When many folks think of surviving a natural disaster, they envision themselves at home with all the family present when the big one hits.
The reality is the kind of disasters that are most likely to hit around here—earthquakes and tsunamis – can come at any time with little or no warning.
You may all be asleep in your beds, or you may all be gone from the house. Or, maybe the homemaker is home alone. That’s why everyone of a reasonable age should know some basic things about what to do in your house for safety’s sake.
But first, some tips for preparation. These are some things you can do now to increase you and your home’s chance of survival in an earthquake.
NAILING IT DOWN -- LITERALLY
Bolt heavy furniture such as bookcases, tall file cabinets and dressers to the wall.
Secure or place heavy objects on lower shelves.
Fasten water heater and gas appliances to wall studs with strap kits.
Make sure your home is secured to its foundation.
If your foundation is post-and-beam construction, create a gusset connection with plywood or a metal strap connecting each post to its beam.
Teach family members how to turn off the electricity, water and gas.
And remember, like we all learned in school: if the ground shakes don’t run out of a building. Cover your head and find cover under a desk or table or in a doorway.
We’re going to help you out today with a couple of the items on our list.
SECURE WATER HEATER NOW
This is something you can do now to protect your water heater and yourself from a mess and no water.
Mark your water heater at the front center, about one-third of the way down from the top and approximately one-third of the way up from the bottom.
Ensure that the bottom mark is at least 4 inches above the water controls.
Secure the water heater with two 16- to 20-gauge, pre-drilled steel straps at the points you’ve marked. (See diagram.)
If you place the water heater on a stand, you must secure the stand to the wall or floor to keep it from moving out from under the water heater during an earthquake.
For more information on securing your water heater, you can call us at (360) 533-7528.
TURNING OFF THE UTILITIES
When disaster strikes, it often affects one or more of the utility systems in your home. Therefore it is important to know where the main controls are located and when and how to turn them off.
Now’s the time to learn this – before disaster strikes.
TURNING ELECTRICITY OFF
Most structures have a main electrical panel that distributes electricity to the building. Within the panel are individual switches called breakers that disconnect electricity to the various zones.
Usually a main switch or breaker is located near the top of the panel that controls all electrical power to the home. The panel can be located by simply looking outside for the meter base on the house. The panel is usually at the same location inside the house. Occasionally the panel is located on the outside of the house in older homes.
So, if you need to turn your electricity off:
Locate your main electrical switch or fuse panel and flip that main switch at the top of the panel off.
If a generator is used as a backup power supply, remember to follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Connect lights and appliances directly to the generator and not to the electrical system.
Stay alert to when the power goes back on and turn off your generator.
TURNING WATER OFF
We all should be familiar with the type of water shutoff our house has and where it’s located.
If a special wrench is needed to turn off the water, make purchasing one this week part of your “to do” list. Then put it in a place where you can quickly and easily get to it in an emergency.
Your water department or water district should be able to assist you in locating the main water shutoff if you can’t find it.
TURNING GAS OFF
Two types of gas are used for household application – natural gas and propane.
Natural gas is lighter than air and is usually piped in the property via a pipe to the gas meter. A simple crescent wrench will work to turn off the valve (1/4 turn).
Propane is heavier than air and will settle along the ground and especially in low spots, which can be very dangerous. A propane shutoff is usually located right at the tank and can be turned off by hand with the hand wheel valve.
Locate your gas meter and valve.
Have a wrench immediately available for turning off the gas supply.
If you smell natural gas, evacuate immediately. Do not use matches, lighters, open flame appliances, or operate electrical switches. Sparks could ignite gas causing an explosion.
Shut off gas if you smell gas or hear a hissing noise. Contact the gas company to turn the gas back on.
Dave Murnen and Pat Beaty are construction specialists at NeighborWorks® of Grays Harbor County, where Murnen is the executive director. This is a non-profit
organization committed to creating safe and affordable housing opportunities for all residents of Grays Harbor County.
Do you have questions about home repair, renting, remodeling or becoming a homeowner? Call us at 533-7828, write us or visit us at 710 E. Market St. in Aberdeen.