Step 1: Secure Your Space

Secure Your Space by identifying hazards and securing moveable items.

Drawing of two people securing a bookshelf and water heater to prevent them from falling in an earthquake

Earthquake shaking can move almost anything, even large or heavy items. Imagine your home or workplace being picked up and shaken sideways – what would be thrown around and cause injury or damage? How can you prevent it?

ECA’s Step 1 Webinar shows how to secure many common items (Click “CC” for captions)
Learn about our Safer At Home Webinar Series

Start now by moving furniture such as bookcases away from beds, sofas, or other places where people sit, sleep, or spend a lot of time. Move heavy objects to lower shelves.

Then continue by securing things such as televisions, computers, bookcases, furniture, unstrapped water heaters, etc. See the “Get Started” list below, and the menu for this page which includes detailed instruction pages for many common items.

Why is this important?

Several people died and thousands were injured in the 1994 Northridge earthquake because of unsecured items such as toppling bookcases. According to a study from the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA), 55% of the injuries during this earthquake were caused by falling furniture or objects. Only one percent of injuries were caused by building damage. Other injuries were due to people falling or behaving dangerously. In addition, many billions of dollars were lost due to this type of damage (yes, Billions). Much of this damage and injury could have been prevented in advance through simple actions to secure these contents. This is why we recommend starting this step first.

Securing Your Space may also reduce injury or damage in other situations. For example, an NBC Today Show report showed that unsecured TVs that fall are injuring children across the country every day! So even if earthquakes are not common where you live or work, these suggestions are worthwhile to consider.


Basic “Get Started” List

Thumbnail of Step 1: Secure Your Space document

Download our Step 1: Secure Your Space document for instructions on how to prevent items from falling during earthquakes.

Try securing at least one item every weekend until you get everything done. Start with what you can do for free. You may need to ask others for help or to borrow tools. Perhaps you might help them in return, or help others in your community. We’re all in this together!

No cost:

  • Move heavy or large items to the floor or low shelves.
  • Move things that can fall on you away from where you spend a lot of time.
  • Move heavy or unstable objects away from doors and escape routes.

Low cost:

Many of these items may be available at your local hardware store, or from ReadyAmerica or Safe-T-Proof

A bit more work or cost:

  • Use flexible connections where gas lines meet appliances (such as water heaters, ovens, and clothes dryers).
  • Secure overhead light fixtures.
  • Secure free-standing wood stoves or fireplace inserts.

See this page’s menu for detailed instructions for how to secure these and many other household, school, and workplace items.

What about buildings?

Step 1 is about how to mitigate (reduce/prevent) earthquake damage to the “non-structural” contents within living and working spaces.

Step 4: Minimize Financial Hardship covers: how to design or retrofit buildings to reduce earthquake damage to their structure (which also may reduce harm to people or contents inside); how to choose insurance options that can speed repair or rebuilding; and how to organize important documents so you can begin your recovery quickly.