Prepare Your Home for an Earthquake

earthquake house

Earthquakes arrive, with little or no warning causing devastating property damage and loss of life. Take steps to secure your home and reduce the possible damage and danger to your family.

1. How to prepare for a quake

Check for dangers zones; windows, heavy furniture, appliances and hanging mirrors. Tall furniture; china cabinets, large mirrors and bookcases should be anchored to the wall with screws and 4-inch steel “L” brackets or short steel cables. Store breakable or heavy objects on lower shelves.

2. Stoves, water heaters and natural gas

Check all stoves, refrigerators and water heaters for flexible gas and water connections. Water heaters and gas stoves present a significant danger from flammable gas and hot water. Water heaters need to be secured to the nearest wall to comply with building and safety codes.

3. Combustibles

Store all flammable or hazardous liquids outside the house in a garage or shed.

4. Develop a family disaster plan

Families with elderly members, handicapped members, or members with special medical needs may require special provisions. Make identification cards for family members with those special instructions. Every family member should understand the disaster plan: where to go, who to contact and where to meet. Rehearse the plan often. Family members should know the location of the police station and hospital emergency room.

5. Emergency kits

Assemble emergency kits for home and automobiles. Water will become your highest priority. Include 2-gallons of water daily for each adult’s drinking and sanitation. Prepackaged emergency kits are short on water. Stock up on gallon water jugs for the home. 16-ounce water bottles are an easy solution for automobile emergency kits. Store a 6 pack in each daypack. Emergency kits should include: enough water for a day to get back home, energy bars, dried fruit, nuts, or non-perishable package goods, flashlight and extra batteries, first aid kit, whistle to signal for help, dust mask, space blanket, duct tape for an improvised shelter, durable garden or work gloves, sturdy shoes or hiking boots, towel or wash rag, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation, large wrench to turn off utilities, hand operated can opener, local maps, cell phone with charger, battery powered radio. Choose which items will fit in a daypack and need to be included for automobiles or office.

Quick-check safety tips
  • Secure heavy furniture
  • Check appliances and utilities
  • Move flammable liquids outside the house
  • Practice earthquake drills
  • Assemble emergency kits for home and car

6. Keeping safe during an earthquake

When indoors, remain there and take cover under a sturdy table or desk. Protect your head during quakes; light fixtures and falling objects present unexpected hazards. Inside corners of homes, buildings, or doorways in load-bearing walls are safer spots. Avoid windows or large glass areas. Remain inside until the shaking stops. Do not use elevators during or after a quake. If outdoors, remain there. Do not enter buildings during or after a quake. Move away from buildings, streetlights, and utility wires. The greatest danger zone is near buildings. Many earthquake-related injuries are the result of collapsing walls, flying glass or falling debris.

7. Driving

Stop the vehicle as soon as possible and remain inside the vehicle. Avoid tall buildings, trees, overpasses and utility wires. After the shaking stops, proceed cautiously. Avoid roads, bridges, or freeway ramps that may have been damaged during the earthquake.

8. If trapped during a quake

If trapped under debris, do not light a match. There may be leaking gasoline or other combustibles. Cover your mouth with a handkerchief or light clothing to avoid breathing dust. If trapped in an underground structure: tap on pipes or walls to attract rescuers. Use a whistle if your emergency kit is within reach.

  • Stay indoors in the home
  • Outdoors; avoid dangers from street lights, trees and utility wires
  • Avoid danger zones in commercial buildings
  • Stop the vehicle if driving

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