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Southern California experiences about 10,000 earthquakes per year according to the United States Geological Survey. You can’t feel most of them. In fact, there are only about 15 to 20 that register above a magnitude four each year. But can earthquakes break plumbing?

Can Earthquakes Break Plumbing?

The good news is that even a magnitude four earthquake isn’t likely to do a great deal of damage. You’ll definitely feel it and a few plates might get broken if they aren’t secured, but there’s not usually going to be any structural damage. Once you start getting earthquakes that are magnitude six and up, you have to worry about potential damage to your plumbing.

Earthquakes and Your Pipes

When an earthquake occurs, the soil in the area shifts. In many cases, the shift is negligible. Newer, well-maintained pipes are often just fine. However, if you have a larger earthquake or aging pipes, the shifting soil could cause your pipes to crack. It could even loosen weak joints, leading to additional leaks.

For the most part, these issues can be easily corrected by your emergency rooter. However, there are two potentially dangerous circumstances that you need to watch out for if you live in earthquake territory.

A Dislodged Water Heater:

It is possible for your water heater to become dislodged during an earthquake. The worst-case scenario is that it could be leaking gas into your home. To prevent this scenario, make sure your water heater is properly secured in case of an earthquake.

California actually requires that your water heater be safely strapped with secure metal bindings to ensure your safety. Keep in mind that this legal requirement is a relatively new addition. If you live in an older home, then you should have your local plumber inspect your water heater to make sure that it is properly secured according to the California legal code.

A Busted Water Main:

A broken water main is a serious problem for your entire neighborhood. In an extreme case it can cause serious flooding and ridiculous amounts of property damage. If you suspect your water main has busted, then you have to contact your emergency plumber in Highland Park immediately.

Even small cracks and breaks in the main could be problematic because it allows sediment into your water. You should always test your water after a more serious earthquake to ensure it is still safe to drink. If your water is showing noticeable changes, then you should contact a plumber to track down the cause.

Taking Preventative Action

California natives know that earthquakes are just a part of life, and the average Californian will take them any day over tornados and hurricanes. Living here just means you have to be prepared for the inevitable earthquake now and again. To make sure the next larger earthquake to rock your house doesn’t do terrible damage, here’s a few rules to follow.

  • Have your plumbing inspected every year or so. This allows you to diagnose problems early and replace aging pipes.
  • Secure your cabinets. Baby locks on cabinet doors may not be ideal, but you’ll have a lot less broken dishware.
  • Have an emergency plan complete with a go-bag. You and your family should know who is bringing what and where you are to gather in the case of a serious earthquake.
  • Secure heavy pieces of furniture like bookcases and appliances. Tall, heavy objects could potentially fall on you or a family member, making it impossible for you to make it to safety. When you secure them, make sure your hardware is drilled into a stud. Drywall will not stand up to an earthquake.

For more information on earthquake preparation, have a look at one of the many informative government websites available.