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 your and your home’s chance of survival in an earthquake.
NAIL IT DOWN —
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
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.
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.
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.
Electricity: 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.
Water: 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.
Gas: Two types of gas are used for household application: natural gas and propane.
Natural gas is lighter than air and is usually piped into the property from the gas meter. A simple crescent wrench will work to turn off the valve (one-quarter 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 it can be turned off manually with the hand wheel valve.
• Locate your gas meter and valve.
• Have a wrench handy 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 it back on.
Dave Murnen and Pat Beaty are construction specialists at NeighborWorks of Grays Harbor County, where Murnen is executive director. This is a nonprofit organization committed to creating safe and affordable housing for all residents of Grays Harbor County. For questions about home repair, renting, remodeling or buying, call 360-533-7828 or visit 710 E. Market St. in Aberdeen.