All homes and buildings in the Lower Mainland should be prepared for an eventual earthquake. Science tells us that it will hit sometime in the next 600 years or so but we don’t have a better idea than that of when exactly it will happen. Despite efforts at prediction it is difficult to find warning signs of an earthquake. The only thing you can do is plan ahead.
As a homeowner there are many steps you can take to make your home as ready as possible for an earthquake. Simple choices and preparations now will reduce damage to your property and the likelihood of injury. If you own your own home it is worth investing the money to make these changes. If you are a renter talk to your landlord about earthquake safety and improvements you want them to make. Earthquake preparedness should be a factor in deciding where to rent.
New homes should be built to stringent building codes in Metro Vancouver. Some older buildings will have been retrofitted while others qualify as existing noncompliant. Look for weaknesses in the structure like crawl space walls and unbraced or unreinforced foundations. Perform upgrades yourself or hire a contractor to strengthen the building. Repair any visible cracks in your foundation, walls or ceiling.
You should have a contractor evaluate your gas, water and electrical lines. Bad electrical lines and gas leaks can cause fires following an earthquake. Have flexible fitting put on your water and gas lines. This way they will bend and move instead of breaking.
The things you keep inside your home are just as important during an earthquake as the structure itself. You also have a lot of control over what the contents of your home are like. Anything that can break or fall is a potential hazard.
Attach shelves, bookcases, cabinets, wardrobes and any other tall furniture that may fall over to the wall. Tall statues and other art objects may fall over. You can use straps, cords or brackets to secure them in place.
Keep heavy objects near the ground. If they are on top shelves they will have a longer way to fall and can cause more damage. Have them as low to the ground as possible. You can also secure heavy objects to prevent them from falling, store them in cabinets that latch closed or put non-slip material beneath them. Make sure that cabinets will not come open.
Broken glass is a significant hazard during an earthquake. Put shatter resistant and shatter safe glass in your windows. Avoid having glass in cabinets and other furniture or use shatter resistant and shatter safe glass. You can put masking tape in a diagonal X across glass to stop it from breaking.
Pictures and mirrors on walls can fall. Do not have them above beds or places where people sit. You can get stronger wire and hooks for hanging pictures but standard ones will break during an earthquake.
Be very careful where you store any items that are flammable. This can leak or catch fire. Have them in secure cabinets that won’t open. Light fixtures on walls and ceilings can break and fall. Secure these.