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Device Marketed to Cut Utilities in Earthquakes

September 06, 1987|TERENCE M. GREEN | Special to The Times: Green is a retired Times staff writer

A device expected to minimize, or even prevent, much of the damage associated with medium to strong earthquakes has been announced publicly.

The equipment, developed and offered by Earthquake Safety Engineering Inc. of Los Angeles, will instantaneously shut off all of a building's gas, electricity and water five to 10 seconds before the arrival of destructive earthquake waves, according to company President Paul T. Regan.

He explained to a news conference at the Greater Los Angeles Press Club that earthquake waves are produced in two forms, horizontal and vertical. The horizontal waves cause structural damage, mostly beginning at amplitudes of 3 on the Richter scale.

But the vertical waves, which activate the device, travel ahead of the horizontal waves and arrive earlier, usually by five to 10 seconds, depending on the quake epicenter's distance from the protected structure. Sensitivity of the "trigger" is set to avoid its activation by traffic or what he called micro-quakes.

Most earthquake damage, Regan said, is caused by fires set off by electric sparks and natural gas leaking from broken pipes. Water is cut off to prevent damage to carpets and other furnishings.

Once activated, the device must be reset manually to prevent resumption of flow before the systems are found to be safe. Regan added that all the system's components are UL (Underwriters Laboratory) approved and an uninterrupted power source will operate it in case of a general power failure.

Also, while devices for turning off water or gas now exist, he said this is the only one that will turn off all three services simultaneously.

The cost is $7,500 for a single-family house ranging as much as $15,000 for mobile-home parks, condominium or apartment clusters or office, industrial or commercial buildings. But he prophesised that the cost will drop dramatically in the future, adding:

"We're ready to take orders now" at the firm's offices, 6614 Melrose Ave.

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