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How to keep your water heater vertical in an earthquake

By Joe Dougherty

For the Deseret News

Published: Sunday, Jan. 15 2012 6:29 p.m. MST

Editor's note: This article is part of a series on earthquake preparation. Read the rest of the articles here.

Quick, if you lost the water flow to your home right now, where could you find 30 to 40 gallons of fresh water? Many of you might have said you have plenty of water stored for emergencies in large barrels. For that you get my hearty applause. But, we’ll focus on water storage in a future column.

Your water heater is a source of fresh, clean water in an emergency, but only if it’s standing.

In an earthquake, your water heater can tip over, not only spilling precious, life-sustaining water, but it could sever the natural gas line, causing a leak or a fire.

As the Great Utah ShakeOut, the state’s largest earthquake drill ever, approaches, I’m bringing you practical preparedness tips — something you can do each week to get ready.

Last week, I invited you to register for the ShakeOut, happening April 17 at 10:15 a.m. Simply go to ShakeOut.org/Utah to sign up and learn more. Also, please tell your family, friends, school and employer to sign up.

This week, I’ll teach you how to secure your water heater. If your water heater is located near studs or a wall, this will only take you about 30 minutes.

Thirty minutes to better preparedness? Not a bad deal, especially for someone like me, whose forays into any project usually involves calling for an expert at some point. Not this time, and not this project.

Tools needed: Drill and a wrench.

Step 1. Go to your favorite hardware store of choice and ask for a kit for strapping a water heater to studs. I bought mine at Lowe’s for about $17. Prices typically range from $13-$19.

Step 2. Follow the instructions for mounting the straps and attaching them to the studs. This involves a bit of measuring. You’ll feel very close to your water heater after this.

Step 3. Straps should be installed about one-third of the way down from the top of the water heater and about one-third of the way up from the bottom of the water heater. I’ll post pictures in the online version of this column of my secured water heater.

Step 4. Use a wrench to tighten the nut around the bolt securing straps from each side of the water heater. My kit came with a plastic cover for each bolt.

Congratulations! You’re done, and your family has another source of drinking water when the big one hits.

Joe Dougherty is a preparedness expert and the spokesman for the Utah Division of Emergency Management and Be Ready Utah. Email your tips to him at jdougherty@utah.gov. Daily preparedness tips at Twitter.com/bereadyutah

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