SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. -- During earthquakes, propane tanks can break free of their supporting legs. When a tank falls, there is always a danger of a fire or an explosion. Even when a tank remains on its legs, its supply line can be ruptured. Escaping gas can then cause a fire. Similar problems can occur with smaller, compressed gas cylinders, which are often stored inside a house or garage.
One way to prevent damage to propane tanks and compressed gas cylinders is to anchor and brace them securely, disaster-recovery officials point out. Using a flexible connection on the supply line will help reduce the likelihood of a leak. Compressed gas cylinders, because they have to be periodically replaced, cannot be permanently anchored, but you can use chains to attach them to a wall so that they will remain upright.
Officials of the federal and state agencies coordinating the San Simeon Earthquake recovery effort provide the following tips for anchoring and bracing propane tanks or compressed gas cylinders. The disaster-recovery agencies include the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (OES), and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).
- Before you alter your propane tank in any way, make sure that the tank is your property and not rented from the propane supplier. Before welding new bracing to the tank legs, you must remove the gas from the tank. You should also check with your propane supplier to find out whether additional precautions are necessary.
- Clear the area around the propane tank to ensure that there are no tall or heavy objects that could fall on the tank or rupture the supply line.
- Keep a wrench near the shutoff valve and make sure the members of your family know how to turn off the supply line if they smell a gas leak. On larger tanks, such as farm tanks, consider installing a seismic shutoff valve that will automatically turn off the gas during an earthquake.
- Provide a flexible connection between the propane tank and the supply line and where the supply line enters the house. But keep in mind that adding a flexible connection to a propane tank line should be done by a licensed contractor, who will ensure that the work is done correctly and according to all applicable codes. This is important for your safety.
- To attach a compressed gas cylinder to a wall, use two lengths of chain around the cylinder -- one just below the top of the cylinder and one just above the bottom. The chains should be attached to eye hooks that are screwed into the wall. In wood-frame walls, the eye hooks must be long enough to penetrate not just the wall but the studs behind it as well. In concrete or masonry block walls, the eye hooks should be installed with expansion anchors or molly bolts.
Other Sources of Information
Seismic Retrofit Training for Building Contractors and Building Inspectors: Participant Handbook, FEMA, 1995.
Homeowner’s Guide to Earthquake Safety, State of California, Seismic Safety Commission, No. 02-04, 2002.
Reducing the Risks of Nonstructural Earthquake Damage: A Practical Guide, FEMA-74, 1994.
The Commercial Property Owner’s Guide to Earthquake Safety , State of California, Seismic Safety Commission, No. 98-01, 1998.
Protecting Your Home and Business from Nonstructural Earthquake Damage, FEMA, 1994.
To obtain copies of these and other FEMA documents, call FEMA Publications at 1-800-480-2520. Information is also available at http://fema.gov/
OES coordinates overall state agency response to major disasters in support of local government. The office is responsible for ensuring California’s readiness to respond to and recover from natural, manmade and war-caus...