Preparing Your Laboratory for an Earthquake


Part of keeping your laboratory safe is ensuring it is prepared for an earthquake or other natural disaster. Here are some best practices for protecting yourself and others in this potential scenario.

Protect Your Exit Way
Tall or heavy equipment near your laboratory exit could tip over and block it during an earthquake, so take action now to prevent this:

  • Secure equipment in corridors as outlined in the Corridor Safety Focus Sheet. A general rule of thumb is to secure any item 4 feet or taller that has a height to (smallest) base dimension ratio of 2.5.
  • Look at shelving units, equipment racks, and file cabinets taller than 4 feet, and distillation units, gas cylinders, and cryogenic dewars.
  • Contact UW Facilities to get an estimate for adding anchors to secure these items to the wall or floor.

Prevent Injury and Protect Equipment

  • Store other large, heavy, and hazardous chemicals (such as corrosives) as low as possible and below head level.
  • Store chemicals and hazardous materials in closed cabinets or on shelves with lips.
  • Secure compressed gas using two chains or straps. While one strap or chain meets the minimum requirement of the fire code, two straps or chains located at 1/3 and 2/3 of the cylinder height above the floor will perform better in an earthquake. For more information, see the Compressed Gases/Cryogenic Fluids web page.
  • Secure expensive lab equipment with earthquake restraint systems.

For more information on laboratory emergency preparedness, see the UW Lab Safety Manual, Section 9. For specific assistance in personal preparedness for an earthquake in laboratories, please contact UW Emergency Management by email or call 206.897.8000.