!