Californians are generally aware of our state's earthquake risk, but do
people truly understand their own risk? No. Part of the problem is because we
often think "all earthquakes are alike," "the last one wasn't that bad, therefore
I don't need to do anything different," or "I'll just pick up the pieces later."
These are false assumptions, and dangerous. Nowhere in California is
safe from harm to people and property, so secure your
building and secure your
stuff as soon as possible!
Earthquakes can cause major property damage to your home and contents,
which can lead to serious injuries or even death for occupants. This is
frightening, but true. By doing nothing about your home or belongings
before an earthquake, it resigns you to become a disaster victim,
no longer in control. In the 1994 Northridge earthquake, over 9,000 people
were seriously injured, and 33 people were killed (sometimes this number
is reported as 57, which includes other deaths such as heart attacks that
may have happened anyway). According to a UCLA study, 55% of the injuries
were minor (cuts, bruises, and sprains) caused by falling objects,
pictures, lights, broken
glass, etc. Only 1% of injuries were
caused by building damage. 22 of the 33 deaths were in buildings,
with 16 in one building that collapsed, and a few caused by falling
furniture or objects. Sadly, many of these deaths and injuries could
have been prevented through actions taken before the earthquake.
So while you can't control how the earthquake will shake you,
the good news is that you can change how it may harm you by acting now
to "Secure Your Space". Your "Space" can be broken down into two areas:
stuff. Both areas have the potential
to cause great harm and damage, but the solutions are different.
For instance, "Securing Your Space" refers to
buildings, and the need to
retrofit potential weaknesses
in the structure of your home or business. It can also refer to those
elements that are not part of the structural floor/ceiling/walls but are
considered a part of the building, for instance, electrical systems or
mechanical systems such as heating, water, and so forth. If your building
is an older single family home, it more than likely it is not reinforced
to withstand significant earthquake shaking. These houses are vulnerable
due to a variety of issues (ie. the wood frame is not bolted to the concrete foundation, poor foundation, and/or cripple walls are unreinforced.)
Other vulnerable structures include those built on
post-and-pier or unreinforced masonry foundations, homes built on steep slopes, those with unreinforced masonry walls, or rooms built over existing garages. Additional poor-performers include concrete tilt-up construction, mostly used by businesses, but also mobile homes, and those with "soft stories"
such as tuck-under parking on the first floor. While we know
these building types are vulnerable, there are ways to strengthen them
to resist earthquakes.
Another problem is that the majority of injuries in an earthquake are
caused by contents within buildings becoming airborne or toppling over.
So "Secure Your Space" also includes securing
your stuff. Falling objects can injure or pin you, your loved ones,
friends, or customers. Damage to stuff in your home or business can also be
traumatizing and a devastating financial loss. Business can be interrupted
when needed equipment is damaged. "Secure Your Space" is the solution by
strapping top-heavy furniture and
appliances to walls, adding latches to
kitchen cabinets, and securing TVs
and other heavy objects that can topple and cause serious injuries.
What other "stuff" should you secure? This can include
televisions, computers, water heaters,
lights, dishes, breakables, paintings,
office equipment, file cabinets,
and ventilation ducts, to name a few. In some
cases, objects can be replaced with a more secure substitute, reducing or
eliminating a hazard. For example, new light fixtures might be considered in
place of securing old heavier ones. Other hazards can be avoided by relocating,
removing, or taking cover from them.
Straps, latches, Velcro, brackets, earthquake wax, earthquake putty,
wire, and bolts are some of the ways to secure a wide range of objects to
avoid loss and damage during an earthquake. Most of these tools are available
at your local hardware store. But begin by relocating an object so that it
is braced and poses no threat to injuring anyone. Objects should also be
relocated to avoid blocking exits if they fall.
The readiness actions of "Secure Your Space" taken before the next earthquake
are designed to reduce your risk of injury and financial loss. When an
earthquake does occur, you should still Drop, Cover, and Hold On immediately
to protect yourself from anything that is not secured. Face away from windows
or mirrors to protect your face from flying glass.
You will be largely on your own following a catastrophic earthquake, so you
need to survive the event as uninjured as possible. "Secure Your Space" to
address the hazards described above that may injure people at work and home,
and cause serious financial impacts to you and your family.