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Protect your home from chemical spills that can be caused by earthquakes
As part of disaster preparedness efforts, California residents should also give some thought to hazardous chemicals in their homes and businesses.
Drain cleaners, paint thinner, herbicides, pesticides and other substances are so common, they are rarely given a second thought. But even seemingly innocuous household substances, such as cleaners and furniture polish, can become a problem if they are spilled during an earthquake and mix with other materials, such as bleach, ammonia or drain cleaner.
Take the time to include hazardous household chemicals on your list of things to consider for disaster planning. Check to see that these substances are in sturdy, non-breakable containers and stored where they will not fall, tip over or fly off shelves.
Take a look in your laundry area and under your sink. Ammonia, bleach and drain cleaner will produce hazardous fumes if they spill and mix together. Containers of these substances should be stored separately and secured so they cannot fall or tip over.
Check the garage. A jug of gasoline for the lawnmower, containers of paint thinner, furniture stain or pesticides can be serious hazards. If flammable liquids spill near an ignition source, like a water heater with a pilot light, the result can be disastrous.
Make sure that your water heater and garage shelves are bolted to the wall and that the containers on the shelves are not free to fly or slide off in an earthquake. Besides avoiding toxic spills, securing containers will help prevent automobile scratches or dents from objects that flew or fell off garage shelves.
Make a point to dispose of hazardous substances you no longer need when there is a household hazardous waste collection day in your community. Also, put hazardous substances that you do store on your list of things to check after an earthquake or other disaster. You will want to see if any potentially dangerous substances are leaking from spilled or broken containers. If there are spills, be careful not to touch the material or inhale the fumes.
If you find spilled or leaking substances, it is often better to leave the area rather than trying to clean it up yourself. Governmental agencies may not be able to provide immediate assistance because of being overburdened by emergency calls, but it is better for you to avoid chemical spills rather than endangering your health by trying to clean them up.
Remember that it is far better to deal with hazardous substances by preventing spills through proper preparation before a quake or other disaster hits.
A message from the University of California Cooperative Extension and the California Office of Emergency Services.