Posts Tagged fire safety

Quake, then fire? Not with this device!

Posted by on Wednesday, 11 June, 2014
cartoon about old guy

SHAKY

IT’S THE FIRE!

Remember the great San Francisco earthquake?

If you were living in southern california in 1906 you do.

It was as bad as it gets. We didn’t know how to build earthquake resistant buildings back then. Plus a lot of structures had been thrown together during the gold rush a few decades before and were cheezy to start with.

The shaking due to the quake was bad but the fire? That was unbelievable!  

Once the fire broke out, fire fighting equipment couldn’t get through the rubble strewn streets. Not that it would have mattered since there wasn’t any water in the mains.  The fires burned for days. When they were out, the smoke remained in the air. They said it would never go away. They said the air had changed – that sunlight would never look the same again. 

Eventually, the air did clear and return to normal but hundreds of thousands of people had to live in shelters and tents until  they found new homes.

The city recovered. It took years.

Much was learned from the San Francisco disaster. Building codes are much better. Engineers now know how to design a building that can “ride out” the typical movements of an earthquake and the building codes ensure that this knowledge will protect against future quakes.

However, if the gas lines go, it won’t matter.

There are a lot of gas lines.

Will there be another “great fire”? There have been plenty of earthquakes in California since 1906. Some were strong. One had a magnitude of 7.5.

There were no firestorms.

Maybe some of this was luck because – you know what? –  although shutoff valves have been installed, a lot of them are manual. PG&E tells us to keep a 12 to 15 inch wrench around in case it is needed in an emergency. That seems a little ridiculous, doesn’t it? Go find the stupid wrench during a quake?

Where the hell did I put my wrench?

 

The San Francisco earthquake

Indescribable

 

There are also automatic shutoff valves. That’s the right way to handle things, isn’t it?  They activate when there is enough seismic activity or when there is a rupture in a gas line causing a large increase in the flow of gas. MISTER ScienceAintSoBad likes that idea and gives P&G’s new automatic valves a ScinceAintSoBadRating of 10. 

These automatic valves are installed when there’s new construction or when there are major alterations.

Great to hear.

In the meantime, those living in older buildings that haven’t been renovated had better not forget where they put that dopey wrench.

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The drawing is mine and the photograph (courtesy of Wikipedia) is in the public domain.