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ON THE REBOUND : Preparing for the Next One : Before Another One Strikes : Bracing Your Home for the Next Earthquake

January 23, 1994

With aftershocks from Monday's quake still rumbling underfoot, there is no better time to put your house in earthquake order. Many households suffered the kind of damage that can be prevented by spending a few dollars and a few hours securing objects in the home, from china cabinets to water heaters. The precautions will help limit damage to your home and possessions and, more important, reduce the chances that you or members of your family will be injured in a quake. Because, while much in this world is uncertain, there is no doubt that the recent quake won't be the last.

In the attic

If your home has a chimney, nail plywood to the ceiling joists around the chimney to help protect from falling bricks.

Foundation/framing

* Look at exposed framing to see if the wood is secured to concrete foundation by foundation bolts. Older homes are less likely to be secured and may need to be retrofitted.

* Determine whether there are vertical studs extending from foundation up to the floor. If so, and if they are exposed, nail plywood sheeting to the studs in order to strengthen the walls.

* On exposed framing, use metal connectors to strengthen joints where beams and posts join. Use nails or lag screws to fasten connectors to exposed framing in such places as porches, patio covers, garages and basements.

Walls

* Make sure heavy mirrors, pictures and wall hangings are anchored in studs, not just through the wall. If possible, remove such items and substitute something lighter, particularly above beds.

Hanging lights, plants

* Anchor lights, plants or other hanging objects in wood beams rather than simply through plaster or other ceiling panels. Close open hooks by bending them shut with a pliers or wrapping them with wire. If you are using heavy plant pots, consider changing to something lighter.

Kitchen, dining room

* Install latches on cupboards and cabinets. Plastic latches sold for child-proofing are an inexpensive, easy-to-install option that does not change the appearance of cabinets.

* In a china cabinet, small pieces of tacky adhesive or putty can help keep collectibles in place.

* Restrain large appliances, such as refrigerators, remembering that a degree of flexibility provides more stress resistance.

Bookshelves, wall units

* L-shaped braces screwed into studs can be used to attach shelving, cabinets, tall dressers to walls.

* Guardrails across the front will help keep books and other objects from sliding off shelves. Rails can be of wire or decorative metal. Creating a lip on shelf edges with wood trim will also help keep things in place.

* Remove heavy objects from top.

Mantles, tabletops

* Objects that must remain loose, such as vases and mantle clocks, have a tendency to "walk" or jiggle off tabletops during a quake. A piece of rubberized anti-slip rug mat trimmed to fit under the object won't keep it from tipping over but will help keep it from walking away.

Water heaters

* Secure your free-standing water heater using plumber's tape.

Gas appliances

* If the tubing that carries gas to your appliances is rigid, consider replacing it with approved corrugated metal connectors, which are not as likely to break with severe shaking.

A gas leak primer

* Know where your gas meter is. It could be in one of several locations, including at the side of the house; under the house or in a crawl space; in a cellar or basement; around the garage; in a porch; underground near the curb or in the middle of the lawn.

* Locate the shut-off valve.

* Have an adjustable wrench available for turning off the valve. Special gas shut-off wrenches are available and can be tied with wire to the meter so you'll always be able to find the wrench.

* Make sure everyone in the family knows how to turn off the valve.

Notes

* Keep a basic first-aid kit, flashlights and a supply of bottled water in your house for use in a quake or other emergency.

* Keep flammable liquids and other hazardous substances (paint, cleaning fluids, chemical sprays) in the garage or an outside shed.

Sources: Southern California Earthquake Preparedness Project, Governor's Office of Emergency Services; Orange County Fire Department, Emergency Management Divison; Federal Emergency Management Agency; Lafferty & Associates Inc.

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