We never know when an earthquake will hit, and general thinking is that there’s little or nothing we can do to prepare for one, in the manner that we ‘batten down’ for hurricanes. But there are steps you can take to help minimise damage and possibly prevent loss of life and limb.
Especially in small earthquakes which make up the vast majority of all earthquakes, most injuries and fatalities occur because the ground shaking dislodges loose objects in and on buildings.
Conduct an earthquake hazard hunt of your environment and eliminate objects that have the potential to cause injuries. Foresight and common sense are all that are needed as you go from room to room and imagine what would happen in an earthquake.
Some common earthquake hazards are:
- What-nots, wardrobes, freestanding closets, dressers and bookcases: these may topple over during an earthquake unless they are securely anchored to the wall. Either bolt directly through the back of the furniture into the wall or use steel angle brackets. Fallen furnishings could block your escape route, in addition to causing injury and damage. Freestanding bookshelves, especially in an office setting, should be bolted to the floor and to ceiling posts and put guard rails or ‘fences’ on open shelves so that items cannot slide off.
- Tall, heavy lamps, vases, figurines: if you display fragile items on open shelves or tables use industrial Velcro to attach items to stands.
- Heavy objects on wall shelves: ensure that shelves are securely bolted to walls. Adjustable shelves, the board of which rest on wall brackets, can be stabilised with clips or wire to connect the board to the bracket. Remember to use guardrails on shelves and do not place chairs, desks, beds etc. beneath shelves where items can fall on people.