Prevent Furniture Related Injuries During Earthquakes

Mirrors can fall and break if not properly fastened.
Mirrors can fall and break if not properly fastened. Photo (c) Soren Hald/ Getty Images

While "Drop, Cover and Hold On" is usually the advice you get in how to deal with an earthquake, it is not enough. It is really advisable to take some preventive earthquake safety measures before you feel the earth move. This way you can hopefully avoid furniture related injuries.

Let me explain. We tend to think of extreme earthquake scenarios like toppling chimneys, crumbling walls and collapsing ceilings, but if you live in an earthquake zone there are greater chances that you may experience smaller disasters that involve toppling bookcases, and mirrors or pictures that fall to the ground.

Valuable collectibles may shatter or break.

But don't just shrug it off, as even these small disasters often carry the risk of injury to you, other family members, or pets. Toppling furniture and broken shards of glass all pose injury risks. What is more, they are unnecessary risks, and quite often avoidable.

Even if your area has not experienced an earthquake for a long time it still makes sense to take these safety measures, especially if there are children or seniors living in the home.

Placing Furniture

Placing furniture with an eye to earthquake safety helps. Common sense can also help you determine potential dangers. For instance, breaking glass whether it is from windows, mirrors or picture frames can pose a hazard. So can falling objects. How you place and arrange your furniture can minimize the risk of injuries.

  • When you live in an earthquake zone, try to place beds as far away from windows as possible. Shattering glass can cause injuries. If it is not possible to place the bed too far from the window owing to room size, have a window covering in place to catch the glass. Blinds, curtains, window films all work.
  • Do not position heavy wall art on the wall behind a bed.
  • Avoid shelves with objects directly above the bed.

Securing Furniture

As the earth moves, it can cause furniture to move as well, and sometimes tall pieces can topple over depending on how strong the earthquake is. It is best to secure tall, heavy pieces of furniture and kitchen cabinets so that you take care of that risk.

  • Secure tall and heavy pieces such as book shelves, armoires, and chests to the wall. Flexible nylon straps are widely available, and they can help you secure these furniture pieces to the wall.
  • Your heavy electronic equipment should also be secured. Televisions should be on stands meant to hold them securely and fastened with the help of brackets or nylon straps specifically meant for the job.
  • Hanging objects such as mirrors and heavy picture frames should also be secured with the help of special hanging hooks, screws and adhesive strips.
  • Valuable collectibles and breakable decorative objects can be secured to a surface with the help of earthquake putty or special gels.
  • Place floor lamps so they do not topple over. Choose heavy bases and place behind sofas, chairs or tables.

Furniture, Shelter and Safety

It is best to understand the safe spots and danger zones in your home before an earthquake happens. This becomes, or should become second nature when you live in an earthquake zone.

  • Should an earthquake happen at night, stay in bed till the shaking stops. It is best to keep a flashlight next to the bed. Carry it with you when you get up to inspect, as power outages may occur. You don't want to step on broken glass by accident.
  • You often hear the advice to take shelter under a table. It is not always the best advice because a flimsy table is no help, especially if it is placed next to a tall, heavy armoire or shelf. You may be better off standing against a weight bearing wall, or in a doorway that is in a weight bearing wall. Never rush outdoors.
  • Stay away from windows, mirrors, chandeliers and other hanging objects. Also stay away from the fireplace area especially if it is in use. Do so even if it isn't being used as a safeguard in case a chimney collapses.