Structural and Non-Structural Home Safety

During an emergency, ordinary objects in your home can cause injury or damage. However, there are simple things you can do to make your home safer. Start by viewing each room with an "emergency eye" and look for hazards, particularly things that might fall from high places during an earthquake.


Home Safety Checklist

  • Be sure your house number is visible from the street so emergency vehicles can find you.
  • Know how and when to turn off the water, gas, and electricity.
  • If you use propane, and suspect a leak, turn off the shut-off valve on your storage tank.
  • If you have no experience relighting, you should call your local propane dealer to restart your pilot lights.
  • Propane is heavier than air. If it leaks, it will sink to low spots in or under your home. Be sure to ventilate low areas, if you suspect a leak.
  • Consider replacing brick chimneys with a modern stud-frame chimney.
  • Bolt foundations and reinforce walls. It's cheaper to retrofit a house than repair it after an earthquake.


Apartment/High-Rise Building
  • Note the location of the closest emergency exits.
  • Be sure you know two ways out of the building in case your first choice is blocked.
  • Locate stairways, avoid elevators in emergencies.
  • Talk to your neighbors about how you can work together during an emergency.
  • Find out if anyone has specialized expertise, such as medical knowledge that might help in a crisis.
  • Discuss special needs with disabled neighbors.


  • Move beds away from windows.
  • Move mirrors and heavy pictures away from couches or places where people sit or sleep.
  • Secure pictures and wall hangings and use restraints to secure heavy items such as bookcases and file cabinets.
  • Do not sleep close to brick walls or chimneys, even if they are reinforced.
  • Store heavy items on the lowest shelves.
  • Clear hallways and exits for easy evacuation.
  • Make backup plans with neighbors regarding your children in case you can't get home.
  • Keep an ABC-rated fire extinguisher on each floor level and know how and when to use them.
  • Strap down your water heater and fit all gas appliances with a flexible gas supply line.
  • Ensure that all window safety bars have emergency releases.