Inspecting for Possible Home Hazards
An important step in
earthquake preparedness is to inspect your
home and its surroundings for possible hazards and then take action to lessen
those hazards. Remember: anything can move, fall, or break during an earthquake
or its aftershocks.
The following is a basic
checklist to help you identify and correct possible home hazards.
Rooms in the Home
Look for the following
hazards in each room:
Windows and other glass
that might shatter
cabinets, refrigerators, water heaters, and other furniture that might topple
fireplaces, chimneys, and stoves that could move or fall
Areas that could be
blocked by falling debris
Secure your large
appliances with flexible cable, braided wire, or metal strapping.
Install flexible gas and
water connections on all gas appliances. This will significantly reduce your
chances of having a major fire after an earthquake.
Brace and support air
conditioners, particularly those on rooftops.
The typical water heater
weighs about 450 pounds when full. In an earthquake, the floor on which it is
standing tends to move out from under the heater, often causing it to topple.
The movement can also break the gas, electric, and water-line connectors,
posing fire or electric shock hazards, and can shatter the glass lining within
the water heater.
Here are two suggestions
on how to secure your water heater:
Wrap at least a 1
/2-inch wide metal strap around the top of the water heater and attach it to
wall studs with 3-inch lag screws. Attach another strap about 2/3 of the way
down from the top of the water heater. OR...
Wrap steel plumber's
tape around the entire water heater at least twice. Then secure the tape to two
different wall studs with 3-inch lag screws.
Securing Items in the Bathroom
Replace glass bottles
from your medicine cabinet and around the bathtub with plastic containers.
Hanging and Overhead Items
Inspect and anchor
overhead light fixtures, such as chandeliers.
Move heavy mirrors and
pictures hanging above beds, chairs, and other places where you sit or sleep.
Otherwise, anchor these items with wire through eyescrews bolted into wall
studs. Or place screws on both sides, top, and bottom of the frame and screw these
into the studs.
Determine whether the
full swing of your hanging lamps or plants will strike a window. If so, move
Secure hanging objects
by closing the opening of the hook.
Replace heavy ceramic or
glass hanging planters with light-weight plastic or wicker baskets.
Shelves, Cabinets, and Furniture
free-standing furniture, such as bookcases and china cabinets, that could
topple in an earthquake.
Secure your furniture by
o "L" brackets, corner brackets, or
aluminum molding to attach tall or top-heavy furniture to the wall
o eyebolts to secure items located a short
distance from the wall
Attach a wooden or metal
guardrail on open shelves to keep items from sliding or falling off. Fishing
line can also be used as a less-visible means of securing an item.
Place heavy or large
objects on lower shelves.
fastenings to secure some items to their shelves.
Secure your cabinet
doors by installing sliding bolts or childproof latches.
solvents, or toxic materials in breakable containers and move these containers
to a safe, well-ventilated storage area. Keep them away from your water storage
and out of reach of children and pets.
Inspecting and Securing Your Home's Structure
Examine the structural
safety of your house. If your house is of conventional wood construction, it
will probably be relatively resistant to earthquake damage, particularly if it
is a single-story structure.
For information on
structural safety standards and qualified contractors in your area, contact
your city or county government office on community development or building code
suggestions will take an investment of time and money but will add stability to
your home. If you want to do the work yourself, many hardware or
home-improvement stores will assist you with information and instructions.
Check to see if your
house or garage is securely fastened to the foundation. (If your house was
built before 1950, it probably does not have bolts securing the wood structure
to the concrete foundation.) If your house is not secured to the foundation,
take the following steps:
Using a hammer drill and
carbide bit, drill a hole through the sill plate into the foundation. Holes
should be approximately 6 feet apart.
Drop a 1/2- x 7-inch
expansion bolt into each hole and finish by tightening the nut and washer.
Beams, Posts, Joists, and Plates
Strengthen the areas of
connection between beams, posts, joists, and plates using the following
Twin post caps
Nails and lag screws
Pay particular attention
to exposed framing in garages, basements, porches, and patio covers.
Roof and Chimney
Check your chimney or
roof for loose tiles and bricks that could fall in an earthquake. Repair loose
tiles or bricks, as needed.
Protect yourself from
falling chimney bricks that might penetrate the roof, by reinforcing the
ceiling immediately surrounding the chimney with 3/4-inch plywood nailed to
Learning to Shut Off Utilities
Know where and how to
shut off utilities at the main switches or valves. Check with your local
utility companies for instructions.
Teach all family members
how and when to shut off utilities.
An automatic valve
(Earthquake Command System) is commercially available that will turn the gas
off for you in the event of an earthquake.
After an earthquake, DO
NOT USE matches, lighters, or appliances, and do not operate light switches
until you are sure there are no gas leaks. Sparks from electrical switches
could ignite gas, causing an explosion.
If you smell the odor of
gas, or if you notice a large consumption of gas being registered on the gas
meter, shut off the gas immediately. First, find the main shut-off valve,
located on a pipe next to the gas meter. Use an adjustable wrench to turn the
valve to the off position.
After a major disaster,
shut off the electricity. Sparks from electrical switches could pose a shock or
fire hazard. Carefully turn off the electricity at the main electrical breaker
in your home.
Water may be turned off
at either of two locations:
At the main meter, which
controls the water flow to the entire property; or
At the water main
leading into the home. (Shutting off the water here retains the water supply in
your water heater, which may be useful in an emergency.)
Attach a valve wrench to
the water line. (This tool can be purchased at most hardware stores.) Also,
label the water mains for quick identification.