All about earthquake shut-off valves in Los Angeles

Was at an inspection yesterday and got an interesting question from the listing broker, which I think deserves an answer here.

The building in question, which was built in the late 1980s, had one earthquake shut-off valve installed on each bank of gas meters.

For those who don’t know, an earthquake shut-off valve is a device intended to prevent explosions in the event of a major earthquake. The valve has a mechanism which, when shaken (by, say, an earthquake), shuts off the flow of gas through the gas meter and, from there, into the building. Seems sensible right? You don’t want flammable gas running into a building which might already be on fire.

Here’s a picture of a correctly installed valve:

earthquake, shut off, valve

Anyway, the agent wanted to know if, because this was how the building was built, the building was in compliance with the earthquake value shut-off ordinance.

The answer, per my extremely experienced plumber, is “no”. The requirement is that, prior to close of escrow on any sale transaction, the building must have an earthquake shut-off valve installed for each individual meter.

Obviously, this is annoying, because buying and installing a valve costs something like $300-500 (depending on how many you install – the more you’re doing the cheaper it gets). So, having to install a whole bunch of valves can get pretty expensive pretty quickly.

Still, it’s the law.