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Home Hazard Hunt

Home Hazard Hunt

One of the most effective means of protection is to take steps to reduce the impact of a disaster. This is called mitigation. Examples of mitigation are: constructing buildings away from flood plains and fault zones, upgrading homes to prevent damage from earthquakes and reducing hazards within the home.

  • Make sure your home complies with local building codes that pertain to seismic, flood, fire and wind hazards. Make sure your roof is firmly secured to the main frame of the house.
  • Consider options for upgrading your home to sustain earthquakes and high winds.
  • If you live in a flood-prone area, consider options for flood-proofing your home. Determine whether your home can be elevated to avoid future flood damage.
  • Consider installing a fire sprinkler system. Determine ways to prevent hazards. Secure light fixtures and other items that could fall or shake loose in an earthquake or high winds. Move heavy or breakable objects to low shelves. Anchor water heaters and bolt them to wall studs.

During and right after a disaster, any household item that can move, fall, break or cause a fire is a home hazard. At least once each year, inspect your home to find and correct potential hazards.

Identifying Hazards

Check for electrical hazards

  • Replace frayed or cracked extension and appliance cords, loose prongs and plugs.
  • Make sure there is only one plug per outlet. Avoid using cube-taps or overloading outlets. If you must use an extension cord, use a cord that is rated for the electrical load and no longer than really needed.
  • Remove electrical cords that run under rugs or over nails, heaters, or pipes.
  • Cover exposed outlets and wiring.
  • Repair or replace appliances that overheat, short out, smoke or spark.

Check for chemical hazards

  • Store flammable liquids such as gasoline, acetone, benzene and lacquer thinner in approved safety cans, away from the home. Place containers in a well-ventilated area and close the lids tightly. Secure the containers to prevent spills.
  • Keep combustible liquids such as paint thinner, kerosene, charcoal lighter fluid and turpentine away from heat sources.
  • Store oily waste and polishing rags in covered metal cans.
  • Instruct family members not to use gasoline, benzene or other flammable fluids for starting fires or cleaning indoors.

Check for fire hazards

  • Clear out old rags, papers, mattresses, broken furniture and other combustible materials.
  • Move clothes, curtains, rags and paper goods away from electrical equipment, gas appliances or flammable materials.
  • Remove dried grass cuttings, tree trimmings and weeds from the property.
  • Clean and repair chimneys, flue pipes, vent connectors and gas vents.
  • Keep heaters and candles away from curtains and furniture.
  • Place portable heaters on a level surface, away from high traffic areas. (Purchase portable heaters that are equipped with automatic shut-off switches and avoid the use of extension cords.)

Safety Equipment

Check fire safety equipment

  • Install at least one smoke detector on each level of the home, especially near the bedrooms. Test every month and change batteries at least once a year.
  • Keep at lest one fire extinguisher (A-B-C type). Maintain and recharge according to manufacturer's instructions. Show all family members where it is kept and how to use it.

Secure Items

Check items that can shift or fall

  • Anchor water heater, large appliances, bookcases, other tall or heavy furniture, shelves, mirrors and pictures to wall studs.
  • Fit water heater with a flexible gas supply line. Place large or heavy objects on lower shelves.
  • Install clips, latches, or other locking devices on cabinet doors.
  • Provide strong support and flexible connections for gas appliances.
  • Brace overhead light fixtures.
  • Hang heavy items such as pictures and mirrors away from beds and places where people sit.
  • Repair any deep cracks in ceilings or foundations.

Utilities

Check your utilities

  • Locate the main electric fuse or circuit breaker box, water service shut-off and natural gas main shut-off.
  • Contact local utility companies for instructions on how to turn the utilities off. Teach family members when and how to turn utilities off.
  • Clear area around shut-off switches for easy access.

Gas and water

  • Attach shut-off wrench or specialty tool to a pipe or other location close by the gas and water shut-off valves.
  • Paint shut-off valves with white or fluorescent paint to increase visibility.

During an earthquake, flying and falling debris causes the majority of injuries and is responsible for a significant amount of financial loss. Conducting a home hazard hunt to identify and eliminate non-structural hazards will protect your family and your home.

To conduct a home hazard hunt:

  • Make it a family project, assign a different room to each member of the family.
  • Walk through each room and identify any objects that could fly and injure someone, break or cause a fire, block an exit route or doorway or would be costly to replace.
  • Once the hazards have been identified, determine whether the hazard can be eliminated by moving it, removing it or securing it.

Here are some specific hazards to look out for:

  • Relocate heavy items from top shelves or cupboards to the lower shelves. These items can also be secured in place using braces, industrial strength velcro or quake wax.
  • Relocate beds away from windows and heavy objects that could fall. Wheels or casters on bed should be locked.
  • Keeping the blinds or curtains closed can reduce the amount of flying glass especially in the bedroom. Consider adding shatter-resistant or security film to windows or install tempered or safety glass to prevent glass from flying into the room when it is broken. Remember to keep a pair of sturdy shoes under your bed.
  • Restrain heavy or large furniture such as bookcases and cabinets. You can use metal braces or durable straps with thumb latches to secure these items to the wall studs.
  • Restrain or secure mirrors and pictures firmly with velcro or a wire attached to eye screws mounted into the studs. Remove large framed picture from above the head of the bed.
  • The kitchen is probably the most dangerous room in your home to be in when the earthquake strikes. You could relocate the contents of your kitchen cupboards so all breakables and heavy items are in the bottom drawers or shelves and non-breakables up above.
  • Restrain the cupboard doors with special safety latches.
  • Fridge and stoves can become cannon balls during the shaking from an earthquake.
  • Restrain large appliances by locking the wheels and securing to the wall studs.
  • Restrain microwaves, computers, stereo equipment and other expensive items. You can use hooks, brackets, velcro, wire or commercial fasteners and hardware. There are even special earthquake brackets available at hardware stores, and listed emergency suppliers.
  • Restraining your hot water tank is extremely important! If your hot water tank is to topple over during an earthquake, it can rupture the gas line and start a fire. It is also the source of 40-60 gallons of water that can be used for washing.
  • Hanging plants should be firmly secured with closed hooks away from windows.
  • Check for toxic chemicals in breakable containers. Relocate these to a location outside the home or ensure that they are safely stored.

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