For Great ShakeOut, "Drop, Cover, Hold On, and Hazard Hunt"
October 17, 2016
by Leah Greenbaum
Take a look around the room you are in: see any large pieces of furniture? Wall hangings? Heavy light fixtures? Is your computer monitor strapped down? During the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake in California, 95 percent of the injuries were caused by people falling or being struck by loose objects. During this year’s Great ShakeOut, we at PNSN will also take a look at the non-structural hazards that surround us.
This Thursday, 50 million people will drop, cover, and hold on for the 8th Annual Great ShakeOut, the largest earthquake drill in the world. This year at the PNSN, our motto is “drop, cover, hold on, and do something else too”. We are thinking about other ways that we can enhance our preparedness for a major earthquake. On the SeismoBlog this week, we are outlining a few other strategies to supplement this year’s drill.
The Great ShakeOut gives people a chance to practice the recommended “drop, cover, and hold on” protocol, which involves getting on the ground, taking cover under a table or desk, and holding on until the earthquake is over. That protocol is based on decades of research into how individuals and organizations can best protect themselves during strong earthquake shaking.
On Thursday shortly after our drill on the University of Washington campus, we at the PNSN will do a “hazards hunt” to identify and remedy some non-structural hazards in our lab. From lab equipment, to coffee mugs, to some big, heavy textbooks, we’ve already noticed a few unsecured building contents that could be dangerous and diminish our ability to get back to work in the aftermath of a major earthquake. Luckily, there are many simple and inexpensive fixes that can help keep us safe and reduce our losses—all of them applicable to your home or business, as well.
Here are a few non-structural hazards we’ve already noticed and some potential fixes*:
Computer monitors: Electronics, like computer monitors, are heavy and costly to replace. You can secure your computer monitors and other electronics using nylon straps or buckles. It’s a cheap fix that will help you secure expensive equipment, protect your data, and prevent a falling hazard.
Falling objects: Objects on high shelves (like this giant globe) can become deadly projectiles during an earthquake. You can use earthquake putty (museum wax) to secure your delicate collectibles from falling, breaking, or hurting you during an earthquake. Heavy objects and other breakables can also be moved to lower shelves.
Kitchen: During an earthquake, unsecured cabinet doors are likely to fly open, allowing your cups, plates, and other glassware to fall to the floor. There are a number of latches that will keep your cabinets closed and protect you from broken glass during an earthquake.
Here are some other common hazards you might notice in your home or at your organization:
Water heater: Take a look at your water heater. Is it properly braced to the wall? If it falls over during an earthquake, it can smash your gas line and trigger a gas leak or fire, or smash your water line and start a flood. You can hire a plumber to secure your water heater or do it yourself with this kit.
Wall hangings: During an earthquake, mirrors, picture frames, and other hanging objects can bounce off the walls. Secure them with closed hooks or with screw hooks fastened directly into wall studs.
Here are a few other resources that will walk you though identifying and correcting non-structural hazards to prepare:
- Cascadia Region Earthquake Workgroup’s page on “Protecting Your Home”
- Earthquake Engineering Research Institute’s Guide and Checklist for Nonstructural Earthquake Hazards in California Schools (also relevant to home and office buildings)
- Southern California Earthquake Center’s Earthquake Country Guide
- The New Yorker’s instructive guide “How to Stay Safe When the Big One Comes”
If you hazard hunt with us this Thursday, tag us in a tweet (@pnsn1) and use the hashtag #hazardhunt
*hyperlinked products are examples, not recommendations