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Secure Your Water Heater
E-Prep Program: Month #6

Fresh water after a disaster may be as close as your hot water heater - provided, however, that it remains standing upright. A typical hot water heater holds 30-40 gallons of water. This supply of water, however, is extremely vulnerable to the ground swells and rolls of earthquakes as well as the ground shaking, causing them to easily tip over.

You can protect this valuable resource by securing your water heater to the wall studs.

Because many tanks burst through their strapping in both the 1989 Loma Prieta (San Francisco) and the 1994 Northridge (Los Angeles) earthquakes, experts have modified the recommended procedure for strapping water heaters . Experts now recommend these two important changes:

  • Secure both the top and the bottom, rather than just the top or just the middle, of the tank.

  • Use nylon strapping rather than metal plumber's tape. Many water heaters in both the 1989 and the 1994 earthquakes burst through the plumber's tape that was intended to keep them secure. Plumber's tape is now felt to be too brittle to be effective.

This month's E-Prep Activities:

  • Click on the water heater folder link below to open a folder containing an instruction sheet for securing your water heater. Place this information in you Family Disaster Plan notebook for handy reference.
  • Calendar a morning or afternoon sometime this month when you will secure your water heater. This activity is a 1 or 2 person activity rather than a whole family activity.
  • Review the instruction sheet and purchase all necessary supplies.
  • There should be very little space between the water heater tank and the wall. If there is more than 1 to 2 inches, attach a wooden block (a length of 2x4 or 1x4 lumber) that spans the distance between the wall studs behind your water heater with long lag screws. (See project sheet)This will prevent the heater from tipping backwards.
  • Wrap nylon strapping 1 1/2 times around the tank. Start by placing the strapping at the back of the tank. Bring it to the front and then take it back to the wall.
  • Secure this strapping to the wall studs or the wood block using several 1/4 inch x 3 inch or longer lag screws with oversized washers. If you are securing it directly into concrete, use 1/4 inch expansion bolts in place of the screws.
  • Replace all copper and metal piping with flexible natural gas and water line connectors.
Water Heater
Preparedness Project #3: Strapping Your Water Heater