By Jerry K.
Long before the disaster hits you should sit down and prepare. Not just in making a family evacuation plan, building 72 hour kits, budget and savings plans but also in loss mitigation. This involves putting on your “earthquake eyes” and examining your home for breakables, potential damage and loss. Only by seeing what will break and where the hazards will be can you take steps to prevent injury and the loss of irreplaceable valuables. As for the rest, well that is what home owner/renters insurance is for (with flood/earthquake clauses as appropriate). Preparing an inventory of possessions and estimated replacement cost is another part of this exercise, one that shouldn’t be ignored.
What do I mean by putting on your “earthquake eyes?” I mean walk around your house, room by room and see what will shake and fall over. The kitchen and bathrooms are the most dangerous places in the house but how many of you have paintings or pictures hanging from the wall above your beds? Are the frames heavy enough to hurt you if/when it falls on your head? Now look for other hazards like mirrors and windows. Glass is the hazard. If you can’t do without those extra full length mirrors on your closet or bedroom door then be prepared to deal with the hazard they will pose. Keep a sturdy pair of shoes and a flashlight next to your bed so you can see hazards and walk through them without getting cut.
Bookshelves, china cabinets and shelves with knickknacks require special attention as well. Are the shelves properly secured to the wall? Can you add lips to shelves to prevent items from falling out? Do you need child-proof locks for cabinet doors to keep china or collectibles from shaking out? Or is there a lower spot for that special plate Grandma left you where if it falls it might survive? Some treasures may need to be wrapped up and put away to only come out for holidays or special occasions.
Don’t forget the foundation, electrical and plumbing. Is the house firmly fixed to the foundation of the house? Do you have cripple walls? Typically these are found on buildings built on hillsides. Cripple walls need reinforcing. Is your water heater attached to the foundation or basement walls with plumbers tape? Do you know how to shut off all electrical and gas appliances in an emergency? If you have a gas meter attach a cheap crescent wrench to the gas pipe next to the meter. Have it already adjusted to fit the main cut off valve. Then you don’t have to hunt for one after an earthquake (possibly in the dark with a collapsed house) so you can shut off the gas. Remember only to shut off the gas if you see the lower right gauge spinning. Slow movement comes with normal use but if it spins there is a break in the line. (After shutting it off only the gas company can turn it back on.)
Not all damage can be mitigated. But many things can be if you use some ingenuity and common sense. Just wear your “earthquake eyes” and look around your house.
2005 Noah’s Ark Newsletter/LDS Intelligent Living