Seismic Safety: 4 Measures To Protect Your Home In Earthquake-Prone Areas

Protect Your Home In Earthquake-Prone Areas

Published on March 28th, 2024

Feeling the very ground beneath your feet roll and quake can be an unsettling experience to say the least.

It’s even worse if your home isn’t prepared to handle a seismic event. Imagine shattered glass littering the floors, doors flying off hinges, water leaking near sparking wires.

Left unattended, what should be your safe haven could become an active hazard.

If you live in an earthquake-prone area, do your due diligence to prevent the worst by preparing for it now.

Here are four measures you can take to protect your home from tumbling down like a house of straw.

1. Inspect And Insure

First and foremost, you need to make sure your home has been constructed properly.

Building codes have changed over time as an understanding of how earthquakes impact infrastructure has improved.

So, generally speaking, homes constructed today are more resistant than those built in decades past. This is especially true of homes built in zones prone to earthquakes.

Whether you’re looking at buying a home in an earthquake-prone zone or live there already, hire a building inspector.

These professionals are responsible for ensuring construction meets or exceeds regulations.

They’ll check your home to see if it’s structurally sound, built with the proper techniques and materials.

While you’re at it, make sure you’re insured as well. Even the most well-equipped seismic-resistant homes may not be able to handle the sheer power of Mother Nature.

As the climate crisis continues to worsen, seismic activity will likely magnify. So buildings up to code today may not necessarily survive an earthen blow tomorrow.

Get a home insurance quote so that, if the worst does happen, you’ll also be prepared financially.

2. Secure Heavy Items

With your house secured, it’s time to turn your attention to the items inside it, specifically heavy ones like furniture.

Again, your house should be a safe place for you to take shelter during an earthquake.

If large dressers, mirrors, and lighting fixtures aren’t anchored properly, they could pose a serious hazard.

Imagine not only the earth trembling and walls shaking, but large chunks of wood and glass shattering around you. Better avoid it altogether.

Thankfully, there are excellent products you can use to anchor your furniture firmly in place.

Things like furniture straps and brackets will help keep tall, heavy pieces like dressers and armoires firmly in place.

They’re also great if you have young children that tend to climb where they shouldn’t.

You could also use earthquake putty or museum wax if you’d rather not bolt something to the floor or wall.

Also consider replacing top-heavy furniture for pieces with a lower center of gravity, like those with a wide, heavy base.

When it comes to more decorative pieces like vases and paintings, consider how highly you value form over function.

While you can store vases lower to the ground, be aware that they will likely break in a seismic event.

If you’re a serious art collector or serial hobbyist, consider whether living in an earthquake-prone area is right for you. There’s only so much you can bolt down, after all.

3. Prepare Utility Systems

Earthquakes are challenging and complex natural events to prepare for.

The most intense seismic events aren’t limited to the initial shaking and rolling.

Earthquakes can easily upset delicate utility systems that can turn into their own elemental hazards like floods and fires.

It’s best to prepare your energy infrastructure in advance so it can handle the worst.

When it comes to your water and gas systems, shut-off valves are essential.

The last thing you want post earthquake is flooding, either from water, sewage, or lethal gasses.

These valves have sensors that detect seismic activity and automatically shut off in response. Install them on the main water or gas lines into your house for maximum protection.

When it comes to electric, ensure all exposed cordage is bolted, tied, stapled, or otherwise fixed to walls and framing.

Loose, damaged wires can swing around in an earthquake, potentially posing a fire hazard.

Install ground fault circuit interrupters in your kitchen, bathroom, and other areas where water may be present.

Like a seismic valve, GFCIs detect ground faults and cut power in response to prevent shock hazards.

Reinforcing your utility systems not only protects you during an earthquake, but also helps ensure they still work thereafter.

4. Upgrade Windows And Doors

Windows and doors are two more earthquake-vulnerable house items.

Where windows are prone to shattering, doors can unexpectedly fly open or become unhinged entirely.

You want to ensure you can enter and exit through either with ease in case of an emergency.

There are a few ways you can upgrade your windows. You could replace standard glass with tempered or laminated glass. Tempered glass is heat-treated to increase its strength and shatter-resistance.

Laminated glass, on the other hand, is actually two layers of glass bonded together with plastic.

Replacing your regular windows with either of these alternatives will improve the seismic safety of your house.

As for doors, ensure all frames are securely anchored to surrounding structures. Like furniture, reinforce them with metal brackets to prevent them from being dislodged.

Likewise, install earthquake-resistant locks, hinges, and latches to help ensure your doors don’t swing open during an event.

When the ground starts to tremble, you want your windows and doors to be as safe, secure, and reliable as possible.

You May Also Like: How to Select the Right Home Insurance Plan.

Ongoing Maintenance

Making your home safe from earthquakes now is an essential step to improve you and your family’s safety.

However, as time goes on, it’s important to keep up to date with your house’s quake-proofing.

Get it inspected periodically and ensure you’re up to date on best practices, both for housing and for emergency response strategies.

That way, when the walls do eventually start shaking, you’re as prepared as possible.

Feature Image Source: Jose Antonio Gallego Vázquez