Prepare and Protect Your Home From Earthquake, Flood, and Fire

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BEFORE AN EARTHQUAKE...

Strap Your Water Heater

The State of California requires that all water heaters be strapped to resist motion during an earthquake.  This may be accomplished by installing an over-the-counter "water heater restraint" kit which has been designed specifically for this purpose, and which has been accepted by the California Division of the State Architect (DSA).  Such kits are available from plumbing hardware supplier.

Test your gas valve

Locate and identify your gas meter and main shut-off valve with those persons you believe could and should know how to shut off your gas if necessary.  Identify the master shut-off valve.  Paint the valve bright red.  Note: Caution, there may be more than one shut-off on your meter.  After you have moved that valve to ensure that it works, keep the wrench at the meter.  Use plastic "zip ties" or straps to secure it to your meter.

Know The Locations Of Your Electrical And Water Shut-Offs

Make sure the open-closed positions of your breakers are clearly labeled.

Secure Tabletop Objects

TVs, stereos, computers, lamps and chinaware can be secured with buckles and safety straps attached to the tabletop (which allows for easy movement of the units when needed) or with hook and loop fasteners glued to both the table and the unit.  Glass and pottery objects can be secured with nondrying putty or microcrystalline wax.

Secure Items in Your Kitchen

Use child-proof latches, hook and eye latches or positive catch latches, designed for boats, to secure your cabinet doors.  Make sure your gas appliances have flexible connectors to reduce the risk of fire.  Secure your refrigerator to prevent movement.

Anchor Your Furniture

Secure the tops of all top-heavy furniture such as bookcases and file cabinets to the wall.  Be sure to anchor to the stud, not just to the plasterboard.  Flexible fasteners such as nylon straps allow tall objects to sway without falling over, reducing the strain on the studs.

Protect Yourself from Broken Glass

Replace your windows with ones made from safety glass or cover them with a strong shatter-resistant film. Be sure you use safety film and not just a solar filter.

Secure Overhead Objects

Ceiling lights and fans should be additionally supported with a cable bolted to the ceiling joist.  The cable should have enough slack to allow it to sway.  Framed pictures, especially glass-covered, should be hung from closed hooks so that they can't bounce off.  Only soft art such as tapestries should be placed over beds and sofas.

BEFORE A FLOOD...

Is the main electric switchbox located above potential flood waters?

The main electric panel board (electric fuses or circuit breakers) should be at least 12" above the projected flood elevation for your home.  The panel board height is regulated by code.

Are electric outlets and switches located above potential flood waters?

Consider elevating all electric outlets, switches, light sockets, baseboard heaters and wiring at least 12" above the projected flood elevation for your home.  You may also want to elevate electric service lines (at the point they enter your home) at least 12" above the projected flood elevation.  In areas that could get wet, connect all receptacles to a ground fault interrupter (GFI) circuit to avoid the risk of shock or electrocution.

Are the washer and dryer above potential flood waters?

For protection against shallow flood waters, the washer and dryer can sometimes be elevated on masonry or pressure-treated lumber at least 12" above the projected flood elevation.  Other options are moving the washer and dryer to a higher floor, or building a floodwall around the appliances.

Are the furnace and water heater above potential flood waters?

The furnace and water heater can be placed on masonry blocks or concrete at least 12" above the projected flood elevation, moved to inside a floodwall or moved to a higher floor.

Is the propane tank anchored securely?

Propane tanks should be securely anchored to the pad.  Propane tanks are the property of the propane company.  You'll need written permission to anchor them.  Ask whether the company can do it first.

Does the floor drain have a float plug?

Install a floating floor drain plug at the current drain location.  If the floor drain pipe backs up, the float will rise and plug the drain.

Does the sewer system have a backflow valve?

If flood waters enter the sewer system, sewage can back up and enter your home.  To prevent this, install an interior or exterior backflow valve. 

BEFORE A FIRE...

Install smoke detectors and buy fire extinguishers if you haven't already.  If you do have detectors, change the batteries twice a year.  Replace your smoke detectors entirely after 10 years.  Create a defensible space of 100' around your home.  The area closest to your home is the most important.

Try to get 10 to 15 feet of spacing, both vertically and horizontally between shrubs, large plants, and trees.

Plan your landscape to eliminate a continuous path of vegetation.  Do not have any combustible fuel within three feet of your home.

For landscaping purposes, use of irrigated fire resistant plants is encouraged.  Green lawn, rock, stone, and other materials can be used to create an attractive and fire safe landscape.

Clear all vegetation and other flammable materials from beneath your deck.  Enclose undersides of elevated decks with fire resistant building materials, or with screen mesh with openings no greater than 1/4 inch.

Keep trees trimmed at least 10' from your chimney and trim all dead limbs hanging over your house or garage.

Clean all needles and leaves from the roof, eaves, and rain gutters.

Maintain your landscaping with regular watering and weeding to keep it fire safe.

IF YOUR HOME IS DAMAGED. . .

Turn your gas off at the gas meter under the following conditions:

  • If you smell, hear, or even suspect gas is escaping in your damaged or undamaged building(s).
  • If your gas water heater or any other gas appliance has been knocked over and/or pulled free from its wall connection.
  • If your building has suffered extensive damage, such as large cracks in the walls or in the concrete slab floors, etc. AND you suspect the gas lines may have been damaged.
  • If you smell smoke and/or see or suspect fire.
  • NOTE: If you have none of the above you are probably OK leaving your utilities on.

Turn off the electricity.  Remove all the small fuses or turn off all the small breakers first, then shut off the "main."  Turn off the water.