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
- 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
- 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
- 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
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.
Check for electrical hazards
- Replace frayed or cracked extension and appliance cords, loose prongs
- 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,
- 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
- 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.)
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
- 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.
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.
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
- 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
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
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
- Restrain large appliances by locking the wheels and securing to the
- 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
- Check for toxic chemicals in breakable containers. Relocate these to
a location outside the home or ensure that they are safely stored.