Saturday, July 30, 2016

Inspecting Homes For Possible Home Earthquake Hazards

Inspecting for Possible Home Hazards

An important step in earthquake preparedness is to inspect your home and its surroundings for possible hazards and then take action to lessen those hazards. Remember: anything can move, fall, or break during an earthquake or its aftershocks.
The following is a basic checklist to help you identify and correct possible home hazards.

Rooms in the Home

Look for the following hazards in each room:
  • Windows and other glass that might shatter
  • Unanchored bookcases, cabinets, refrigerators, water heaters, and other furniture that might topple
  • Heating units, fireplaces, chimneys, and stoves that could move or fall
  • Areas that could be blocked by falling debris

Securing Appliances

  • Secure your large appliances with flexible cable, braided wire, or metal strapping.
  • Install flexible gas and water connections on all gas appliances. This will significantly reduce your chances of having a major fire after an earthquake.
  • Brace and support air conditioners, particularly those on rooftops.
The typical water heater weighs about 450 pounds when full. In an earthquake, the floor on which it is standing tends to move out from under the heater, often causing it to topple. The movement can also break the gas, electric, and water-line connectors, posing fire or electric shock hazards, and can shatter the glass lining within the water heater.
Here are two suggestions on how to secure your water heater:
  • Wrap at least a 1 /2-inch wide metal strap around the top of the water heater and attach it to wall studs with 3-inch lag screws. Attach another strap about 2/3 of the way down from the top of the water heater. OR...
  • Wrap steel plumber's tape around the entire water heater at least twice. Then secure the tape to two different wall studs with 3-inch lag screws.

Securing Items in the Bathroom

Replace glass bottles from your medicine cabinet and around the bathtub with plastic containers.

Hanging and Overhead Items

  • Inspect and anchor overhead light fixtures, such as chandeliers.
  • Move heavy mirrors and pictures hanging above beds, chairs, and other places where you sit or sleep. Otherwise, anchor these items with wire through eyescrews bolted into wall studs. Or place screws on both sides, top, and bottom of the frame and screw these into the studs.
  • Determine whether the full swing of your hanging lamps or plants will strike a window. If so, move them.
  • Secure hanging objects by closing the opening of the hook.
  • Replace heavy ceramic or glass hanging planters with light-weight plastic or wicker baskets.

Shelves, Cabinets, and Furniture

  • Identify top-heavy, free-standing furniture, such as bookcases and china cabinets, that could topple in an earthquake.
  • Secure your furniture by using:
    • "L" brackets, corner brackets, or aluminum molding to attach tall or top-heavy furniture to the wall
    • eyebolts to secure items located a short distance from the wall
  • Attach a wooden or metal guardrail on open shelves to keep items from sliding or falling off. Fishing line can also be used as a less-visible means of securing an item.
  • Place heavy or large objects on lower shelves.
  • Use Velcro®-type fastenings to secure some items to their shelves.
  • Secure your cabinet doors by installing sliding bolts or childproof latches.

Hazardous Materials

Identify poisons, solvents, or toxic materials in breakable containers and move these containers to a safe, well-ventilated storage area. Keep them away from your water storage and out of reach of children and pets.

Inspecting and Securing Your Home's Structure

Examine the structural safety of your house. If your house is of conventional wood construction, it will probably be relatively resistant to earthquake damage, particularly if it is a single-story structure.
For information on structural safety standards and qualified contractors in your area, contact your city or county government office on community development or building code enforcement.
The following suggestions will take an investment of time and money but will add stability to your home. If you want to do the work yourself, many hardware or home-improvement stores will assist you with information and instructions.


Check to see if your house or garage is securely fastened to the foundation. (If your house was built before 1950, it probably does not have bolts securing the wood structure to the concrete foundation.) If your house is not secured to the foundation, take the following steps:
  • Using a hammer drill and carbide bit, drill a hole through the sill plate into the foundation. Holes should be approximately 6 feet apart.
  • Drop a 1/2- x 7-inch expansion bolt into each hole and finish by tightening the nut and washer.

