Is Disaster-Proofing Your Home Decor a Thing?

published Nov 30, 2019
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Shortly after moving into my new apartment in San Francisco, I woke up one morning in a complete panic: What happens if there’s an earthquake? I’ve always lived on the East Coast, so natural disasters have never really been on my radar. Sure, we have hurricanes, and they’re just as devastating. But hurricanes are slightly more predictable than earthquakes, which could really just happen at any time. And the warning signs can be easy to miss.

There are plenty of resources out there about how to get you and your home disaster-ready, but what about your stuff? After all, unless you own an actual house, it’s usually up your landlord or the maintenance staff to reinforce your apartment complex’s structure, which means you potentially have no idea what kind of protection you have until something happens. So I figure it’s time to take matters into my own hands. While disaster-proofing your home decor isn’t as discussed as, say, assembling an emergency kit or an overnight bag, there are some things you can do to help ensure your home stays intact. Whether you live in a disaster-prone area or simply want to err on the side of caution, here are four easy ways to disaster-proof your home decor.

Anchors Aweigh

Whether you’re in the midst of a turbulent earthquake or intense winds from a hurricane, one thing’s for sure: The pieces that line your walls are at serious risk of slipping off or tipping over. If you want to protect your walls from a storm or disaster, it’s a good idea to anchor all of your wall decor—think bookshelves, television, floating shelves, and artwork—to the walls.

While wall anchors come in different shapes and sizes, they’re designed to give your walls some reinforcement to ensure they can hold all the weight you decide to hang on or place against them. And, yes, you can even use anchors on less conventional wall materials such as brick. While anchors are an effective way to secure your belongings, it’s not a one-size-fits-all situation. For a flatscreen TV, you might want to use a bracket anchor. But a shelf full of books would probably be best with some sort of nylon strapping to keep it in place.

Practical Placement

Just because you live in a disaster-prone region doesn’t mean you can’t have a great shelfie—you just have to be a little strategic about how you place your items. A poorly assembled bookshelf can be vulnerable to breaking in the midst of a disaster, and all of your belongings will fall right down with it. In order to minimize damage, place heavier items at the bottom of your shelf. That way, in the event that your bookshelf breaks, your bulky speaker won’t crush, say, your grandmother’s vase.

Or, if you’re working with sturdy built-ins, go ahead and secure your valuables with museum putty. It’s a tacky substance that holds breakables in place and can be removed and reused, should you want to reposition anything you use it on.

Look for Latches

Sure, cabinets might seem like a safe place to stow all your stuff, but what happens if they swing open mid-quake, allowing all your dinnerware and other items to crash on the ground?

Well, it’s time to call in some reinforcements—literally. If you’re looking for some peace of mind—especially when you’re at work or on vacation—a latch guard will ensure that your cabinet doors are closed and stay that way. Stock up on these guys and add them to any cupboard that has anything valuable in it.

Worry-Free Windows

Let’s be honest: Broken windows can do a lot more than cramp your space’s curb appeal. Not only can they be a pain in the neck to replace, but they can also expose that nice suede armchair or sheepskin throw to unwanted moisture. That’s where safety window film comes in. While window film won’t make your windows or glass doors shatter-resistant, users report that it can bolster your windows in the event of a disaster and make clean-up easier, should windows break. It also provides protection against flying glass in natural disasters. As a side bonus, safety film is also said to make your home a little more secure from smash-and-grab burglaries.

Lock Your Lights in Place

Sia might want to swing from a chandelier, but a flying light fixture can cause some serious damage if a disaster strikes. However, it is possible to have lighting that’s equal parts secure and stylish. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the secret is to connect your fancy fixture to the ceiling with a gauge wire. The extra support will ensure your lighting fixture stays put if your home starts to shake. That said, it’s important to understand that different types of light fixtures will require different types of gauge wires. Before you try your luck with this DIY reinforcement project, consult your nearby hardware store for the right solution for your fixtures.

These four tips have given me a plan of action for peace of mind should an earthquake occur. Am I leaving anything out? What have you done to disaster-proof your home decor?