Yes, I admit it. I’m an earthquake nut. They scare me and I want to be as ready as possible for the next one. To be honest, I think we should all be nutty if that’s what it takes to avoid injury and death in an earthquake. Here are several things to consider:
Strap it Down: Strap the water heater to the studs. If it’s in a concrete basement, find a way to strap it to the concrete. It’s a valuable source of potable water and they are expensive to replace…not to mention they could cause serious injuries if they land on someone.
Do the same thing with heavy furniture. The thing that causes most of the injuries in an earthquake are things that land on you. While that could include your house, having one less thing to worry about is very helpful.
Earthquake Putty: If you don’t want your ceramic or glass knick knacks to be a pile of rubble on the floor, invest in some earthquake putty. The only problem I’ve found with the stuff is that you better want it to stay where you stick it. It is *very* hard to pry off later.
Cabinet Latches: A lot of people had to replace all of their plates, saucers, glasses, cups and any other breakable that could fall out of a cabinet. Having a latch can prevent this from happening. However, there is a caution. After an earthquake, be very careful in opening the door. Many of the contents could be waiting to fall out at you. I lost more dishes in an aftershock than in the main quake because I forgot that little rule.
Bolt to the Foundation: Most houses in California are on slabs. Some are bolted to the foundation and others aren’t. If your house is on a slab, no matter where you live, make sure it is thusly bolted or the house could come off the foundation. If that occurs, it is likely to be red tagged.
Reinforce Masonry: That may be expensive. It may mean you replace most of the outside of your house. It’s worth it. Unreinforced masonry kills a lot of people, because it doesn’t stay attached to the building it’s on. If you look at pictures of the great San Francisco quake, you can see the piles of rubble.
Keep Beds away from Windows: One of the scariest things that happened after the Northridge quake was finding a large triangle of broken glass on one of our daughters’ pillow. We think it happened in an aftershock, but it brings out the point very clearly. Windows are dangerous in quakes.
Pictures: Like furniture, pictures need special care, especially if they are heavy. So, for similar reasons do mirrors. There are special kits with looped screws and picture wire for this procedure. Screw it into a stud and wire it so it won’t land on your head.
Book Shelves: In Northridge, all of the books in one room landed in the middle of the floor. Many of them were hardbacks, and they’d been thrown six and seven feet from the shelves. The shelves in another room did not spew books everywhere. The difference? Wider shelves. You can also put a barrier up to prevent them from falling out. If you keep books in a bedroom or any location that could be problematic, that’s not a bad idea. Being buried under a pile of hardbacks might not feel so good.
These are a few of the things to keep in mind when preparing for an earthquake. You may want to contact USGS or other agencies for more ideas specific to your area. Taking these steps now could save your life later.