How to Prepare Your House or Apartment for an Earthquake

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Ride the wave.

Most injuries during an earthquake are caused by falling objects. This means that your house or apartment might be out to get you! Heavy objects can tip over, wall hangings and lights can fall, and appliances can break, causing flooding, gas leaks, or even fires. Here are some steps to prepare your house or apartment for an earthquake.

Secure Heavy Objects

The first step to earthquake-proofing your house or apartment is to secure any objects that could fall on you. For example, your couch probably won’t tip over, but your fridge might. Think about what could injure you or a family member if the world starts shaking.

Secure objects like:

Take special care to bolt down and secure your appliances. Using flexible connectors can help to prevent water or gas leaks even if your appliances shift during the quake. Metal and plastic connectors are more likely to break than rubbery ones.

Rule of Thumb

If undamaged, your water heater can be a great source of drinking water during an emergency.

Put breakable objects like glassware, dishes, and decorations into cabinets with strong latches. Heavy objects should be put on lower shelves. The shorter the fall, the less chance of injury.

It’s also a good idea to hang heavy items like pictures and mirrors away from beds, couches, or any other places your family members spend a lot of time. Let’s be real. You’re probably going to either be sitting on the couch or sleeping when an earthquake strikes.

Learn the Location of Your Utilities (and How to Use Them)

how to prepare your house or apartment for an earthquake

Learn the location of your utilities like the electric breaker box and the shut off valves for water and gas. But don’t just learn their locations; learn how to disconnect them and have the tools to do so. During an emergency, you’ll want to shut them off. You might not be able to see the damage done to them in a significant earthquake, and any breaks could cause major problems, including electrocution, fire, and flooding.

If you live in an apartment, you might not have immediate access to all of these locations, but it’s a good idea to reach out to your landlord to find out what their plans are in the event of an emergency. Since you’d be the one in danger, feel free to volunteer to take those shut off tasks off their hands.

Keep Up with Home Maintenance

That water damage on the ceiling you’ve been painting over for years could indicate structural problems. If an earthquake strikes, your ceiling—and anything on the floor above—could come crashing down.

Proper maintenance will help to keep the structure of your house or apartment strong and decrease the likelihood of collapse. This is especially important if you live in a multi-family building. It’s not just your life at risk. It’s the lives of those living around you as well. If you suspect a structural defect, make sure your landlord repairs it.

Get Earthquake Insurance

Securing heavy objects might help to prevent injury during an earthquake, but it won’t prevent your stuff from damage. Earthquakes can cause catastrophic property damage, and the last thing you need after surviving an earthquake is the massive expense of purchasing new furniture and appliances.

Purchasing earthquake insurance is a good way to prepare your home or apartment in a different way. If you rent, your landlord’s home insurance might cover structural damage, but it won’t protect your personal belongings. Renter’s insurance is a great option and usually covers natural disasters.

building destroyed by earthquake
Your coffee table may not be recovered from the rubble.

If you’re going for the gold medal in earthquake preparedness, it’s time to do some drills!

About the Authors

It takes a village! We are researching, writing and fact checking as a family. Collaboration is the name of the game, whether we’re running from a zombie horde or finding the best way to turn a complex concept into a deliciously digestible set of bullet points.

Professional worrier. Mom, entrepreneur. Lifetime student of brain science. Passionate about surviving what's coming (climate change, wtf) and staying as sane as possible. Determined to make the best of the end of the world.