Earthquake preparations

Gas Meter Shut off
Gas meter shutoff diagram
Most experts agree that the question is not if we have another major earthquake, but when. Although living in California has made us aware that we reside in earthquake country, many people do not think about emergency preparations until there is a quake somewhere else in the world, such as the recent events in New Zealand and Japan. April 18 marks the 105th anniversary of San Francisco’s 1906 earthquake, so it is a good time to take precautions in your own home to minimize injury and damage.

Kitchen: Common hazards include shattered glass, spilled chemicals, gas-fed fires, and falling objects.

• Store all chemicals (oven cleaner, bleach, ammonia, etc.) at floor level in a secure cabinet. Read the labels and separate the chemicals according to manufacturers’ suggestions.

• All gas appliances must be installed with a flexible gas line.

• Install childproof or quake latches on all kitchen cabinet doors and drawers. This will keep breakables and heavy objects from falling out of cabinets. Store the heaviest items on lower shelves.

• Put safety straps on open shelves so items cannot slide off. Attach hanging plants, clocks, paintings, and kitchen pot racks to wall studs.


Bedrooms: Pay attention to objects that could fall and injure you in bed or block your escape.

• Beds should be near an interior wall, away from windows.

• Do not mount pictures, mirrors or other heavy objects above the bed. Place only soft art, such as tapestries or unframed posters, above beds.

• Beds with wheels on bare floors should be locked or placed on nonskid coasters.

• Attach tall furniture to wall studs to prevent it from falling over. Furniture safety straps are easy to use, inexpensive, and available in assorted colors to blend in with wood finishes.

• Place all heavy objects on low shelves, in closets, or on the floor. Secure lightweight collectibles with museum wax.


Bathrooms: Broken glass from mirrors, shower doors, and toiletries are the greatest hazard.

• Store all chemicals at floor level in a secure cabinet.

• Don’t store glass containers on open shelves.

• Install childproof or quake latches on medicine cabinets to keep items from falling out.


Living Areas: Falling furniture and televisions pose the greatest risk.

• Secure all tall furniture to wall studs with furniture safety straps.

• Secure televisions, computers and stereos to shelving with safety straps.

• Use security or anti-theft hangers for pictures, plates and mirrors. The A-Maze-ing Picture Hook traps the hanging wire in a maze, preventing objects up to 100 pounds from jumping off their hooks during an earthquake.

• Store heavy items on lower bookshelves and use museum wax to secure collectibles.

• Hanging plants should be hung away from windows so they don’t swing into a window during an earthquake.


Garage, Basement and Laundry: Items stored in these areas can fall causing injuries, damage and hazardous spills.

• Water heaters are required to be anchored to wall studs or masonry with metal straps and lag screws.

• Be sure the water heater is attached to the gas supply by a flexible gas line and shutoff that will flex during a quake.

• Remove all heavy objects from upper shelves, especially around the car, and store at floor level.

• All hazardous materials should be segregated in well-marked, unbreakable containers in a low cabinet with a quakeproof latch.


Gas Meter: Two important items to have on hand are a flashlight and a crescent or gas shutoff wrench. Keep these items near your gas meter for quick access. You may need to shut off your gas after an earthquake, but only if you have a leak.

There are the three ways you can tell if you have a gas leak:

• Smell – natural gas has a rotten egg smell.

• Listen – you might hear a hissing sound.

• Look – if the unnumbered wheels on your gas meter are spinning rapidly, this could indicate a leak.

Do not shut off gas unless you have a leak. If you turn it off, DO NOT attempt to turn it back on – only the gas company can do this safely.

Julia Strzesieski is the marketing coordinator at Cole Hardware. E-mail: