Earthquakes have been part of the national conversation lately – with dire premonitions in The New Yorker, disaster movies at the box office and the rise of potentiallyman-made earthquakes. So when a 4.0 Bay Area earthquake jolted the Relola office awake on Monday morning it seemed like an apt time to discuss various ways you can prepare for an earthquake inevitability. Don’t fret – a lot of these solutions are simple improvements that won’t break the bank.
1. Build a Disaster Kit
This holds true for any disaster – not just earthquakes. FEMA recommends having enough food, water and supplies to sustain every member of your household for 72 hours if needed. In addition the kit should be readily accessible and packaged to go if you need to leave your home for whatever reason. Items to include are a first aid kit, flashlight, can opener and battery powered radio.
2. Add Shear Walls
Depending on your region and the age of your home shear walls may already be required and in place. If not, creating a braced panel across the studs of your exterior walls can significantly improve your homes seismic stability. If you have an older (especially wood-frame home) you might want to make a trip to the basement or crawl space and examine your home’s corners where they meet the foundation. If no shear walls are in place this easy addition could help generate some peace of mind.
3. Install an Earthquake Gas Shutoff Valve
As the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake demonstrated – while an earthquake may cause an initial burst of damage, aftermaths such as fires are perhaps most dangerous. Modern infrastructure (much of it designed specifically to prevent such reoccurrences of past failures) is much better suited to cope with a post-earthquake fire but one simple addition to your home – an automatic gas shutoff valve – can give you added insurance that a gas leak won’t begin in the case of a severe earthquake. A shutoff valve should be installed only by a certified plumber and remember, gas should only be turned back on once an inspection has been conducted by a utility employee.
4. Check Your Foundation
If your home is more than 50 years old it’s worth taking a good look at your foundation. A consultation with a structural engineer could save you a lot of hassle and rebuilding down the road. While expensive, re-doing a home’s foundation and bolting it in place will improve your homes desirability, stability and resale value. You could even use the occasion to expand basement areas creating new usable storage or living spaces.
5. Museum Putty and Straps/Braces
If you live in an area that is especially prone to earthquakes it makes sense to invest in earthquake straps. Unless your TV is mounted via a wall bracket it could topple – and this is easily avoidable. Use products like museum putty for anything freestanding and fragile such as vases or china. If your water heater is not currently braced – that one’s a must. Most building codes in earthquake country require it!
We may not be able to predict earthquakes but that doesn’t mean their occurrence isn’t predictable. At some point or another many homeowners along fault lines will experience a tremor or two but don’t fret. With these simple suggestions you can go far in shoring up your home’s strength and your family’s safety.