February commemorates Earthquake Awareness Month, so we asked AEI’s Vice President of Seismic Services, Roy Anderson, to share some safety tips to keep you and your property better protected against earthquakes that really rumble — like those over 5.0 on the Richter scale.

  1. Anchor heavy furnishings and appliances

Bookshelves, grandfather clocks, filing cabinets and China cabinets should be secured at the top of the furniture to the wall with light-gage metal brackets or nylon straps like those produced by QuakeHold, available at many hardware stores.

Many larger flat screen television sets crashed to the floor in the 2014, 6.0 magnitude, South Napa, California earthquake. To avoid this, mount the set to the wall using readily available brackets.

Hot water heaters should be secured with at least two straps mounted to the structure, placing them at the top and bottom third of the unit. Water heaters should also be furnished with flexible fuel supply lines to prevent piping breakage at the heater.

  1. Secure Artwork

Think of the priceless photos you have behind glass. If they are dislodged, the sharp edges of glass can damage the art or photos, as well as be a hazard to children and pets. Installing earthquake resisting hangers should reduce the risk of picture frames being dislodged from the wall.

Breakable knick-knacks can be protected using museum wax, which acts as a stabilizer when applied at the base of vases or high center of gravity breakable items.

  1. Locate Your Natural Gas Supply

Know where your natural gas supply is located and how to turn off the gas at the meter if you smell gas after a significant seismic event. Seismic shut-off valves are available for installation by a qualified plumber at a nominal cost and act to shut-off the gas supply automatically.

  1. Have an Emergency Kit

Emergency kits should include first aid items, medications, potable water, non-perishable food items, cash, important papers, pet supplies, flashlights, batteries, an emergency radio and toiletries. A small emergency generator and an alternate means of cooking food are advisable in the case of electrical power and natural gas supply interruption.

Keep your cell phone charged and your vehicles gassed up. FEMA has a good emergency kit list for items to consider. A seismic event may interrupt the electrical grid and the ability to obtain fuel for vehicles, cash from ATM locations, water supply and natural gas supply.

  1. Know Your Surroundings

A seismic event could occur at any time. If you are at home, plan and know your exit routes. If your home is older and has raised wood floors, find out if the floor has been adequately braced and anchored to the foundation. Consulting with a local civil or structural engineer could provide ease of mind to determine what modifications can be made to minimize structural damage.

If you are out in public and inside a building, know where the building exits are and avoid high rack areas (think grocery store, Home Depot or Costco). Overhead items may be dislodged and fall. Light fixtures, T-bar tiles and supports, mechanical equipment, high-rise office glazing and building ornamentation may become falling hazards. Look up!

If you are driving, be aware of any potential road hazards that may have developed. After the South Napa event areas of asphalt pavement were ruptured or displaced. After the Loma Prieta event in 1989, and the Northridge event in 1994, local bridges were adversely affected and created traffic hazards.

These tips will give you piece of mind, knowing you’ve taken the steps necessary to minimize the dangers and damages that can accompany an earthquake of notable magnitude.


AEI can assist you in understanding your commercial property’s earthquake risk and managing mitigation to limit damage and loss. A Seismic Risk Analysis (SRA) is a critical tool to better inform owners, lenders, and insurers of property damage risk. For more information, contact us at info@aeiconsultants or 800-801-3224.