While quakes can, technically, hit any location, anywhere on the planet, at any time, people living in seismically active areas have to contend with a disturbing truth. These acts of nature don’t really come with a warning. Particularly large ones don’t only carry the risk of inflicting severe property damage, but they can also potentially lead to injury and loss of life.
In this situation, adjusting your home and lifestyle is the best way to get ready for the worst. This guide walks you through the most important steps you can take to defend your property and family.
- How to Use This Guide
Once in a blue moon, you’ll read about a small earthquake striking an area that’s not usually impacted by these events. It can happen. While it’s an excellent idea for anyone, anywhere to have a basic idea of the steps people can take to increase their safety in such a situation (even in case you take a vacation to Japan, for example), not everyone needs to invest in serious preparedness.
This list is designed for people who live in the most affected areas, are considering a move, or want to explore whether life in the Earth’s more geologically active locations is worth it.
It’s important to keep in mind that every place is unique. Your neighbors, local emergency response services, and experienced general contractors will always have better tips suited to your area than we can offer here, but this guide gives you a handy starting point if you need a quick look at your options.
- Physically Securing Items and Planning Your Home Decor
Investing in quake-resistant home tools can go a long way toward damage prevention, and homeowners should consider taking the following steps to secure their heavy furniture and prevent small items from going walkabout.
- Use specialized brackets and braces to fasten your heavy furniture, large electrical appliances (including water heaters!), and equipment to the walls to keep them in place. (Don’t worry; you won’t have to do it yourself. Local contractors will know what to do!)
- Use quake-proof putty and hooks to make sure your paintings and pictures have extra staying power, as glass frames can wreak havoc.
- Deploy latches or straps to keep your cabinet doors and drawers secure — and remember to close them every time you use them so that these tools actually help!
- Consider straps to secure the books on your bookshelves. It might not look great, but it’s very practical!
- Keep the potential for upheaval in mind when you buy knick-knacks for your home. Glassware and terracotta decorations aren’t the best idea, but if you bring them in, develop a plan for securing them or place them closer to the ground where they can cause less damage.
- Long-Term Steps to Protect Your Property
Your interior isn’t the only part of your home that needs protecting. Homeowners can do a lot to fortify their properties against damage — and take prompt steps to mend what needs to be mended when it’s already too late.
- Make sure that your home insurance policy has you covered, because not all plans offer extensive protection against damage resulting from natural disasters. You may have to purchase additional coverage.
- Consider getting regular home inspections to check for potential damage, and definitely have one conducted if you notice visible damage.
- In places with a lot of seismic turmoil, it may be worth opting for foundation reinforcements, retrofitting, and getting automatic shut-off valves.
- Don’t forget to pay attention to your yard, either. Securing heavy items like large planters, grills, and propane tanks can go a long way toward preventing serious harm.
- Developing an Emergency Response Plan
Let’s face it — you don’t only want to safeguard your home. Above all else, you want to protect yourself and anyone else in your family or household. Securing heavy and hazardous items on your property and promptly addressing any property damage as soon as possible is an excellent step, but you’ll have to go beyond that to truly be ready.
That means developing an action plan, putting a kit together, and practicing sheltering in the safest room. Here are some tips to get you started:
- Make an emergency kit with essential supplies that can help you stay secure while you wait for essential services to arrive in the event portions of your home collapse. It should include ample water, non-perishable food items like MREs and high-protein energy bars, a flashlight with working and durable batteries, a hand-crank radio, and warm blankets. Mylar blankets are easy to store and very helpful. Everyone in your house should know where this kit is located, and it should be placed in your safest (most impact-resistant) room.
- Keep a list of emergency numbers in your kit, too. They can include relevant local authorities and family members as well as local contractors and utility companies.
- Plan evacuation points, practice your exit plan, and make sure you and your family know where to meet up in case you lose each other. (Never assume your devices will work!)
- Practice the drop, cover, and hold response so that it will come naturally when the time arrives.
- Finally, equip your home with fire extinguishers and learn how to use them. They can come in very handy during all sorts of unforeseen situations, and quakes are among them.
- A Final Word
We hope that this brief guide has given you plenty to think about as you determine the best steps to guard your property, yourself, and your family.
Systematically covering the items you place on your to-do list in order of urgency is the soundest way to work your way through this framework. Some of the things we’ve looked at represent significant investments, and you may not be able to do everything in one go. That’s OK. Everything you do gets you closer to your goal of getting ready for the worst and creating a more resilient home!