How Safe Will You Be in Your Home During an Earthquake?

From forest fires to hurricanes, there is no doubt that the natural disasters have been hitting the U.S. hard the last few months. And now Mexico has just suffered two devastating back-to-back earthquakes. The second was a 7.1 magnitude earthquake hit that Central Mexico on September 19th, the anniversary of the 1985 Mexico City earthquake that killed 10,000 people.

Although many places in the U.S. have advance warnings of earthquakes, that warning is usually only in the seconds to minutes, leaving little time to prepare. That means the best time to prepare is before an earthquake hits.

Watch out for falling objects!
Most of the danger from earthquakes comes from objects in your home falling: furniture, decor or even your family members. Falling objects can hurt or potentially kill people. However, there are steps you can take to keep you and your family safe the next time you feel anything as small as a tremor.

As you look around your home, what furniture do you see? Make sure to lift your head a bit to look at the taller objects in the room because they pose the biggest threat. Bookshelves, TV cabinets, armoires, dressers, standing lamps, refrigerators and upright freezers are all at risk of toppling over during an earthquake. Anything heavy sitting up high on top of these can be risky too, so check for stereos, computers, sturdy books, or even your TV in the entertainment center.

Redecorate for safety
Now that you’ve identified those risky furniture pieces and objects, a little redecorating could save your home or your life. Especially in the bedrooms, where something could fall while you sleep, check to make sure nothing will fall on to someone if it topples over. Move bookshelves away from the bed, or your armoire away from the doorway, so you don’t get trapped in your room. Arrange your shelves so that heavy items go towards the bottom, and lighter, less risky items go on the top shelves.

What’s hanging on your walls can pose a threat as well. Although you might not have to move anything like with rearranging the furniture, ensure that paintings, mirrors and other hanging fixtures are securely fastened. Try to keep the ceiling space above your beds clear of anything, as that can pose another sleeping threat. Closed hooks are the best bet for keeping hanging objects where you want them, and if something might pose a risk if it does fall, then move the item to another wall. Better safe than sorry, even if it messes with your aesthetic!

Safety steps that won’t irritate your interior decorator
Other ways to keep your home and family safe are less about where items go, and more about keeping objects secure. You won’t have to redecorate to take these three precautions, but you will make your home safer:

  • Make sure the water heater is strapped to the wall.
  • Install latches on cabinets to keep them closed.
  • Use museum putty to attach smaller objects to shelves.

Although earthquakes may not come to mind as a common threat to your home, natural disasters seem to be occurring more often, preventive steps can help keep you and your family safe in the event of an emergency. You can also find what to do during and after an earthquake, plus find lots of great advice and resources, on the FEMA site. And, hey, redecorating your home may make even feel cozier, if not at least safer, and give you and your family some peace of mind.

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