Conduct a hazard hunt in your home

Earthquake Hazards

The ground movement that accompanies earthquakes is seldom the cause of property damage. Homes that are structurally sound with their internal contents properly secured generally come through earthquakes with relatively little damage. On the other hand, unprepared homes are unsafe and their contents are vulnerable to the violent motion of major earthquakes.

The following list is a place to start to look for potential hazards in your home. We encourage you to work on one each April. Once each item it secured, it stays that way.

Start with your water heater

Since your water heater is one of the greatest potential hazards in an earthquake and is also valuable source of drinkable water if your water supply is cut off. It is the first hazard we recommend to be secured, if it is not already done. For specific instructions on how to secure your water heater and other items identified below, contact your local Red Cross chapter.

Check your water heater. Is it properly secured on the top and bottom with 16 - 18 gauge steel strap? Is this strapping directly secured to the studs behind the wall with lag screws? Have you replaced the copper piping with flexible connectors? If not, take these corrective actions first.

You can find instructions on how to do this with the Red Cross, your local fire department or at a home improvement store like Home Depot or Lowe's. You can also find them at www.cert-la.com then click on ESP Fliers and then click on “Brace Water Heater”.

Other potential hazards to check

Identify top-heavy, freestanding furniture, which could topple in an earthquake. Likely pieces are tall bookcases, china cabinets, chests of drawers, shelving units, etc. Are they secured to the wall?

Identify heavy or breakable objects on high shelves in bookcases or cabinets, or on top of dressers, etc. Either secure them with Velcro or move them to a lower location.

Identify all pieces of electronic equipment (computers, stereos, televisions, radios, etc.), small appliances (microwave ovens, toaster, blenders, etc.), and other types of equipment (sewing machines, answering machines, etc.) that may slide off their cabinet or counter tops. Either strap them in place or secure them with Velcro.

Identify hanging plants, especially those in heavy baskets, and hanging lamps that are near windows. Ground movement may cause them to swing and fall and/or break the windows. Either move or secure them.

Identify mirrors and heavily framed pictures which are located above beds, couches, etc. Relocate these items or mount them securely.

Identify latches on kitchen, bathroom and workroom cabinets that will not hold their doors securely closed during heavy shaking. Secure these doors by replacing their latches with earthquake resistant latches.

Identify poisons, toxins or solvents in breakable containers that are located in high or dangerous locations. Move these items to lower locations. Keep them away from your water and food storage, and out of the reach of children and pets.

Inspect the foundation of your home. Make sure your home is properly bolted to the foundation.

Inspect your chimney and roof for loose bricks and tiles that may jar loose in an earthquake. Determine whether plywood should be added to the attic to protect you home in case you chimney falls in an earthquake.

Once you have conducted this Home Hazard Hunt you may want to correct all of the potential problems right way. You may want to contract a company to come and do all of this at one time, if you feel you can afford it. If you are not able to do so, be certain to identify one item to be corrected each April and in time all of the hazards will be eliminated. Even when you have completed all these steps, conduct a hazard hunt each year to make certain that some new hazardous situation has not developed.

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