Beams, Posts, Joists, and Plates

Strengthen the areas of connection between beams, posts, joists, and plates using the following hardware:
  • "T" and "L" straps
  • Mending plates
  • Joist hangers
  • Twin post caps
  • Nails and lag screws
Pay particular attention to exposed framing in garages, basements, porches, and patio covers.

Roof and Chimney

  • Check your chimney or roof for loose tiles and bricks that could fall in an earthquake. Repair loose tiles or bricks, as needed.
  • Protect yourself from falling chimney bricks that might penetrate the roof, by reinforcing the ceiling immediately surrounding the chimney with 3/4-inch plywood nailed to ceiling joists.

Learning to Shut Off Utilities

  • Know where and how to shut off utilities at the main switches or valves. Check with your local utility companies for instructions.
  • Teach all family members how and when to shut off utilities.


  • An automatic valve (Earthquake Command System) is commercially available that will turn the gas off for you in the event of an earthquake.
  • After an earthquake, DO NOT USE matches, lighters, or appliances, and do not operate light switches until you are sure there are no gas leaks. Sparks from electrical switches could ignite gas, causing an explosion.
  • If you smell the odor of gas, or if you notice a large consumption of gas being registered on the gas meter, shut off the gas immediately. First, find the main shut-off valve, located on a pipe next to the gas meter. Use an adjustable wrench to turn the valve to the off position.


After a major disaster, shut off the electricity. Sparks from electrical switches could pose a shock or fire hazard. Carefully turn off the electricity at the main electrical breaker in your home.


Water may be turned off at either of two locations:
  • At the main meter, which controls the water flow to the entire property; or
  • At the water main leading into the home. (Shutting off the water here retains the water supply in your water heater, which may be useful in an emergency.)
Attach a valve wrench to the water line. (This tool can be purchased at most hardware stores.) Also, label the water mains for quick identification.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Proof That Airbags Save Lives in La Habra Heights

On July 21, 2016, a solo vehicle traffic accident occurred on West Rd. near Subtropic Dr. in La Habra Heights. Firefighters arrived on scene to find a new 5-seat compact car, which had struck several short steel/concrete barrier poles, causing it to flip over, narrowly missing a power pole and coming to rest on it's roof.

All 6 occupants had self-extricated themselves from the vehicle prior to Firefighters arrival. Firefighter/Paramedics assessed the occupants and determined there were no injuries sustained during the accident. Fortunately, both front and side airbags deployed during the accident.

Firefighters conducted a search of the vehicle and immediate area to ensure that no other patients were ejected or missing. The cause and circumstances of the accident are determined by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department

Monday, July 11, 2016

Earthquake Preparedness - Persons With Special Needs

Persons with Disabilities

Before an earthquake:

  • Write down any specific needs, limitations, and capabilities that you have, and any medications you take. Make a copy of the list and put it in your purse or wallet.
  • Find someone (a spouse, roommate, friend, neighbor, relative, or co-worker) to help you in case of an emergency. Give them the list. You may wish to provide a spare key to your home, or let them know where they can find one in an emergency.

During an earthquake:

  • If you are confined to a wheelchair, try to get under a doorway or into an inside corner, lock the wheels, and cover your head with your arms. Remove any items that are not securely attached to the wheelchair.
  • If you are able, seek shelter under a sturdy table or desk. Stay away from outer walls, windows, fireplaces, and hanging objects.
  • If unable to move from a bed or chair, protect yourself from falling objects by covering up with blankets and pillows.
  • If you are outside, go to an open area away from trees, telephone poles, and buildings, and stay there.

After an earthquake:

  • If you are trapped, try to attract attention to your location.
  • Turn on your battery-operated TV or radio to receive emergency information and instructions.
  • If you can, help others in need.

