EARTHQUAKE!! – How to Secure Your Home Before and After

By Teri Simpson of Optimum Preparedness

Water, Gas and Well

If the power goes out due to an earthquake do you know what to do immediately after the shaking stops to insure your safety? You need to.

If you have gas appliances, you need to know how to shut your gas off right away until you can verify that there are no leaks (or you could blow up). You need to know where your water shutoff is. Do you know how to shut off the power to your house?

Locate where you turn off the gas to your house. If you have natural gas, the gas comes in from the main supply line running off the street over to a regulator (which reduces the gas from high pressure gas to low pressure gas. Then it goes thru the meter (so they can charge you) and on into your house. The VALVE that you need to turn off the gas is ALWAYS before the pressure regulator. You will need to loosen the nut on the opposite side of the pipe from the part you turn to shut off the gas flow: loosen the nut, turn the valve 90 degrees and then tighten the nut back up (you HAVE to retighten the nut or gas will still leak). There are also valves inside between the appliance and the wall where you can shut off individual appliances.

If your gas appliances are propane, there is a shut off valve on the tank and should be another one by the pressure regulator where the gas goes into the house.

For electricity turn off, you need to find your breaker box. They are oftentimes grey, and when you open them there is one REALLY big light switch looking switch (the Main breaker) and a bunch of smaller ones. Flipping the main breaker to the opposite direction will cut the power.

What about water? What if you have water shooting out of the wall? What then? Or if it is gushing out from under the sink? If it is gushing out from under the kitchen or bathroom sink, there are usually (but not always) 2 valves, one for hot and one for cold, that you can turn off (these 2 valves are also known as turny knobs).

If you need to turn off the water to the whole house, you will need a “street key” or crescent wrench. Street keys are sold at Home Depot type stores for under $10. This is for people NOT on their own well. If you have a well, rather than being on municipal water, if you have no electricity you don’t have to worry – you have no water. That is unless you’ve installed a hand pump (and there some that will even pump into your home pressurized water system).

What about flooding? If flood waters cover your well, your well can become contaminated: with salt water if the ocean washes in, with e. coli and other contaminents if agricultural areas, and with petroleum/chemical products just about anywhere. You can help mitigate this problem by replacing a regular well cap with a Trega well cap which is water tight.

Danger From Falling Objects – Refrigerators, Washers/Dryers, Bookshelves

When an earthquake strikes, the main cause of injury or death is unsecured heavy objects toppling over. Therefore, being prepared is your best defense against earthquakes. Secure your household contents with state-of-the-art earthquake safety products like QuakeHold. QuakeHOLD! products can be purchased at Home Depot, Lowe's, OSH, Ace, True Value, Do It Best, and Bed Bath & Beyond stores.

Remember too that office safety is just as important, so make sure that all office equipment is secured to prevent accidents during an earthquake with a product like QuakeHold. Don't leave it to chance - be prepared and stay safe.

Have you thought about what kind of septic system you have?

Back in the ‘old days’ septic systems were gravity fed (no need for electricity for them to work properly). Since at least the early ‘90’s most septic systems are either pump, mound or sand systems. These all require electricity to work. No electricity, and sooner or later the pipes leading to the septic tank will fill with what you’ve been flushing down the toilet or putting down the sink or bathroom drains. It will finally fill up so far nothing else will go down. No you have yourself a stinky kind of problem. You need to consider some kind of alternate solution to using your toilet. There are several solutions that will work for nearly any household, whether apartment, urban or rural household.


So you went to Costco and got a generator to use if the power goes out. Great. Yes, you can run your fridge/freezer and a few other electronics. But before you plug your house into your genny (that is short for generator), you need to have an electrician install a “transfer switch” so that the generator doesn’t feed power back OUT onto the power lines. Without the transfer switch, the genny will feed power to your house and also back out onto the power lines. So then when an electrician goes to fix the lines, he gets electrocuted. Bad. With the transfer switch it stops this from happening.


Get a couple of used 50-55 gallon plastic barrels and put them under your down spouts. Rain water is great for washing up, flushing toilets (if you have a gravity system), putting in your Katadyn Ceradyn Drip Water Filter (good for 13,000 gallons of filtering - literally years of filtering, sold at Optimum Preparedness) to give you safe water to drink. Have some containers of drinking water on hand at all times (minimum 1 gallon per person per day for at least 2 weeks). Also have a couple of spigoted water containers to use for dispensing water at the kitchen and bathroom sinks.


If you have an electric stove, or a gas/propane one and you have to turn the gas off, you’ll want an alternative way to cook. You can’t beat the Porta Chef Countertop Butane Stove, which can be used indoors right on your kitchen counter or table. It is even safe in UG’s.


When an earthquake or other big disaster strikes, many methods of communication can go down or be unavailable. You’ll want a good radio that can pick up AM and FM to hear the emergency broadcast announcements, a radio that will pick up weather stations, one that will pick up shortwave broadcasts so you can hear what is happening in other parts of the country and other parts of the world. The Grundig GS350DL AM/FM/Shortwave Field Radio is a great radio for picking up AM/FM and shortwave around the world. The FR360 Solar/Dynamo Emergency Radio is also a great radio that picks up the NOAA warnings, as well as AM and FM radio. And it runs on solar, electricity, 12volt and batteries.

When Preparing for an Earthquake

When preparing for an earthquake that might have long lasting repercussions, also consider storing food, candles, extra cat/dog food, solar showers, Porta Chef stoves & fuels, first aid kit, non electric lighting AND A GRAB AND GO KIT, an Evac Pac, so if your house is compromised you can get the heck on out of there.

Have you considered that if you have a big tent, and your Grab and Go kit, and other supplies at hand, that you might not need to go to the crowded Red Cross Shelter? You might not have to drive anywhere. You would have the capability to set up your tent in your OWN backyard.

It boils down to a teensy bit of luck, quite a lot of planning, and steady getting ready with the correct tools and equipment, a lot of which can be compiled from what you already have. You will find just how well you will be able to survive

Teri Simpson
Optimum Preparedness

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