24 Ways to Prepare Your Home For a Mega Earthquake

A lot of people are talking about a MEGA earthquake hitting the United States in the near future.

Here are 24 things you can do now to prepare your home for a major earthquake. I don’t know when the next big earthquake will strike, but if it does, you’ll wish you had done these.

earthquake rubble

Preparing Your Home For an Earthquake

  1. Replace glass picture frames with removable photo wallpaper.  WeMontage is a service that allows you to create photo collages and print them as wallpaper.  You simply upload your photos, pick a design and order the wallpaper.  When the wallpaper arrives, simply unpeel it like you would a sticker and place it on the wall.  It’s simple to unpeel and is reusable. Prints cost between $60-$120 and are as small as 2×3 feet and as big as 6×2 feet. Alternatively you can keep your picture frames and simply remove the glass in the frames (this is what we’ve done).
  2. Place rubber bands over cabinet handles. Not only will this help keep your children from throwing pot and pans on the floor, it will prevent cabinet doors from swinging open and will prevent dishes from falling on the floor in the event of an earthquake.
  3. Move beds/cribs away from windows. In an earthquake one of the first things to break will be windows.  Broken glass falling on you during your sleep doesn’t sound very pleasant.
  4. Move heavy items down from shelves. The majority of injuries in a semi-powerful earthquake are not caused by buildings collapsing but by people falling or being hit by falling objects. In California’s Loma Prieta Earthquake (6.9 magnitude) in 1989, 95% of the injuries were caused by people falling or having things fall on them, such as light fixtures.
  5. Secure tall, heavy furniture to the wall. Consider screwing your book shelves, refrigerators, bunk beds, flat screen TVs and dressers into a wooden beam in the wall. You can usually tell where a 2×4 beam is by knocking on the wall with your knuckles and seeing where there is less give. The 2×4 wood beams are usually placed every couple feet.
  6. Move dishes/glasses to lower shelves. You can put plastic dishes, cups and tupperware in the high shelves.
  7. Clean your dishes. If you get in the habit of washing and putting away the dishes after every meal, you won’t have to worry about a big pile of dirty dishes falling on the kitchen floor in an earthquake.
  8. Consider leaving the blinds down. Mini-blinds can act as a guard against glass shards from broken windows.  Also, if you fall into a large glass door or window, it’ll probably hurt a lot less if it is shielded by plastic or metal blinds. A couple months ago our two-year old son fell and broke a window with his head. Luckily the blinds were closed and protected his head from the broken glass and kept him from falling out the window.
  9. Replace Glass Windows with Plastic Windows. Sure it might not be stylish, but it’s much less prone to shattering. The two common types of plastic windows are Acrylic and Polycarbonate windows.  Acrylic is less expensive and is also known as plexi-glass.  Polycarbonate is super strong but also more expensive. We used plexiglass for our barn window and it withstood being hits by balls.  The drawback of plexiglass is that is can become scratched and cloudy over time. That being said, there are plexiglass restoration kits that allow you to sand/polish out minor scuffs and scratches to restore it’s glossy finish.
  10. Replace flimsy and tipsy tables with sturdy tables. If you have a glass-top table or a lightweight card table, you might consider upgrading to a sturdy wooden table.
  11. Replace incandescent or florescent light bulbs with led lights. LED light bulbs use up significantly less energy than other light bulbs.  If there were an earthquake it’s possible the city would have less power to provide residents. Your LED lights would help reduce strain on city power and would allow you to do more with whatever energy you have stored.
  12. Replace tall lamps and ceiling fans with flat ceiling lighting. I think lamps would probably be one of the first things to fall over and break when the ground starts shaking. If your living room has several lamps on the ground, it might make it harder to get to a safe location as a family, especially if you are trying to walk over the lamps while the ground is shaking. Falling light fixtures accounts for many of the injuries sustained in an earthquake.
  13. Remove large tree branches hanging over your house. The last thing you want during an earthquake is for a heavy branch to fall on your roof and cause an already weakened structure to collapse on you.
  14. Replace or properly store glass jars. I prefer metal cans for food storage because if there’s an earthquake and they fall, they likely won’t break like a glass jar. If you are involved in canning your own food it’d be a good idea to store your glass jars in socks, surrounded by newspapers or bubble wrap.
  15. Bolt your house to the concrete foundation. Houses are generally safer and less likely to sustain damage during an earthquake if they are secured to their foundation.
  16. Secure your water heater to a wall. You can do this by wrapping one metal strap/plumber’s tape around the top and one metal strap around the bottom of the water heater and then securing the straps to the wall. That way it’s less likely your water heater’s tubing will break and you will be less likely to have a large gas leak and fire in your home after an earthquake. (see seismic.ca.gov/HOG/waterheaterbracing_08-11-04.pdf )
  17. Brace the cripple walls beneath your house. If your house is not built directly on its concrete foundation, then you likely have a 1-3 foot crawl space between the flooring and the foundation. You can brace/reinforce the cripple walls by screwing plywood across the beams. (see earthquakesafety.com/earthquake-retrofitting.html )
  18. Reinforce car garage walls near the entrance. Because car garages have such large doors on one side, they are not as structurally protected as most homes would be against an earthquake.
  19. Replace drywall with plywood sheets for the inside corners your house. Most people in the USA use dry wall for their inside walls because of how easy it is to cut and make look nice. However, plywood is a lot stronger.  A home built with plywood is much more stronger than a home built with drywall, which is essentially a chalky cement sandwiched between two pieces of cardboard paper. By putting plywood at the corners of your home you will strength the home against lateral forces in an earthquake.
  20. Get rid of clutter. By decluttering your shelves, desks and counters you will have less things to worry about causing problems during an earthquake. You might consider digitizing your media collection. It hurts a lot less to have a Kindle fall on you than  have 10 encyclopedias fall off a bookshelf on top of you.
  21. Hold earthquake drills as a family. Practice in each room of your home, where your family will go if an earthquake begins when you are in that room. Practice several times with your children so they will know what they should crawl under when the house starts shaking.
  22. Do strength training. If each family member of your family is able to lift more, if will give you added protection against falling debris. For example if you double the amount you can bench press over the course of a couple years of training, you’ll no doubt be in a better position to lift up fallen walls and appliances to protect yourself and your family.
  23. Place 72-hour kits near the entrance(s) of your home. If a major earthquake strikes your area, a 72-hour kit will help you survive until help arrives. If a catastrophic earthquake hits, it may take longer than 72 hours for help to arrive. After the earthquake settles you may want to quickly leave your apartment, so you’re not inside the apartment for the aftershocks. In some cases you may not be allowed back into your apartment for several days until your home is inspected by a police or fire official and deemed safe to enter.
  24. Locate the gas and water valves in your home and know how to turn them off. After ensuring your family is safe, one of the first things you will want to do after an earthquake is turn off water and gas valves to prevent home flooding, fires and suffocation.

*For more resources on preparing your home for an earthquake, click here.

*Featured image courtesy of Stuart Miles and FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What other resources/ideas do you have for preparing for an earthquake?

Do you believe a mega earthquake will strike? If so, where do you think the earthquake will strike?

Feel free to leave your comments below.

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