Earthquake Proofing: What You Need to Know
by Michael Lam | Aug 26, 2015
Earthquakes are among the most destructive natural events threatening homeowners across the globe. According to the Insurance Information Institute, earthquakes put both buildings and lives at risk with damages as high as $50 billion. For homeowners, an impending earthquake threatens the integrity of a home and the safety of lives within it.
The Prevalence of Earthquakes
In the United States, earthquakes are thought of as a “once in a while” threat that cannot be prevented. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. As Tom Brocher, a scientist from the U.S. Geological Survey, pointed out, the potential for powerful, destructive earthquakes is always present despite the presence of recent seismic activity such as the major earthquak in Nepal on April 2015.
The Hayward fault in California’s bay area is a great example. Despite relative dormancy since 1868, the Hayward fault line’s average 140-year gap between significant events indicates a major earthquake could commence at any time. Experts in seismic activity understand that loss of life is not directly caused by earthquakes; instead, earthquakes are responsible for compromising the stability of structures, which then puts lives at risk.
Learn how earthquake proofing can protect a home’s integrity and prevent loss of life in the event of a natural catastrophe.
Earthquake Proofing Basics
According to OSHA, earthquakes create multiple hazards that threaten human life, including exposure to sharp objects, gas and water leaks, falling debris, and unsafe electrical currents. Earthquake proofing a home first requires a detailed inspection of home hazards, such as the following:
- Moveable objects
- Glass and windows
- Large appliances
- Roof and chimney integrity
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides practical tips for securing and reinforcing hazards in the home designed to limit property damage and avoid personal injury. Though working with a contractor is a cost effective method of performing home earthquake proofing, there are many preventative steps that can be performed without professional assistance.
Damage Prevention Techniques (DIY)
Preparing for an earthquake now by securing your home and belongings is the best way to avoid loss of property and life. There are three key areas of earthquake proofing you should explore before the next earthquake hits.
Moisture in the soil can affect the stability of your home’s foundation, which further compromises the integrity of your structure should an earthquake hit your area. Cleaning rain gutters and evaluating the state of pooled water on your property is the best way to prevent the accumulation of moisture that threatens your foundation.
As outlined by HGTV, foundation grading uses soil, wood, and piping to lead rainwater away from a foundation, which can prevent rot and retain the foundation’s integrity.
The process of retrofitting involves the addition of supportive materials to your home’s foundation which, in the event of an earthquake, can help secure your home’s position and prevent damage. The type of foundation you have and when it was installed will determine how should retrofit your structure.
- Poured perimeter foundations. The least expensive of retrofitting projects, securing a poured perimeter foundation usually consists of adding steel anchor plates, from Simpson Strong-Tie , and bolts to the existing structure.
- Post and pier foundations. When homes are built with this type of foundation, braces can be used to support and reinforce the posts.
- Unreinforced masonry foundations. Not recommended for DIY retrofitting, unreinforced foundations should be inspected by a building professional to determine the best course of action.
Anchoring & Bracing
From large appliances to fragile valuables, anchoring and bracing items in your home can prevent destruction during an earthquake. Small objects like framed pictures, vases, and glassware can be secured using museum putty, from The Home Depot , which prevents movement and breakage.
Large appliances and structures, like refrigerators or book cases, should be braced and fastened to wall studs using flexible fasteners and tie kits, from The Home Depot. For water heaters, a combination of plumber’s tape and braces can keep it securely in place in the event of an earthquake. A relatively easy preparation technique, securing a water heater requires only a few tools and materials readily available at home improvement stores.
Protect Your Property from Earthquakes
Investing time and resources to protect your home from earthquake-related damage is well worth the effort, as the onset of severe seismic activity cannot be predicted. Before an earthquake starts, make sure your investment is properly protected.
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