By Shawn Kyles
Severe earthquakes can not only result in injuries and fatalities, they also cause considerable property damage to roads, buildings and other structures. Advance preparation is your best chance of avoiding the dangerous situations and consequences that can result from a quake. If you are a homeowner, developing an earthquake plan will help ensure the safety of your family, and provide greater protection for your property. Persons that reside in your home should know the best place to go when a quake hits, such as interior walls, corners and door frames. They should also know which areas of the house to avoid, including walls with windows, or rooms with mirrors and heavy furniture. Another vital component of an emergency plan is the purchasing and storing of emergency supplies, including water, food, first aid items, flashlights, battery operated or hand crank radio, extra batteries, tools, blankets, clothing, fire extinguishers, a camp stove and extra pet food. Your emergency kit should also contain any valuable documents, important phone numbers, and extra money. After your plan has been prepared, have family members drill various earthquake scenarios.
In addition to creating an emergency plan, you will also need to physically prepare your home for a quake. Secure any furniture and appliances that can fall over with straps, such as bookcases, refrigerators and water heaters. Move beds that are near windows, bookshelves or other items that can fall to a different place in the room, or eliminate any potential hazards. Use earthquake putty to prevent vases, antiques, statutes and other objects sitting on shelves from moving. Install latches on your cupboards and store objects that can break on low shelves. Also secure hazardous and flammable liquids, and bolt or eye screw paintings and other hanging objects to the wall. Cover windows with film to prevent shattering, or install safety glass. Replace any weak or damaged plumbing, wiring and gas lines, and make sure each person in your house knows how to shut off the gas, water and electricity.
During an earthquake, a house can move from side to side, as well as up and down. To prevent structural damage, ask an experienced earthquake retrofitting company to inspect your house to determine the best way to prevent your home from slipping off of its foundation. This may include bolting, adding shear walls and installing additional supports such as connectors, anchors, straps and braces. When all of the parts of a house are secured together, they will be less likely to move. A knowledgeable retrofitter may also recommend the repair of any existing foundation damage to further strengthen the structure.
The time you spend now on earthquake preparation can have a significant impact on your family’s safety during a quake, and reduce damage to your home and personal property. It is added insurance that you will be ready when the big one hits.