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How Safe is Your Home from an Earthquake?
Shocking Truths Revealed

How Safe is Your Home from an Earthquake?
Shocking Truths Revealed

By The Louie Ortiz Group

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In Southern California, the question isn’t if an earthquake will occur, but when. With the San Andreas Fault and several other fault lines active in the region, earthquakes are a significant and ever-present risk. Ensuring your home is prepared for such an event is not just about safeguarding your property; it’s crucial for the safety and well-being of your family. Here are some vital steps and quick fixes you can implement to make your home more resilient against earthquakes.

Understanding the Risk

Before diving into earthquake preparedness, it’s important to recognize the scope of the threat. According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), Southern California experiences about 10,000 earthquakes each year, though most are too small to be felt. The big ones, however, can be devastating. The 1994 Northridge earthquake, for example, registered a magnitude of 6.7, caused up to $50 billion in damage, and resulted in the loss of 60 lives, highlighting the destructive potential of seismic events in this region.

Foundation Bolting

One of the first steps in earthquake-proofing your home is to secure the foundation. Many older homes are not bolted to their foundations, allowing them to slide off during an earthquake. Foundation bolting involves attaching the house to its concrete foundation with steel bolts, which can prevent displacement. This process typically costs between $3,000 and $7,000, but it significantly reduces the risk of major structural damage during a quake.

Securing Water Heaters

Water heaters can tip over during earthquakes, causing water and gas leaks that can lead to significant damage and safety hazards. Strapping your water heater to wall studs can prevent tipping and is a relatively simple and inexpensive fix. Kits are available at most hardware stores, and local building codes often specify the precise requirements for proper strapping.

Flexible Gas Lines

TGas leaks are a common cause of fire following an earthquake. Installing flexible gas lines can help prevent these leaks, as they are less likely to break than rigid piping during shaking. Ensure a professional performs this installation to meet local safety codes and ensure effectiveness.

Reinforcing Cripple Walls

Cripple walls, the short walls that sit between the foundation and the first floor of many older homes, can collapse during an earthquake if they are not properly reinforced. This can lead to the home sliding off its foundation. Strengthening these walls with plywood sheathing is a critical fix that can prevent such damage. This process, known as a “cripple wall bracing,” typically costs between $5,000 and $10,000 but is a vital safeguard for your home’s integrity.

Securing Large Furniture and Appliances

During earthquakes, unsecured furniture and appliances can move, causing injury and blocking escape routes. Securing tall, heavy furniture to wall studs with flexible fasteners, and using appliance straps for major appliances like refrigerators, can help keep your home safer. Additionally, installing latches on kitchen cabinets can prevent contents from spilling out during a quake.

Emergency Preparedness Kit

Having an emergency preparedness kit is essential. Your kit should include:

  • Water (one gallon per person per day for at least three days)
  • Food (at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food)
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust mask, to help filter contaminated air
  • Plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter in place
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags, and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Manual can opener for food
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers, and a backup battery

List of Southern California Earthquake Resources

These resources offer a combination of practical guidance for securing homes against earthquakes and up-to-date seismic data to help homeowners make informed decisions about their properties in earthquake-prone areas.
  1. United States Geological Survey (USGS): Provides up-to-date information on earthquakes, including maps, data, and educational resources about earthquake preparedness. Their website is a primary source for real-time earthquake monitoring.  Website: USGS Earthquake Hazards Program
  2. California Earthquake Authority (CEA): Offers earthquake insurance and comprehensive information on earthquake preparedness for homeowners. The CEA provides guidelines on how to reduce damage and financial loss from earthquakes. Website: California Earthquake Authority
  3. Earthquake Country Alliance: A partnership of organizations that work together to improve earthquake preparedness. They offer resources for securing your home, creating disaster plans, and understanding seismic risks. Website: Earthquake Country Alliance
  4.  Ready.gov: Managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Ready.gov provides tips on earthquake preparedness, including what to do before, during, and after an earthquake. They offer planning advice specific to homes and families. Website: Ready.gov – Earthquakes
  5. Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC): Focuses on earthquake education and research. SCEC offers resources for homeowners to understand the seismic risks specific to Southern California and provides tools for earthquake preparedness. Website: Southern California Earthquake Center
  6. American Red Cross: Offers guidance and workshops on disaster preparedness, including specific advice on earthquakes. They also provide emergency kit checklists and plans for family safety. Website: American Red Cross – Earthquake Preparedness

Summary

The reality of living in Southern California is that earthquakes are part of life. While we cannot predict when the next big quake will strike, taking proactive steps to ensure your home is earthquake-ready can mitigate risks and provide peace of mind.
These adjustments not only protect your property investment but, more importantly, can save lives. Remember, the cost of prevention pales in comparison to the potential costs of recovery and repair after a significant seismic event. Start with these quick fixes today and consult with a structural engineer or a seismic retrofit professional to thoroughly assess and improve your home’s earthquake readiness.

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