Earthquakes: Protecting Your Home

During earthquakes, non-structural failures in your home can cause significant damage or injuries. Appliances can shift around leading to a gas leak and resulting in a fire. Plumbing can disconnect or break under the stress causing a flood. Furniture and fixtures can fall or dump their contents. Taking steps to secure these objects in your home can help reduce your risk in the event of an earthquake.

Earthquakes: Protecting Your Home


    •  If your water heater tips over, the gas line and water line could rupture, causing a fire or flooding. Bolt and brace your water heater to wall studs. Flexible gas and water line connections can resist earthquake damage better than rigid pipes. Your local code will dictate which steps you can take to secure or retrofit your plumbing and HVAC systems.

    •  Know where your gas, electric, and water main shutoffs are and how to turn them off if there’s a leak or electrical short. If you’re not sure, ask your utility companies. If you smell gas or hear a hissing noise you might have a leak. Open a window and get everyone out quickly. Know how to turn off the gas at the gas meter outside your home. Leave a crescent or pipe wrench by the main shutoff valve so you can turn it off in an emergency. Once the gas is shut off at the main valve, you’ll need to call the utility company or a qualified plumber to restore service.

    •  During an earthquake, tall items can fall over and block your exit, damage surrounding items or cause injury. Brace or anchor high or top-heavy objects to the wall studs.
  4. DECOR

    •  Hang pictures, mirrors and shelves away from areas where people sleep or sit. Brace overhead light fixtures. These items may fall, causing damage or injury. Specially-designed earthquake waxes and gels may help secure breakables and small items as well.

    •  Install strong latches or bolts on cabinets. Latches can prevent cabinets from opening and spilling the contents. Place large or heavy objects on shelves near the floor.

More advice to help you prepare:

  • MAKE A DISASTER PLAN: Create a plan and communicate the plan to your family.
  • BUILD A DISASTER PREPAREDNESS KIT: Consider having at least two emergency supply kits. One full kit at home and smaller portable kits at work or in your vehicle can help.
  • VISIT FEMA’s WEBSITE: The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s site includes resources so you can learn about what you can do to before, during and after an earthquake to protect yourself. Forty-five states and territories in the United States are at moderate to very high risk of earthquakes, and they are located in every region of the country.

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Published: 3/8/2020