How to protect your home from earthquake damage

How to protect your home from earthquake damage

Your emergency plan should include what the family will do in the event of an earthquake. The plan should include the location of a safe place to seek shelter in every room of the house or apartment, perhaps under a sturdy table or desk, and away from windows or tall objects that may topple over. If you are buying a house, have it evaluated by an architect or building engineer for its ability to withstand an earthquake.

Most existing houses can be reinforced to be more earthquake resistant. Hire an architect or builder to estimate the cost of implementing necessary measures to make the house more resistant to quakes. The foundation’s wooden sill plate should be anchored with bolts to the concrete foundation. Crippled walls or wood foundations should be reinforced with sheathing plywood or backing blocks.

If you have a room built over a garage, the wide span of the garage door is a structural weak spot and can collapse during a quake. Plywood panels can brace wood-frame walls against quake stresses. Using drywall screws, install plywood sheathing inside the garage on the walls next to the door opening.

Additions such as porches, balconies, or overhangs should be inspected for adequate support and proper attachment to the house. Inspect slate or tile roofs to be sure they’re in good shape and consider lighter roofing material such as asphalt shingles if you are building or remodeling. Chimneys—especially those on houses built before 1934—should be checked by a structural engineer for weakness. Remove any dead tree limbs that are near the house and could fall on it during an earthquake.

Another important thing to consider is the protection of your family and property inside the home should a quake occur.

After an earthquake

After establishing that you are uninjured, don heavy pants and a long-sleeved shirt as well as sensible shoes to protect yourself from further injury. Extinguish any small fires or call 911 for a fire emergency. Do not turn the gas main off unless you smell gas or think there may be a leak. Clean up any toxic or chemical products, gasoline, or other flammables. Take care when opening closet or cabinet doors since the contents may have shifted. Make a quick inspection of your home for damage and evacuate everyone if you deem it unsafe. Look for weaknesses in walls, ceilings, floors, staircases, and windows. Check the gas, electrical, and plumbing systems for breakage or leaking. Stay away from downed power or broken gas lines. Try to get an update on local emergency conditions and instructions by listening to a battery-operated radio or television. Don’t use kerosene lanterns, candles, or matches, and avoid smoking since there may be flammable gases trapped inside the home. (flashlights or battery-operated lanterns are fine) Keep telephone lines clear; use them only for life-threatening emergencies. Photograph your home’s damage for insurance purposes.

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