Events like the recent Nepalese 7.8 earthquake, while a world away for people in the U.S., nonetheless make many of us sit up and take notice, especially for those living in quake-prone regions. The “Big One” has long been predicted to hit for so long the thought of it is more a running joke than anything else. The reality of such an earth shattering event is more likely to make an appearance in yet another B rated movie plot than manifest itself in the real world. At least that’s the perception of so many who call the West Coast home. Does that mean California shouldn’t worry about some near future, massive earthquake? God, no! California will be hit with another big quake again…. and again. That much is certain. But with the not so well perceived, looming threat of The Big One creating a blasé attitude towards such a ground reeling disaster means fewer people are seriously preparing for the next one to hit.
The same can be said about other regions. How many of you know the Pacific Northwest is overdue for an offshore quake, the size of which spawned the 2008 Indonesian Tsunami? Or how about the likelihood of the New Madrid Fault sending another series of temblors running through the Midwestern United States? Between December 1811 and February 1812 the adjoining region of northeastern Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky and Missouri suffered four earthquakes ranging from 7.0 to 8.1. The last of which temporarily changed the course of the mighty Mississippi River. In the early 19th century, the region was sparsely populated but today as many as 2.6 million households could be affected.
The point of this doom and gloom is many people who live in places where earthquakes will, and do strike are not preparing themselves for the disasters building up right below their feet. The worst part is earthquake prepping their homes is something that could be done in a typical weekend. And as the conscientious prepper is well aware, preparing for the worst is the best way to survive the aftermath. In this, the first of a two-part US Preppers earthquake series, we outline our recommendations for physically preparing your surroundings for a significant quake.
Earthquake Prepping Your Home
Falling objects, debris and toppling furniture are a major cause of injuries from moderate earthquakes. These injuries are largely preventable by taking a few, simple actions.
Secure the Furniture:
With “L” brackets, wood screws, wall anchors, a stud finder and furniture straps all in hand, secure large pieces of furniture to their walls. Bookcases, dressers, and armoires can be secured with two “L” brackets at or near their tops. If drilling a wood screw into Grandma’s 85-year-old armoire makes you cringe, consider using a furniture strap, which is a nylon strap, tipped with metal brackets, that wraps around the furniture piece and is anchored to a wall by the brackets on either side. Similarly, use television straps for those TV’s not already mounted to the wall. Also consider moving furniture away from beds so you don’t wake to a bookshelf toppling over on top of you.
Secure Kitchen Cabinets:
Affix latches to cabinet doors to keep everything inside when the shaking starts. As for the contents, break the habit of precariously stacking dishware, cups and coffee mugs, as none of that will stay put in a quake. Leave a buffer space of about an inch to two between the cup or stack of plates and shelf’s edge to compensate for movement. Consider cleaning out old bags of chips, stale boxes of crackers from pantry cabinets to make for easier and more stable storage. In the case of open shelving, install a restricting lip, which is a metal or plastic strip attached to the front edge of the shelf. Other options are to run a nylon or bungee-type cord across the middle of each shelf. This, of course, could be unsightly for a kitchen but would work for open pantry shelves or garage shelving where home canned goods are often stored.
All the Hanging Things:
A show of hands… how many have pictures hanging from your walls? Big heavy, framed mirrors? Cherished artwork? Plants hanging from the ceiling? Okay, for those of you who didn’t raise a hand, skip this part as you’re all set. For everyone else here’s a few tips; switch out the flimsy, picture hanging hooks with a more sturdy one that incorporates a closing clasp which will keep them from leaping off the wall. Or use a hook that turns in on itself then couple that with an adhesive putty product (made for such purposes) to the bottom corners to keep the frame from banging against the wall and possibly shattering the glass. Larger hanging objects should be set into a wall stud so they do not pull out. The same goes for hanging plants. They should already be secured to a ceiling stud or to any of the various types of ceiling anchors. Also, make sure hanging plants will not hit windows once they begin swinging around. And one final note, avoid hanging any of these things above where you lay your head at night, because being wrenched out of a sound sleep by an earthquake is rude enough without adding a framed, glass picture to the mix.
Around the Outside:
Take a look out in the garage and outside around the house. In the garage (or wherever it is located) secure the water heater. Like the furniture inside the home, the water heater can be secured with a strap. That new, gas barbecue bought last Christmas, make sure the propane tanks and connections are secure because a punctured, propane tank does not equal a whole mess of fun. Consult with a tree trimmer about trees or large branches that might threaten the house during a quake and go with what they advise. Make sure any hazardous materials (pesticides, gasoline for the lawnmower, container of used motor oil) are safely stored.
When I first moved to earthquake country, I noticed stored up in the garage rafters, stacks of plywood sheets. I shrugged it off figuring they were left over from some past household repairs the landlord made. Then one late afternoon about 5 years ago, a 6.5 quake hit just offshore. After everything calmed down I noted along with all the collapsed brick chimneys around the neighborhood, people pulling out their own large plywood sheets to cover empty, window frames. It was an ah-hah moment and now I recommend stocking up ’cause there are never enough glass replacement companies around when everyone else needs them.
Place fire extinguishers in strategic places around the house and in the garage because fires tend to go hand in hand with earthquakes. Just ask San Francisco.
Here we have provided detailed specific actions you should take to physically prep your home for a potential earthquake but there is more to do. In the upcoming Part II of this series we will discuss quake specific actions and plans to further help you and your family survive the next time the earth moves under you.