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How to properly brace your water heater

This is the seventh article in a series intended to help you prepare for a major emergency, such as an earthquake. Prepared by the Los Altos Emergency Preparedness Committee

Water storage is one of the most important tasks you can perform when preparing for an emergency. If you performed the task highlighted in the previous article, you now have a good supply of water stored.

However, there is another container in your house which, if it survives a disaster, can provide you with an abundance of water in an emergency: your water heater. To ensure that your water heater survives a disaster, this week's task is to brace your water heater.

Even if you don't intend to use the water heater for water storage, there is an overriding reason to brace it. A full water heater weighs about 400 pounds. Even a moderate earthquake can cause it to move or topple, which may rupture the gas and water lines, causing possible fire or water damage.

Though the primary emergency may be small, the secondary emergency caused by an unbraced water heater may be significant.

The cost of performing this task is small, but the payback may be immense. You may save your house from complete destruction.

To brace the water heater, secure wooden spacers to the wall studs with 5/16-by-3-inch bolts and washers. Wrap 1 1/2-inch, 16-gauge steel plumber's tape twice around the heater at both the top and bottom of the heater over the insulation blanket.

Secure the tape to the wooden spacers with lag screws. Please look at Page 6 of your Los Altos Emergency Preparedness Manual for a diagram.

After an earthquake, close the intake faucet at the top of the tank so that contaminated water doesn't get into the tank. Shut off the gas (or electricity) to the water heater because it will overheat or explode when you have emptied it.

Vent the tank by opening the pressure relief valve at the top of the heater and drain the needed water from the tap at the bottom. You might need to filter this water through several layers of a clean cloth.

If you have any questions, please refer to Page 6 of your copy of the Los Altos Emergency Preparedness Manual for more information, or leave a message for the Los Altos Emergency Preparedness Committee's VEGA volunteer on the Los Altos City voice mail system (948-1491, ext. 488).

One of the volunteers on the Los Altos Emergency Preparedness Committee will get in contact with you to answer your question.

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