Earthquake Preparedness Step 1: Check for Hazards in Your Home

Today begins our 6-step plan to preparing you, your family and your home for earthquakes. April is Earthquake Preparedness Month and we're here to make it fast, easy and painless for you. Let's get started!

Step 1 is to Check for Hazards in Your Home.

Hazards include anything from heavy breakable items such as glass platters, pictures and mirrors to toxic or flammable products. These items, if not stored or secured properly, can cause dangerous situations such as potential for injury, broken glass or housefire to name a few.

Take a minute to print out this checklist and then go through each room in your house or apartment to check for hazards. You will need to bring with you a screwdriver as well as pen and paper for making a shopping list.

1. Identify large or heavy objects in room. Move them to lower shelves wherever possible.

2. Identify breakable items (i.e. glass, china, bottled foods). Store in low, closed cabinets with latches. Don't have low, closed cabinets with latches? Move to lower shelves and away from the shelf edges, and consider getting a closed door cabinet with latches.

3. Locate heavy items hanging on walls such as pictures, mirrors or electronics. Make sure they are hung away from beds, couches or anywhere people sit. Use the screwdriver to double check that your hanging electronics, such as TVs are securely fastened. To check your hanging pictures and mirrors, first verify that pictures wires are securely fastened to the picture. Then check that pictures lay tight against the wall and are not loose. If picture wires are hanging on just plain nails you will need to exchange those for anchor eyebolts or picture hangers. Mark that on the shopping list.

4. Identify unsecured bookshelves or filing cabinets. These need to be secured to walls using "L" brackets. Mark that on the shopping list.

5. Check overhead light fixtures. Are they attached firmly to the ceiling or are they loose? Use screwdriver to re-attach firmly if loose and check light fixture parts including glass to make sure those are securely fastened as well.

6. Check for defective electrical wiring and leaky gas connections. These are potential fire risks and need to be repaired. Visual test: are outlets loose or cause sparks when you plug in something? Are there any unconnected, uncovered wires? Visually inspect the gas line connections to your appliances as well as smell for gas. If you smell gas, call your gas company right away and exit the building. If you do not smell gas but a connection looks suspicious, call your gas company to discuss.

6. Identify any deep cracks in ceilings or foundations. These could be potential signs of structural defects. In particular, angled (diagonal) cracks, horizontal cracks, cracks wider than 1/4", or excessive bowing inward or outward of walls can indicate major foundation failure or other structural problems. Contact your local building contractor with questions and for a professional opinion.

7. Check the water heater. Is it strapped to the walls? If strapped, double check wall connection and refasten with screwdriver tightly if needed. If not strapped, add water heater straps to the shopping list.

8. Check storage location of pesticides, flammable products and weed killers. They should be stored securely in closed cabinets with latches and away from gas and water lines.

Once your inspection of your home is complete, head to the store with your list to finish it up.

Up next: Earthquake Preparedness Step 2: Identify Safe Places Inside and Outside.

Haven't purchased your emergency kit yet? You'll need one. Ready Set Go Kits sells ready-made emergency kits for fast and easy emergency preparedness.

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