Find your home hazards now, before the shaking starts

By Joe Dougherty

For the Deseret News

Published: Sunday, Jan. 22 2012 5:24 p.m. MST

The living room in my parents' home is in disarray in this 1994 photo from the Northridge earthquake. Note the toppled china cabinet, lamps and ficus tree in the background and the old-time radio in the foreground. After the earthquake all furniture was secured to walls.

Joe Dougherty

Editor's note: This article is part of a series on earthquake preparation. Read the rest of the articles here.

Look around your home for a minute. Unless you have kids, everything is just as it should be. Tidy. Still. In its place.

Everything’s calm. And that’s what we expect — nay, count on — every day.

Now take everything that lives on a shelf or in a cupboard, stands next to a wall, hangs on a wall, or sits in the fridge and throw it on the floor. I’m talking about televisions (yes, even your $3,000 flat screen), furniture, artwork, vases and more. When a magnitude 7 earthquake strikes, you can count on your own personal home-based disaster.

Each week brings us closer to the state’s first statewide earthquake drill, the Great Utah ShakeOut, happening April 17 at 10:15 a.m. Currently, more than 519,000 Utahns are participating. Are you in? Look in Tuesday's Deseret News for a special section dedicated to earthquake preparedness and how to get ready for the ShakeOut.

In these columns, I previously invited you to sign up at ShakeOut.org/Utah and to secure your water heater. This week, we’ll conduct a home hazard hunt to identify those things that can kill or maim you during an earthquake.

Tonight, walk around inside your home with your family and see what items should be secured or moved. Start with furniture, which can and will fall over. Secure both top corners of tall furniture into a wall stud, not just to the drywall, by using a bracket or flexible-mount fasteners, such as nylon straps. You can buy them at any home improvement store.

In the kitchen, glassware and china may crash to the floor. Use latches designed for child-proofing or earthquakes to help prevent contents from falling out. Secure refrigerators and other major appliances to walls using earthquake appliance straps.

Large electronic devices may fall, causing injuries and damage. They are also costly to replace. You can secure TVs, stereos, computers and microwaves with flexible nylon straps and buckles for easy removal and relocation.

Hanging objects, such as art, may fall, and glass in pictures and mirrors may shatter. Place only soft art, such as unframed posters, rugs or tapestries, above beds or sofas. Hang mirrors, pictures, and other hanging objects on closed hooks.

Objects on open shelves and tabletops, such as collectibles and lamps, can become dangerous projectiles. Hold them in place by using removable earthquake putty, museum wax or quake gel.

In the garage or utility room, move flammable or hazardous materials to low areas that are secure. Ensure that items stored above or beside your car cannot fall, damaging or blocking them.

Nice job! You’re one step closer to being prepared.

Joe Dougherty is a preparedness expert and spokesman for the Utah Division of Emergency Management and Be Ready Utah. Send your preparedness tips to jdougherty@utah.gov. Follow us on Twitter @utahemergency, @bereadyutah and @utahshakeout

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