Chances are good that if an earthquake hits, you’ll be at home — especially now, when many of us are working at home due to coronavirus.
Luckily, there are simple things you can do today to safeguard your home and better protect yourself and your family before an earthquake strikes. Start with our 12 to-dos below. You’ll also find 3 top tips for what to do during a quake and, just as importantly, what not to do.
Inside Your Home
Whether it’s the kind that rolls in waves or arrives with a sudden jolt, an earthquake will surely shake your home and its contents. More people are injured by falling objects or furniture than by building damage. Make your home safer by securing and moving furniture and accessories, especially where people sit, sleep, or spend a lot of time. Pay special attention to heavy objects: move them lower to ground level and also make sure they’re not close to escape routes or doorways. Here are 12 other items to check and secure:
- Bookshelves – Tall bookshelves are an accident waiting to happen, as they’re unstable to begin with, and their contents can easily become airborne. Secure them to a wall stud using L-brackets and place the heaviest items on bottom shelves.
- Chemicals – If you have chemicals stored on open shelves in the garage or basement, protect them against spills by installing wood, plexiglass strips or wires to restrain them. If containers are behind cabinet doors, use latches to secure the doors.
- Display Cases – Secure these to the floor using appropriate brackets. Install safety glass if possible. Try to secure shelves inside the case as well.
- Electronics – For large electronics such as flat-screen TVs and entertainment centers, buy a “safety strap” kit, which contains straps and buckles designed for these heavy electronics.
- Hanging Objects – These are especially prone to be thrown around in a quake. Framed pictures and mirrors should be hung from closed hooks so they can’t bounce off walls. You can also use earthquake putty to secure corners. Move medium or large-sized pieces so they’re hung on studs, which is more secure being hung on drywall only. Make sure any hanging plants are well away from windows.
- HVAC Units – Anchor units using restraint brackets or seismic snubbers.
- Kitchen Cabinets – Shaking can cause cabinet doors to fly open and throw contents onto the floor. This can lead to a floor full of glass and ceramic shards – not to mention damage to countertops and walls. Secure cabinets by installing one or more of several latches: hook and eye, standard latch, pull/throwover, push latches, child-proof, or seismolatch.
- Piping – Secure all overhead pipes using brackets.
- Refrigerator – Secure refrigerators and other major appliances to wall studs using earthquake appliance straps.
- Space Heaters – These should be equipped with support legs and properly spaced angles. Learn online to DIY or hire a professional.
- Suspended AC Units – These should be braced with angles or welded to a support rod.
- Water Heater – Proper fastening involves having 2 straps that wrap completely around the unit and are screwed into studs of the wall.
What to Do During a Quake
The more you move or try to run during an earthquake, the greater chance you’ll be injured by falling or flying objects. Instead, remember to:
1. Drop to hands and knees – Do this before the earthquake knocks you down. It protects you from being thrown down and allows you to move if you need to.
2. Cover your head and neck – Get under a sturdy table or desk as soon as you can. If you can’t get to one, get next to low-lying furniture that won’t fall on you or next to an interior wall. Wherever you end up, cover your head and neck for protection.
3. Hold on to your shelter – Hold on to the table or desk (or your head and neck) until the shaking stops. If you’re under a table, be ready for it to shift as the quake rolls – and move with it.
What NOT to Do
1. Run outside – A building’s exterior walls are the most dangerous place to be during a quake. Facades, windows, and architectural details are often first to collapse or break. If you’re inside, don’t run outside, and if you’re outside, don’t run inside – crossing the building exterior puts you at risk of being injured by falling debris.
2. Stand in a doorway – It’s a long-held idea that a doorframe is the safest place to be. In modern homes, a doorframe is no safer than any other part of the house and won’t protect you from airborne or falling objects. You’re safer under a sturdy table.
3. Get in the “triangle of life” – An email that’s gone viral in the last few years offers advice counter to the long-established “Drop, Cover and Hold On” advice. The actions outlined have been discredited as potentially life-threatening by experts and their organizations.
Earthquake safety really boils down to preparation. Although you can’t control where you’ll be when one hits, you can prepare yourself and your home starting right now. Between the tips above – and our articles on what to do before and after a quake and emergency kit basics – you’ll be well on your way to pro-level preparation.
This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.