California is no stranger to earthquakes, but it seems we've been rocking and rolling more and more over the past several months. We don’t know when the next one will hit or how bad it will be, which is why it’s important to be prepared. And the best place to start is at home. So here are a few steps to help get you and your household properly prepared.
Strengthen your home’s structure
The safety of your home starts at its foundation, and foundation bolting — the securing of your home’s wooden structure to its cement foundation — is key to earthquake resistance. If bolts are placed too far apart, damaged or missing, your home is at risk of slipping off the foundation when an earthquake hits. Earthquake Country Alliance has great instructions for how to identify the quality of your foundation bolting. If you discover or suspect that bolts need to be added or replaced, it should be taken care of as soon as possible.
Also important is the strength of your home’s cripple wall, the short wood-framed wall in the sub-area crawl space. In an earthquake, the wall is at risk of collapsing, which would cause the main floor of your home to drop to the ground. Ideally, it would be retrofitted with a shear wall to help sustain the shaking of an earthquake.
Just remember, the older the home, the higher the probability of weaknesses that make it vulnerable to earthquakes. We suggest contacting a professional for any questions about the safety of your home’s structure.
Secure heavy furniture and objects
During an earthquake, one of the greatest risks to your safety is having a large object or piece of furniture fall on you. Tall, heavy or expensive items like bookcases, appliances, and televisions should be secured in place or anchored to a wall. Also, consider placement of these items in relation to beds and seating. The further away from them you are during an earthquake, the better.
Especially vulnerable is your water heater. If left unsecured, there's a risk of it falling over or of the water and gas connections rupturing. Bracing kits are available for purchase, or your House Manager can install straps that are properly screwed into the studs or masonry of the wall.
FEMA has put together an excellent home hazard hunt to help you identify other potential risks around your home.
Prepare an emergency supply kit
You likely already have this on your to do list. A household emergency kit should be stored in portable plastic containers, duffel bags, or backpacks, and placed in a spot that is easy to access. Pack them with enough supplies to keep your home’s occupants safe for three days, including:
- Water (one gallon per person per day)
- Flashlights/lanterns and batteries
- Shelf-stable food
- Dust masks
- A whistle
- Copies of important identification documents
To be extra safe, build smaller kits to keep in your car and at work.
Plan, plan, plan and prepare
Once your home is in order and feels safe, make sure everyone living inside is ready for when an earthquake does hit. Practice drop, cover and hold on — it’s no longer considered safe to stand in a doorway during an earthquake. Create a plan for your family or roommates. Select a place to meet if you’re separated and identify someone living out-of-state to be a contact in case you can’t reach each other.
Earthquake Country Alliance has more advice on what to do depending on where you’re located during the shaking.
Earthquakes are inevitable and we’ve heard “the big one” will hit at some point in the (hopefully distant) future. But we’re Californians and we don’t scare easily. Still, we’re paying a pretty penny to live here and our homes (and their occupants) will fare better if we’re prepared. Taking preventative measures now will help keep you safe once the shaking starts.