Secure Your Space
The Great ShakeOut Hits California
Our community is “celebrating” the annual earthquake drill here in California on October 20. We are joining a crowd of 9.4 million participants (so far).
Plus, just two days ago we emerged from a heightened earthquake alert resulting from a swarm of 140+ small quakes near the base of the San Andreas Fault. That’s the seismic fault that’s going to give birth to the long-overdue “Big One.”
So it seems time to take another look around the house to Secure Your Space, as the ShakeOut people say.
We put together a worksheet for our neighbors, and I thought it would be a good tool to share with all our Emergency Plan Guide readers.
(The form I created for our neighborhood group has a space for recommendations to be made by a handyman that we’ve engaged to go to people’s homes. The version shown at the left in this Advisory is a little different. It figures YOU will be making the changes, hence the “to-do list” terminology!)
No and Low Cost Recommendations for Quake Safety
These are all pretty straightforward. It just takes setting a time for a “walk-through” and then making obvious changes to your living space.
As you do your walk-through, look at furniture placement, and not just heavy or decorative items that could fall and break.
When we returned home after the San Francisco quake in 1989, one of the most dramatic things that had happened was we couldn’t get into the bedroom because a bookcase had fallen over, completely blocking the door.
Handyman Help for Quake Safety
You may or may not already be a handyperson, so some of these suggestions may require that you get a few simple tools. Generally, the idea is to stand in the middle of the room and imagine that everything loose starts flying at you.
How do you tether or fasten down the items that could hurt you?
Keep in mind:
• Flexible fasteners may be better than stiff ones, which can break in a large jolt.
• Rubberized pads may stop heavier items from shooting across the room, but of course won’t keep them from falling to the floor.
• A wire barrier or a lip may keep items on a shelf as long as the shelf stays on the wall.
This Secure Your Space list is aimed at simple things you can do to improve your chances. It doesn’t get into major improvements, like blocking and strapping your water heater, or reinforcing your foundation. We’ve covered some of those elsewhere.
Today, let’s just take care of a few items that should not be left unaddressed.
Need a shopping list of earthquake safety items?
Here are some items from Amazon. You could click on the links, order them all, or items like them, get them delivered within just a couple of days, and have everything you need for an earthquake safety family activity!
Picture or Mirror Hanger
The usual hardware or hobby pack of picture hangers is designed for light pictures, but the sawtooth version of a hanger, or any hanger that counts on simple gravity to hold the wire on the hook, will not be adequate in an earthquake. You are looking for something that can carry 50, 70 or maybe even 100 pounds, and keep it on the wall! Here are some ideas for hanging heavy items.
And the wire to go with it . . .
Hillman Fasteners 121128 Mirror Hanging Set Heavy Duty
Big Stuff on Shelves
When it comes to electronics on the shelves in our office, we start with rubberized mats under our printers and computers. We also have a mat under the one desktop tower that is still on the desk. (The other tower is on the floor.) I also use rubberized shelf paper in the kitchen under my plates, and actually between some of the serving platters.
I really love this stuff. Get enough of it because you’ll find many uses for it.
Appliances and Furniture
I said above that for our computers, we “start” with rubberized mats. The next step is to fasten all appliances and furniture down with flexible safety straps, so they won’t go anywhere when the world starts shaking. Of course, what you use to fasten things down depends on their size, their weight, where they are located (how far to a wall stud), etc.
TV monitors are probably the most likely thing to fly in an earthquake. Tie ’em down! Next most important are bookcases, appliances and other furniture. Here are several models of straps and cables to consider.
And one model of strap (not from Quakehold!) that seems to be all-purpose:
Objets d’art and Collectibles
Every home has a shelf or cupboard with beloved figurines, plates, vases, whatever. If the shelf falls, or the cupboard opens, these precious items will be destroyed. So, some suggestions:
- Can you place these objects in a closed cupboard instead of on an open shelf?
- Run a wire or fishing line barrier along the front of the shelf to keep books from falling.
- Add a simple lock to be sure the cupboard or cabinet door won’t swing open in an earthquake. (Check under “child-proofing your kitchen.”)
Most important, “glue” treasures down with museum wax from your local hardware or craft store. It holds!
I mentioned above what we found in the bedroom when we got home after the 1989 earthquake. In the kitchen was an astonishing mess of broken dishes, broken jars of pickles and peaches, flour and spices, appliances and potted plants.
Again, all kitchens are slightly different. Do a kitchen walk-through. What could fall or move? What will happen if cupboard doors come open? Moving heavy items to lower shelves is the obvious first step. Selectively applying child-proof locks or safety straps may be the next best improvement.
A Weekend’s Worth of Work
Doing the appropriate moving, measuring, drilling and installing will take more than 5 minutes. Depending on your level of skill and interest, it might take all day or even all weekend.
But all it would take is one good shake and EVERYTHING ON THIS LIST — mirrors, pictures, bookcases, furniture, computers, cupboards, TVs, food, glassware, souvenirs, collections — could end up in a jumble of broken trash in the middle of the room. And you’ll be lucky if you aren’t in it somewhere.
So, join in your own region’s Great ShakeOut and make some safety improvements. You’ll sleep better for your efforts.
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team
I mentioned some articles on more serious infrastructure improvements for your home. Check these out:
- Improving Building Safety — Chimneys
- Improving Building Safety — Windows
- Improving Building Safety — Interior
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