How to Prepare Your Home for an Earthquake

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Author of Be Ready for Anything and Bloom Where You’re Planted online course

If you live on the West Coast, you know that the fault lines there are pretty active right now. You may even be dealing with regular aftershocks from the two major quakes last week.

I’ve written a detailed article about what you should do to survive an earthquake if you find yourself in the midst of things, but what should you do before the shaking begins?

Between some awesome comments on this site, my own experiences with earthquakes, and a bit of research, here are some tips to help you prepare for an earthquake. And this isn’t just for people in California – folks near oil fields where fracking is taking place have experienced a huge uptick in tremors and the New Madrid fault running through the MidSouth is a ticking time bomb. (The 150-mile (240 km) long fault system, which extends into five states, stretches southward from Cairo, Illinois; through Hayti, Caruthersville and New Madrid in Missouri; through Blytheville into Marked Tree in Arkansas. It also covers a part of West Tennessee, near Reelfoot Lake, extending southeast into Dyersburg. source)

Make sure to have the basics in place.

Your basic preps are important for the aftermath.

  • Part of it is just like getting ready for any other disaster. You want to have food, water, and other essential supplies to last for at least two weeks in the event your area is cut off from supplies.
  • Expect to lose water, power, and heat. Prep accordingly.
  • Expect to be stranded – in many places roads will crack, shift, or be covered by rockslides.
  • You may not be able to buy food, gasoline, or water locally. The stores will be dealing with the same issues you are.

The following steps will help you prepare for an earthquake.

Below, find some tips to get yourself prepped specifically for an earthquake.

  • Teach kids to drop, cover, and hang on.
  • Reduce the risk of things falling. Secure shelving units and large furniture items to walls. If you have kitchenware in open shelves, install a lip to make it more difficult for the items to crash to the floor.
  • Store your heaviest items down low. For example, my cast iron cookware will forever live in the bottom of my stove.
  • When hanging pictures, hang from closed hooks and add putty to the corners for extra security. Always secure the artwork to a wall stud.
  • Don’t hang heavy objects over sofas or beds – go with soft art like tapestries.
  • When hanging things like plants or lanterns from the ceiling, locate a stud for the hook. Once you’ve hung the item from the hook, squeeze the hook closed with pliers.
  • If you have decorative items, secure them to shelves in your curio cabinet using a little bit of putty.
  • Learn how to turn off both the gas and water to your home well before you ever need to do so.
  • Develop the habit of keeping hard-soled shoes beside your bed in case you have to get up in the middle of the night and walk through broken glass.
  • If you’re a canner, like me, take extra steps to protect your jars. I had a pantry with a lip on the outside edge and added hooks to the walls at each end of the shelves. To those hooks, I attached bungee cords for some added protection. Not pretty but it was inside a closed pantry.
  • Place fire extinguishers around your home and make sure all family members know how to use them. Fires are very common after earthquakes. The most famous post-earthquake fire happened in San Francisco after a lantern got knocked over. That fire spread throughout the earthquake-ravaged city.
  • Make sure your homeowner’s or rental insurance policy covers earthquake damage. Most do not. If yours doesn’t, you may want to expand your policy.
  • Install child safety latches on cupboard doors to keep the contents inside where they belong.
  • Don’t put beds under windows. They’re safest against interior walls.
  • Consider applying safety film to your windows. This does double duty by making it more difficult for someone to break your window to get into your home.
  • Make sure all gas appliances have flexible lines. They’re less likely to crack and break during an earthquake.
  • Consider a sturdy kitchen table – definitely not a glass one – to provide a place to take cover.
  • Be ready for a lack of communication. You may not have internet, cable, or phone service for quite some time. Consider a battery operated radio to get news and announcements.

