Yes, You Can Have Pendant Chandeliers In Quake Country

A chandelier is such an elegant form of lighting. Even modern, minimalist, one-light pendant chandeliers add a sleek, subdued air to a room, directing your focus to the table or artwork underneath the beam of the light. However, if you live in a quake-prone area like the West Coast, the Wasatch Front, or even Oklahoma, which is now experiencing stronger quakes, you might think a hanging light is no longer an option. That's not quite true. You do have to take precautions when choosing and hanging the light, but there are ways to install new or retrofit old pendant lights so that they are less prone to causing damage in a quake.

Risk of Falling

One of the issues with hanging lights of any type is that they're typically held to the ceiling at one measly point. In a quake that's strong enough to make the light sway. That motion can loosen the connection point and make the light fall. This was a problem experienced in the Northridge quake in 1994, when many pendant lights fell in schools due to the shaking.

Pendant lights must be secured at additional points to the ceiling itself. If you attach the light to a suspension system -- think of those older chandeliers where the light hung from a chain suspended in hooks, so the hooks were in the ceiling but the light itself was not -- you introduce more weak points where the weight of a swinging, shaking light can yank the suspension system out of the ceiling. Also install a safety cable connected to the light and ceiling that is rated as being able to support much more than just the weight of the light.

Risk of Crashing Into Each Other

Some pendant lights are part of an array, where you might have a few single lights all lined up. In a quake, these lights could hit each other, breaking the shades and bulbs and showering glass on the space below. This is one situation where you shouldn't have freely swinging lights, like the aforementioned chain example. Any multi-pendant light setups like these need to be securely affixed to the ceiling and have stiffer necks that won't let the lights swing into each other. These will also need those safety cables, too.

One more thing to note is that you may find parts of the lamps that are connected to open-eye hooks. Switch these hooks out for closed-eye hooks. That prevents the part from swinging off the open-eye hook and falling in a violent quake.

Strength and stability are going to help you make those pendant lights safer. Contact lighting companies based in the area -- for Oklahoma, which is just now learning to deal with bigger quakes, you may want to contact your city's environmental safety department, too -- to get more advice on bracing a pendant light to survive in a quake.