Ask Any Hour: Earthquake Home Prep

HOMEOWNER QUESTION:

The recent earthquakes here in our area have kind of rattled me. It made me wonder, what can I do to better prepare my home in case a big earthquake hits near me?

Ask Any Hour - Earthquake Home Prep

ANY HOUR ANSWER:

There’s been a lot of earthquake activity here in Utah along the Wasatch Front and it has rattled quite a few of us. We aren’t really used to feeling earthquakes because most of the ones that happen are not big enough to notice. The biggest one that was felt was 3.8, early on 2/15/19.

Having this gentle reminder that we should be prepared is a good thing. Having a plan in place before a larger earthquake hits is the best way to prepare your home and keep your family safe. The government has some resources at https://www.ready.gov/earthquakes, but I will address some ways you can better prepare your home.

I'll speak about the different systems in your home.

PLUMBING

1) Water Heater (tips shared on Instagram)

  1. Earthquake Straps - use these to secure the water heater to the wall studs. They can be made of metal or nylon. If your water heater was to tip over from the movement, you could end up with broken gas lines or broken water lines. And while water causes damage and a big mess, a gas leak is much more dangerous. Especially if you are home and the advice you receive is to stop and take cover.
  2. Flexible Gas Line - this can help by giving a little bit of play to the line. It is designed to bend and move therefore reducing your risk of a broken gas line.
  3. An Easy Open/Close Gas Valve - this should be installed on the gas line to the water heater. You want it to make sure you can easily turn the valve open and closed with your hands in case of a leak.

2) Water & Gas Lines/Valves

  1. Flexible Gas and Water Supply Lines - these are recommended to supply all of your appliances and plumbing fixtures. Gas leaks can be several times more dangerous than the earthquake itself.
  2. Easy Open/Close Valves - have these on all valves for both water and gas. If there is an emergency, the last thing you want to do is have to go looking for pliers to shut off gas and water lines. You should go around periodically and make sure you can open and close gas and water valves with your hands. Over time the can become harder to open and close.
  3. Main Shuttoffs - it’s important to know where the main shutoffs are that feed your house for both gas and water. They do make an automatic shut-off device you could have installed as well.

3) Prepare for No Plumbing Use

  1. One last thing to think about is not being able to actually use the plumbing in your house after an earthquake. It may be unusable and you should be prepared with a supply of drinking water, water for washing hands as well as supplies to assemble your own toilet if needed.
  2. Making your own toilet can be done with a five-gallon bucket and a plastic toilet seat with a lid that you can find at an emergency supply place or online. To make the most out of your toilet, there are a few other items you need to gather. All of them can be kept in your bucket until you need to use it.
    • Eight-gallon garbage bags (several boxes) - use a garbage bag to line the bucket before use.
    • Kitty litter - store it in an empty two-liter bottle and shake it into the toilet after each use.
    • Toilet paper - put a roll into a plastic zippered baggie and squeeze the air out of the bag. This will protect your toilet paper and allow you to keep various rolls in the bucket.
    • Disinfecting wipes or hand sanitizer - use these if you can’t wash your hands.
    • Air freshener
    • One roll of paper towels

ELECTRICAL

1) Main Breaker - In case there are electrical issues and you don't feel safe, know where your main electrical breaker is. This allows you to shut the power off to the whole house if needed.

2) Power Outage - If the power goes out, have flashlights and spare batteries placed around the home to use instead of candles and matches (in case of a possible gas leak).

3) Generator - Another way to prepare to have electricity during a power outage is to have a back-up generator. This could help you save a lot of money in wasted food in the fridge and freezer as well as let you have lights and charge your cell phone and electronics.Click here to read more about generators.

4) Support Large/Heavy Light Fixtures - Large 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.

5) Surge Protection - You can help protect major systems and appliances in your home by having a surge protector installed on your electrical panel. Read more about how a surge protector can help protect items in your home.

We hope that we don’t have to deal with a major earthquake here any time soon. But they say it’s not a matter of “IF” it’s a matter of “WHEN” it will hit.

For more answers to questions about earthquakes in Utah, go to the U of U Seismograph Stations page at https://quake.utah.edu/regional-info/earthquake-faq to learn more.

 


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Mar 7th 2019

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