Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Setting up a Child's Room in Earthquake Country

Q. How do you set up a child's room in a small house in an earthquake prone area?

A. Very carefully! 
Luckily for us many of the items used to make a room safe for little kids are the same items that we need for earthquake preparedness.

This topic comes up from time-to-time. It is something I also wondered about and tried my best to do at our house so I'll share what I've learned.

On 3/11 (large earthquake in Japan) my baby and toddler were napping in my bed, upstairs, when the quake hit. Even though we were far from the epicenter the quake was strong enough to give our area a good shake. I was downstairs when the quake started and upstairs with the kids when it intensified. I don't remember going up the stairs but I must have flown!

Here are some things you can do to prepare a child's room (and any room for that matter) with earthquakes in mind.

1. Have as little furniture in the room as possible.
Many quake related injuries in Japan are from falling items. The homes and apartments here are built pretty well but that won't stop them from shaking.  If you can, don't have dressers, bookshelves and other heavy pieces of furniture in a room used for sleeping.
When placing things on shelves keep in mind the kind of damage they could to if they fall off. We try to have heavy items on bottom shelves and lighter ones on top shelves.

2. Brace the furniture that is in the room
There are poles (braces) that can be used to help stop dressers and bookshelves from tipping over. There are also plastic strips and non-skid pads that can go under pieces of furniture.

3. Consider sleeping on futon.
Since futon is on the floor there is no danger of falling out of bed.

4. Be aware of glass.
Lamps, windows and other items can crack or shatter in a quake.
We chose a lamp made of strong plastic that was pretty durable. It holds up well when the kids accidentally knock it down so I feel confident it won't break if knocked over by a quake.
The ceiling light fixture should also be looked at. While most are fastened with a back-up hook to prevent falling in the case of a quake, I try not to have a glass fixture in the sleeping rooms.  If the place you are living is not your own you may not have any control in this area but I'll address that in the next point.
Check the windows. Sometimes there are already shatter proof window panes in sleeping rooms.  In older places like ours that is not the case. There are plastic sheets which can be used to line windows so if they crack the glass does not shatter all over the room.

5. Arrange the room wisely.
Sometimes there are things you can't change like light fixtures or needing a dresser in the room. When that is the case think about how things might move in a quake.
For example, if a dresser or bookshelf fell over would it hit a space that someone is sleeping in? If a light fixture seems potentially unsafe, don't have someone sleep directly below it.

6. Keep shoes/slippers handy.
If there is a strong quake and things fall it can be dangerous to walk around even inside the home. Having thick soled shoes or slippers near by for both kids and adults can save you from accidentally stepping on something while checking to see if everyone is ok.  Our house slippers are crocs-like clogs.

Here are some simulations of what can happen inside during an earthquake.
Earthquake Test: Bedroom Simulation
Shaking Effects Simulation
Bedroom with anchored furniture

One of the things that we have from the 3/11 quake is a lot of footage of the quake happening. It gives us a chance to look inside real homes to see how things may moved with a strong quake. There is much to be learned here but these can also be difficult to watch, especially for those who have experienced a strong quake.

During a real quake (Warning: may be hard to watch)
News report with real footage  (Warning: may be hard to watch)

Here are links to other pages with more earthquake preparation information:
Tokyo Disaster Preparedness Manual
American Red Cross Earthquake Preparedness
CDC Earthquakes

Check out the store page for some more earthquake preparation items.