Whether you live in a state known for its quake faults, a state that is experiencing more shaking due to drilling, or a state that merely gets shaken when a quake happens in an adjacent region, you have to be aware of how that shaking can damage your home. That usually leads to people using quake putty and installing cabinet latches, but it also means you have to consider what to do about biohazards.

If you or another occupant in the home has a medical condition that requires using needles, and you have a sharps disposal box, you must secure that box so that it doesn't fall and break open in the event of a quake. And if it does open, it's best to have a biohazard cleanup company come in and clean the area in which the sharps landed. It's not just the needles that are a problem -- it's the potential for biohazards to transfer to nearby surfaces now that the needles have been exposed.

Fresh, and Not So Fresh

Sharps pose two risks. One is the fact that they are sharp and thin, and if something falls onto the sharps container and smashes it open, some of those needles could roll out and then under something else. You'd be at risk of stabbing yourself if you reached into that space or stepped on a needle.

The other risk is of transmission of a biohazardous substance. Freshly used sharps may still have wet blood on them, and depending on why you use the sharps, that blood could contain pathogens that could infect others in the household. But even old sharps can be dangerous because the pathogens on them may be able to live on surfaces for days or weeks. If those sharps hit the floor, carpet, or other furniture, and then you or another household member touches that area, you've just been exposed to a biohazard.

Post-Shaking Procedures

If there's been shaking and you see that the sharps container has fallen or been crushed, secure the room, first of all. Don't let people go into the room, especially children. If the room is an "open" one or a necessary one like the kitchen, you may have to block off only part, and then forbid people from walking into the area without shoes.

You can do a visual inspection to see if you can spot needles, but don't try cleaning the area if you know that the needles were exposed to infectious pathogens. Contact your doctor's office for instructions on picking up the loose needles safely, but also contact a biohazard cleanup service to clean the areas onto which the needles and other sharps fell. Let them know what pathogens are in play (e.g., if you have HIV, warn them), and let them give you the all-clear before you go back into that section of the house. You may want to continue to wear shoes with thick soles in the house for a while until you're sure that all loose sharps have been found.

No one wants to think about what can happen to a sharps container, but it's worth pondering now so you can place it correctly. Keep it away from heavy objects, and brace it, so it is less likely to fall over or fall off furniture. And keep the number of a biohazard cleanup service like CSI Cleaning Specialist Inc handy just in case.