Climate and Environment, Insurance, Real Estate

Preparing Your Mexican Home for Earthquakes

Homes and Earthquakes

The two powerful earthquakes which came to pass in Mexico during September 2017 are a salient reminder that Mexico is a land susceptible to seismic events.  Reviewing the composition of your habitat can mitigate the risk of damage and injury during an earthquake, making your situations easier to cope with in the aftermath of a strong quake.

Effects of earthquakes on your property

Weak earthquakes may not be felt, or cause a gentle sway with little or no discernible impact on objects or the structure of your home. Stronger earthquakes can cause a wide variety of hazards, including:

  • hung objects falling from walls and ceilings
  • furniture and other household items can fall or fly across a room
  • mirrors and glass can break causing dangerous shards and splinters
  • tiles, fixtures, and fittings can become loose and/or fall
  • live electricity wires may become exposed
  • gas pipes can break, causing a fire or explosion
  • water pipes can burst, causing the house to flood
  • utilities like electricity, telephone (internet), water, and gas may be cut-off
  • swimming pools may crack open and leak
  • strong quakes can cause buildings to move-off their foundations and collapse

Earthquake insurance

You can insure your Mexican property and its contents against natural disasters, including earthquake damage—and better policies also cover the costs of temporary alternative accommodation if your home becomes uninhabitable.  If you already have a home cover insurance policy, double-check the renewal date and that the policy specifically covers your home for earthquake damage, as not all policies are comprehensive.  You can learn about protecting your house and its contents on our detailed guide to insuring your home in Mexico.

Preparing your habitat for earthquakes

Some forethought and planning around your home situations can make a material difference when a strong earthquake strikes.  Most earthquake-related injuries and casualties occur when people fall trying to run during the shaking; are hit by falling objects or debris; and/or when they are struck by collapsing walls or buildings.  Considering how your habitat is furnished and arranged, and what impact an earthquake would have on the objects inside of it, can help you to mitigate damage and injury.

Bedrooms: Earthquakes can happen at any time, and it’s possible that you’ll experience an earthquake overnight while you’re in bed.  Situate your bed away from glass and don’t hang heavy pictures/frames or mirrors above the bed; consider also what you may have attached to or hanging from the ceiling above the bed.

Tall/Heavy Furniture: Book-cases, wardrobes, and other heavy furniture which appeared solid and stable when you placed it can fall effortlessly during a strong earthquake—and can pose a lethal risk if they fall on you or block vital exits. Review the current placement of heavy furniture in your home, and screw large pieces to the wall using metal brackets designed for this; consider also how falling pieces could block your evacuation route and make changes as necessary. Packed boxes, stored baggage, and other stowed chattels should ideally be kept in defined storage spaces, or low-down, so that they don’t cause a falling hazard.

Fixtures and Fittings: Picture frames and mirrors should be securely fastened to walls using double-hooks, and mirrors especially can benefit from additional fastening with putty (mastique). Overhead lamps and chandeliers should be routinely checked to ensure that they remain securely anchored.  If you have a heavy (e.g. iron) chandelier over/near a bed or other space where people rest, ensure it’s very well secured, or consider relocating or removing it.  If you have book-shelves screwed to the wall, make sure these are well-fastened and not too near any beds or other resting places.  Consider installing latches on high cupboard doors to prevent objects from falling out of them in the event of a quake.

Water Heaters: Most water heaters in Mexico are gas-fired.  Your water heater should be securely strapped to a strong wall using appropriate brackets.  Ensure you know how to switch-off the gas and water supplies.  If you are (re)installing your home’s water heater, consider using flexible gas piping instead of metal pipe.

Further reading

Detailed advice about how to plan and what to do during and after an earthquake is available online.  Examples include this guide from the American Red Cross and this checklist from the US FEMA.

See also: Additional articles on Mexperience about protecting your home in Mexico

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