Flat Panel TV Earthquake Safety

By David Lipscomb

Securing a flat panel TV in earthquake-prone areas is a good safety idea.
i Plasma panel image by Nikolay Okhitin from Fotolia.com

Anything that can cause damage or injury should be secured in earthquake-prone areas. This includes flat-panel televisions, and with some units weighing more than 150 pounds, the danger of an accident if someone is underneath the unit is ever-present. Whether the television is wall-mounted or on top of a flat surface, preventative steps are prudent.

Planning Ahead

Because there is little time to do anything when an earthquake strikes to secure falling or swaying objects, the key is to take steps in advance to minimize personal and property injury. Items that should be on hand for securing the television include 1-inch nylon strapping (available typically in a roll at a hardware store), 4-inch lag bolts, and smaller screws or bolts to attach the strapping to the rear of the set. The strapping should be fairly rigid--enough to hold a bolt and washer under stress. Typically, straps show weight and tension ratings on the packaging. Tools should include screwdrivers and a socket wrench and its inserts.

Stand Mounting

Attaching a flat panel to the wall via the 1-inch nylon straps is easily done for stand-mounted displays. By using an appropriate-sized bolt (commonly affixed to the rear of the set and typically used to attach a wall mount), the set can be secured to a stud. Flat-panel sets already have threaded inserts for these bolts, typically for attaching a wall bracket. The sets usually have the bolt size noted on the rear of the TV next to the threaded opening; jot this down prior to heading to the hardware store. On occasion, there is a bolt pre-inserted into the threaded opening. Use a 4-inch lag bolt on the stud-side of the strap. The weight of the flat panel adds security for the furniture underneath as well by this strapping method.

Wall Mounting

Although wall mounts are inherently secure given their attachment to studs, the strap itself should be attached to one of the studs used to affix the wall bracket. A single stud is needed for the strap, since it will not be bearing weight (if the wall fails, anything attached to it will fall as well). The strap largely keeps the set from swaying or "bouncing" unnecessarily, reducing the possibility of the set coming off the wall. Most wall mounts have a spare screw hole near the level adjustment screw on the rear of the bracket, and following the same method with a thick nylon strap and 4-inch lag bolt, the entire assembly (TV included) can be secured as much as possible. Good wall mounts are steel brackets that are typically rated to support roughly 1 1/2 times the max load bearing rate. These mounts are commercially available and are chosen based on weight rating of the television. Components of these mounts include a reverse bracket (the portion that attaches to the TV) and the wall plate. The reverse bracket hangs on the wall plate and is further secured by anti-slide plates (preventing lateral shift) and adjustment screws.


Anyone living along the "Ring of Fire" (the section including the west coast of the United States and most of the Pacific island region) should pay special heed. This area has been (and continues to be) extremely active due to the Pacific plate sliding under the North American plate. This area remains the most active tectonic region on the planet.

Warnings and Other Considerations

When mounting a bracket or attaching a strap, it is imperative that a wall stud is accessed with the mounting bolts. Locate at least two studs with a stud finder and use at least four 4-inch lag bolts to attach the bracket (and strap) to the studs. This is an enormously secure method, limited only by the shear rating of the bolts and the structural integrity of the wall itself. This method is also useful in preventing the set from falling if bumped or grabbed inadvertently. Also, choosing the appropriate location is important. If the bracket causes the set to hang off the wall more a few inches (which swivel-and-angle brackets do), is the set in a traffic pattern? Keep everyday use in mind when choosing a mounting location. Furniture for use as a TV stand should come under extra scrutiny in terms of structural quality. Very often, thinner console tables are used as flat-panel stands, given their thin depth. Typically however, these tables are used to hold things like candles and picture frames, not 150-pound televisions. Closely examine the build--are there strength-enhancing features like dadoes and dovetails, or is the unit using cheaper cam locks?