There are more major adjustments you can make to your home to stabilize it:

  • Have your chimney checked for stability and safety; this is particularly important if your home was built before 1960.
  • Have a professional make sure your home is bolted to the foundation; this is particularly important if your home was built before 1935.
  • If your home is built on a raised foundation, make sure your home has shear plywood walls in the crawlspace, rather than older-style cripple walls.
  • If you have slopes or a hillside in your backyard, consider installing a retaining wall to stabilize the area and help to prevent landslides.
  •  If you have slopes or a hillside on your property, you may also want to consider installing artificial grass to manage erosion and runoff to help prevent landslides.
  • Bolt your water heater in place, and install a water heater strap to keep it secure.

The same article also points out that concrete may not be the best exterior option for those in earthquake country.

In the event of an earthquake, concrete is highly likely to crack, which may cause obstructions that prevent you from accessing parts of your yard or getting your car out of your driveway.

Because concrete slabs are almost guaranteed to crack if a significant earthquake occurs, this property damage is sure to lead to expensive repairs, which will likely include replacing your entire driveway or patio.

Replacing concrete patios, driveways and walkways with a stronger, more resilient option – like paving stones– can save you headaches and repair costs later on and make recovering from a natural disaster a little less stressful.

Pavers provide better weight distribution than concrete, as well as more flexibility and resilience when the earth moves.

If a paving stone patio or driveway is damaged during an earthquake, the zipper-like way pavers go together makes it much easier and less expensive to replace just the damaged pavers while leaving the rest of the hardscape intact. (source)

Do you have any other earthquake preparation tips?

Did I miss any major tips in preparing your home for an earthquake? Please share your ideas and experiences below.

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived, and 3) PreppersDailyNews.com, an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. She is widely republished across alternative media and  Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses. You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

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  • Remember that electricity is generally restored first (usually within 3 to 5 days), then gas, then water. Water can take up to two months to be restored.

  • I know that in the Nov 30 7.1 we had in Anchorage, my friends that lived in mobile homes had so much more damage, due to being on cinder blocks, or other raised foundations. My house is on slab, and was here before ’64 quake, so it was fine. I really didn’t appreciate the amount of destruction they had within their homes with everything flying about. I also don’t have a lot of glass/breakables in my home, which certainly helped.

    My biggest thing – I had removed my car materials, to update/sort. so they were sitting in my living room when I was at work & the quake hit. I had tiny ‘go’bag at work, but hadn’t put batteries in flashlights (so students got to see my mistakes as well!). I was eternally grateful to have a full tank of gas, since it took 2 hours to get students to their homes & back to mine – and I only live 3 miles from work.
    I was doing Daisy’s online preparation program (can’t remember title!) at time, so was able to share my lessons. Oh yes, I didn’t need to leave home all weekend, when they were asking people to shelter in place, since I had plenty of food, water, and pet food.
    We were incredibly fortunate in that we didn’t have major infrastructure destruction, like is currently being experienced in CA.
    Like Daisy said, don’t think that quakes are just for one part of country/planet. They are happening everywhere.

  • Here’s a thought: DO not keep all your ‘preps’ in the basement. You may not be able o get back into your home if it’s damaged and retrieve them. I’ve divided mine keeping some in basement storage and also some in a room easily accessible from the outside through a window (if need be) to access them. Keep up the good work here, Daisy!

  • I was amazed at the breakage in store shelves, things flying onto the floor. All my glass jar storage of nails etc will be moved to plastic. Here in Toronto we have occasionally felt shocks from an epicentre in Quebec, northeast by a 5 to 6 hour drive, so earth shocks travel a long way. Sometimes I have felt a dizziness, or heard a sound like someone running across an office floor. Only later figured out it was a quake tremor. Good point about keeping tools handy actually at the site of natural gas shutoff and water shutoff. In case you can’t quickly locate your tool box. These are cheap on sale. Gas shutoff wrench can be made of 1/2 or 3/4″ plywood, make it now while youre not in a rush. Water shutoff valve is different depending upon when house was built, locate it now and Mark the wall above it with a large arrow that sex water shutoff. The gas shutoff is always where the meter is, just outside the house. Use water resistant plywood and keep the low profile wooden wrench outdoors within a foot of the gas meter.

  • We had a quake back in 2010 or 2011, cant remember exactly, here in Virginia. I got lucky and suffered no damage and didnt loose power

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