Great Utah Shakeout: How to make your home earthquake-safe

Apr 16, 2024, 6:00 PM

buildings are destroyed following an earthquake...

A destroyed building leans on a neighbouring house following the earthquake in Samandag, southern Turkey, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2023. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

(AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

SALT LAKE CITY — The Great Utah Shakeout happens Thursday morning at 10:15. That’s when residents practice earthquake safety drills — drop, cover and hold on — at work, school or home.

Wade Mathews from the Utah Division of Emergency Management joined Dave & Dujanovic to discuss how to make your home earthquake-safe.

Since no one knows where they will be during the next earthquake, Mathews advised going through your home hunting for hazards.


Great Utah Shakeout: secure water heater, tall furniture

One of the first items on the earthquake-safe checklist, Mathews said, is securing your water heater so it won’t topple over during an earthquake. If the water heater falls over, it could sever the gas line and lead to fire or an explosion.

Point recommends:

When securing a water heater, it’s important to strap both the top and the bottom with two separate, heavy-gauge metal straps. Securing just the middle of the tank may not be enough if the earthquake is strong enough to shift the water heater at its base.

“Make sure it’s fastened to the wall. That’s [the] building code now. So newer homes, it should be automatic. But [for] older homes, check it. Even newer homes — for peace of mind — check it to make sure it’s fastened to the wall.”

“There’s also water in there that could get you through a few days of drinking and cooking and cleaning,” Mathews added.

Tall furniture, big screen TVs, bookcases, stackable washer/dryer, etc., should also be secured to a wall or floor.

“Those things should be fastened to the wall. They can be done [so] that it’s not seen. It’s above eye level. That’ll keep that from falling over on us during an earthquake and protect it from being damaged,” Mathews said.

Even though the furniture is secured to a wall, a quake can still send items flying off shelves, so lower heavier objects closer to or onto the floor. Secure kitchen cabinets with child-proof locks.

Does your child have heavy objects such as books or trophies on a shelf above his or her bed? Mathews said to use contact paper or sticky putty to secure items to shelves.

Earthquake coverage

If you don’t have earthquake insurance, FEMA and most homeowner’s insurance is unlikely to cover all damage from a quake, Mathews said.

“We think after a major disaster [that] FEMA is going to come in and save the day and just provide all this money. What they do is just make your home livable again. They don’t restore it to the original condition.”

More than 900,000 participants have registered for the Great Utah Shakeout.

Registration “is not required, but please do so. We’re almost at a million people. We’re so close to our goal. . . that can also link you to our Be Ready Utah page for all these earthquake-preparedness things we’ve been talking about,” Mathews said.


Volcanic activity the likely cause of central Utah earthquakes

5.7 magnitude earthquake reported near Magna, shaking felt all over northern Utah

Magnitude 3.6 earthquake felt at Zion National Park and surrounding areas

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play. 

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Great Utah Shakeout: How to make your home earthquake-safe