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  • Writer's picture Therese Nugent

How To Prepare Your House For An Earthquake

A new U.S. Geological Survey released the day before the 112th anniversary of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake said in a report called the “HayWired Scenario,” that a magnitude 7.0 earthquake on the Hayward Fault located under Oakland could kill as many as 800 people and injure up to 18,000.

Earthquakes are very much a fact of life in northern California. Because there is no reliable way to predict them, of all natural disasters, earthquakes are the least understood and the most feared. Preparedness for the inevitable earthquake is extremely important and that preparedness comes first at home. While we can’t predict a quake, we can and should take these preventative measures so we can be ready when it does strike.

Quakeproof your utilities and secure your appliances.

Start by checking your wiring, gas lines, and plumbing. The jerking motion of a quake can rupture gas lines and tear electrical lines causing fires and flooding. Install flexible gas and water connections on all appliances. Brace and support your heavy appliances with flexible cable and metal strapping. Secure all gas appliances in place so they can’t rock away from the wall breaking open the gas connection.

Regarding hot water heaters, California law requires any new or replacement water heater sold in California after July 1, 1991 be braced, anchored or strapped. The seller of real property containing a water heater must certify in writing that the water heater bracing requirements have been met. Special strapping kits are available that are bolted into the wall preventing the toppling of the heavy appliance during a quake.

Secure heavy furniture and objects.

Large and heavy objects not secured in some fashion can fall over, get knocked down, or shaken away from walls. The first thing to do is put earthquake strapping on any freestanding furniture that can topple. Anchor overhead light fixtures such as chandeliers to prevent falling. Wall hangings and heavy mirrors should be secured with heavy hooks, a second wire, or corner brackets that anchor the frame securely to prevent it from swinging. And for good measure, do not hang anything above chairs or beds where you sit or sleep. Attach latches and sliding bolts to cabinets and cupboards. Place heavy items on lower shelves and secure small items with museum putty. Or consider running a monofilament guy line along each shelf to keep objects from bouncing off the edge. Consider installing windows with glass panes that do not touch the corners of the frame allowing the glass to move slightly during a shake. Or add security films to windows. The film won’t prevent the glass from shattering but it will prevent shards of glass from covering an area creating a hazard. Keep cleaning supplies, solvents, flammables and other chemicals where they can’t fall or break open. Keep them away from your water storage and out of reach of children and pets.

Learn to shut off your utilities.

In the aftermath of the earthquake, it is imperative you know how to shut off your utilities and every family member should know how and when to do so. If you smell the odor of gas, shut it off immediately. Find the main shut-off valve located on a pipe next to the gas meter and use a wrench to turn the valve to the “off” position. Carefully turn off the electricity at the main electrical breaker in your home. Do not use matches, appliances, or operate light switches until you are sure there are no gas leaks. Sparks from electrical switches can ignite gas, causing an explosion. Turn the water off at the main meter or at the water main leading into your home. Be at the ready and attach a valve wrench to the water line. Label all gas and water lines for quick identification.

Be defensive.

Your best defense against an earthquake is to be prepared. Making these preparations will not only help save your home and its contents but it will afford you peace of mind.

Are you ready?


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