Children's Needs

Fear is a normal reaction to danger. A child may be afraid of recurrence, injury, or death after an earthquake. They may fear being separated from their family or being left alone. Children may even interpret disasters as punishment for real or imagined misdeeds. Children will be less likely to experience prolonged fear or anxiety if they know what to expect before, during, and after an earthquake. Talking to children openly will also help them overcome fears.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Explain that an earthquake is a natural event and not anyone's fault.
  • Talk about your own experiences with natural disasters, or read aloud books about earthquakes.
  • Encourage your child to express feelings of fear. Listen carefully and show understanding.
  • Your child may need both verbal and physical reassurance that everything will be all right. Tell your child that the situation is not permanent.
  • Include your child in clean-up activities. It is comforting to the child to watch the household begin to return to normal and to have a job to do.
NOTE: Symptoms of anxiety may not appear for weeks or even months after an earthquake, and can affect people of any age. If anxiety disrupts daily activities for any member of your family, seek professional assistance through a school counselor, community religious organization, your physician, or a licensed professional listed under "mental health services" in the yellow pages of your telephone directory.

Friday, July 1, 2016

LHHFD Encourages Wildfire Preparedness

The La Habra Heights Fire Department (LHHFD) recommends that all residents continually assess their emergency preparedness for wildfires. Serious drought conditions combined with an abundance of dry vegetation continues to plague much of California. 

Should a fire occur in the city, we encourage homeowners to evacuate early. Residents shouldn't wait for a formal evacuation order since doing so can clog our roadways making it difficult for firefighters to get into an area, delaying our firefighting efforts and threatening your neighbors.

Basic Safety Tips

  • If you see a wildfire and aren't sure if the Fire Department is responding, call 9-1-1. Don't assume that someone else has already called.
  • If ordered to evacuate during a wildfire, do it immediately- make sure and tell someone where you are going and when you have arrived.
  • HAVE AN EVACUATION PLAN! Narrow streets create evacuation issues. Please use the most accessible route out of the city and don't blog roads for others evacuating or fire apparatus.
  • Many communities have text or email alerting systems for emergency notifications.To find out what alerts are available in your area, search the Internet with your town, city, or county name and the word “alerts.”
  • If you or someone you are with has been burned, call 9-1-1 or seek help immediately; cool and cover burns to reduce chance of further injury or infection.

Fire Weather Watch

Fire weather watch = dangerous fire weather conditions are possible over the next 12 to 72 hours
Steps to Take
  • Turn on your TV/radio. You’ll get the latest weather updates and emergency instructions.
  • High Hazard Watchouts! When together - Low Humidity (Under 15%), High Winds (25+)
  • Know where to go. If you are ordered to evacuate, know the route to take and have plan of where you will go. Check-in with your friends and family.
  • Keep your car fueled, in good condition, and stocked with emergency supplies and a change of clothes.

Prepare Your Home

  • Regularly clean the roof and gutters.
  • Maintain an area approximately 30’ away from you home that is free of anything that will burn, such as wood piles, dried leaves, newspapers and other brush.
  • Connect garden hoses long enough to reach any area of the home and fill garbage cans, tubs, or other large containers with water.
  • Review your homeowner's insurance policy and also prepare/update a list of your home's contents.

After a wildfire

Returning Home
  • Return home only when authorities say it is safe.
  • For several hours after the fire, maintain a "fire watch." Check and re-check for smoke, sparks or hidden embers throughout the house, including the roof and the attic.
  • Use caution when entering burned areas as hazards may still exist, including hot spots, which can flare up without warning. Evacuate immediately if you smell smoke.
Cleaning Your Home
  • Wear a NIOSH certified-respirator (dust mask) and wet debris down to minimize breathing dust particles.
  • Discard any food that has been exposed to heat, smoke or soot.
  • Do NOT use water that you think may be contaminated to wash dishes, brush teeth, prepare food, wash hands, or to make ice or baby formula.
  • Photograph damage to your property for insurance purposes.

Before Wildfire season- Make a Wildfire plan

  • Know your wildfire risk.
  • Make a wildfire emergency plan.
  • Build or restock your emergency preparedness kit, including a flashlight, batteries, cash, and first aid supplies.
  • Familiarize yourself with local emergency plans. Know where to go and how to get there should you need to evacuate.
  • Stay tuned to your phone alerts, TV, or radio, for weather updates, emergency instructions or evacuation orders.