Protecting Your Home from Earthquake Damage
Earthquakes can be devastating to homes, causing significant damage. The shaking can cause furniture and appliances to fall over, and even the most carefully constructed building can have its walls cracked or crushed in an earthquake. Fortunately, there are some simple things you can do to protect your home from earthquake damage before it happens. Here is what you need to know:
Secure your water heater.
If your water heater is not bolted to the wall, it can move and injure you. If you have a gas-powered water heater, do not locate it near a fireplace or chimney as they could cause leakage. Do not locate your water heater under an overhanging roof or in an area where its weight is unsupported by the floor. Finally, do not place your washing machine or dishwasher directly above the water heater as if one of these appliances falls on top of your hot water tank, it will explode and cause serious injury.
Bolt down any large appliances.
You can also bolt appliances to the walls. For example, if you have a large refrigerator in your kitchen, it is a good idea to place it down on the floor and then bolt it to the wall. If you have a dishwasher or washing machine in your laundry room, they should be bolted as well.
Anchor items that can be easily moved in a small earthquake such as mirrors, tall furniture and wall hangings.
Use earthquake straps and other fasteners to secure items to studs or walls, if possible. Anchoring items to the wall studs will help prevent the item from falling during an earthquake. If there are no studs available, use an alternate method of anchoring (such as attaching hooks) that will hold your item securely but still allow it to be removed after an earthquake passes.
If you choose to anchor items above a load-bearing wall, make sure you do not place any strain on the supporting beam(s). A weight limit label should be present on many appliances such as refrigerators; if this label cannot be found then assume it is safe for your equipment currently located above the load bearing wall.
Consider adding latches to all drawers and cabinet doors.
One measure that can help keep your belongings safe is to install latches on drawers and cabinets. Latches are particularly helpful in protecting items in the kitchen, as they keep drawers closed even when there's an earthquake shaking the floor. This can be done by attaching a latch to each drawer or cabinet door and then locking it into place with a key or combination lock.
To install latches:
- Remove the current hardware from your drawers or cabinets; if it's just glued on, you may be able to gently pull it off with your fingers. If not, use a screwdriver to gently pry up existing hardware until you can remove it completely from its mounting surface
- Attach wooden blocks about two inches high between where each hinge normally sits (this will make sure your new hardware will fit properly). Then attach metal brackets at least one inch longer than your wood blocks on either side of these wooden blocks, so that when you reattach them all together they'll support whatever weight you want them too
Preparing your home for an earthquake can help reduce the amount of damage to it when an earthquake happens.
This can be done by doing a few simple steps:
- Make sure that all of your water and gas lines are properly secured, especially if you have pipes that run through walls, or if you have a new construction home with a lot of open space in the walls.
- Install smoke detectors on every floor of your house, including basements and attics (even though they're areas that are less likely to be damaged). Smoke detectors are cheap and easy to install—there's no excuse not to do it! Check them once a month just as you would with any other piece of equipment in your home.
- If possible, move heavy items like bookcases and cabinets away from windows so they don't break during an earthquake. If this isn't possible then make sure these items are secured onto the wall using brackets or screws so they don't fall during an earthquake and cause injuries or damage other things in your house.
Remember, an earthquake can happen at any time and without warning. It’s important that you take the steps above to protect yourself and your family from injury.