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Commissioner Steve Novick

Official Website for Commissioner Steve Novick

Phone: 503-823-4682

fax: 503-823-4019

1221 SW 4th Ave. Suite 210, Portland, OR 97204

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KOIN: Earthquake gas valves stop fires

October 30, 2013 | KOIN.com-- Scientists say it's not a matter of "if" but "when" a huge earthquake hits the Pacific Northwest. Now, Portland City Commissioner Steve Novick wants to pass a law requiring homeowners to install an automatic shutoff valve on their natural gas lines to prevent fires in case that earthquake hits.

In the 1994 Northridge earthquake, more than 150 buildings caught fire in the Los Angeles area within a day of the quake. Natural gas leaks contributed to many of them.

"It's really important to me that the city survive an earthquake," Novick said. "Often there's more damage caused by fires after a quake than the earthquake itself."

Portland-based Earthquake Tech installs about 100 natural gas shutoff valves each year. They're calibrated to shut off the gas with a magnitude-5 quake.

"This might not make a difference in our lifetime, but in the lifetime of these buildings and the families that live here it's going to make a difference," the company's Tim Cook said.

Facebook commenters are not so sure.

Pete: In a serious quake, the main gas lines would likely be ruptured. So putting shutoff bandaids on houses won't solve anything. But it would make someone a bundle of money.

David: Great just what we don't need the city government telling us to spend more money on something that might happen!!! Go fix the unpaved streets in Portland.

Novick said that could be said of just about any safety measure. "'Great, they're forcing us to spend money on seat belts just because we might get in an accident.' Well, we know people do get in accidents. Or, 'Great, they're forcing us to spend money on smoke alarms because there might be a fire.' Well, we know there are fires."

The city commissioner is preparing a proposal related to new homes and homes for sale to present to the state building codes division. He hopes the Portland City Council will vote on this in early 2014.

Northwest Natural said the kill shutoff valves have their benefits but the company does not recommend them. A spokesperson for the utility told The Portland Tribune they can be activated if a large, loud truck rolls past a home with one installed.

But others said improvements in technology have cut down on accidental triggers.

Small earthquakes occur throughout the Pacific Northwest on READ FULL ARTICLE