Around the House

Earthquake preparation

Earthquake preparation

April 18 marks the 107th anniversary of San Francisco’s 1906 earthquake. Most experts agree the question is not if we have another major earthquake, but when. Although the City has a population around 800,000, during any workday that population rises to well over 1 million. If an earthquake struck between regular business hours, our first responders would be overwhelmed.

During the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, the community pitched in to help the first responders in battling the fires in the Marina. The San Francisco Fire Department offers a six-class training course that certifies civilians in emergency response: NERT (Neighborhood Emergency Response Training). Taught by volunteer member firefighters, the classes cover a wide array of topics, ranging from what you should have in your emergency kit to how to triage an accident area. The free classes are offered in neighborhoods throughout the City (see the Community Corner section in the Calendar on page 20); visit for more information.

It’s important to look around your home with “earthquake eyes” to minimize any potential damage. Pay attention to these areas:

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 manufacturer suggestions.
  • Install all gas appliances with a flexible gas line.
  • Install childproof or earthquake latches on all kitchen cabinet doors and drawers to keep breakables and heavy objects from falling out. Store heaviest items on lower shelves.
  • Put safety straps on open shelves so items cannot slide off.
  • Attach hanging plants, clocks, paintings, and kitchen pots to wall studs.

Bedroom: Note any 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. 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 pebbles of museum wax.

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

  • Install childproof or earthquake latches on medicine cabinets to keep items from falling out.
  • Store all chemicals at floor level in a secure cabinet.
  • Do not store glass containers on open shelves.

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. These are available for TVs, flat-screen TVs, and computers.
  • Use security or antitheft hangers to attach pictures, plates, and mirrors. 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. Various kits are available at hardware stores.
  • Be sure the water heater is attached to the gas supply by a flexible gas line and a 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.
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Julia Strzesieski is the marketing coordinator of Cole Hardware and can be reached at [email protected].

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