How to Prepare Your Home for an Earthquake

Jul 22, 2021

Today we go over the essential steps you should take to ready your home for an earthquake. There are several things you should do to prepare your home for an earthquake now! Even if your home has been through earthquakes in the past, you should assess the readiness of your home for more intense shaking. The first thing you want to do is determine the inherent risk to your home. You should begin with asking yourself some questions about your home. When was your house built? What type of soil is your home built upon? Was the home built with seismic building codes? If your house was built prior to the 1980s you can bet that your home was built without seismic building codes. Prior to roughly the 80s, homes in the Pacific Northwest were built without connecting the frame to the foundation. Builders relied upon gravity to keep the homes in place, and it does a great job, until the earth starts shifting and shaking. You have probably seen homes that shifted off their foundations from earthquakes that have occurred in California like this image here. Note that the home has not collapsed and would be safe to be within in an earthquake. However, it is no longer safe to live within and you still have a mortgage to pay. So, you may want to invest in hiring a seismic contractor or learning how to Do it Yourself. You should also investigate what type of soil your home is built upon. According to the USGS, Liquefaction takes place when loosely packed, water-logged sediments at or near the ground surface lose their strength in response to strong ground shaking. Liquefaction occurring beneath buildings and other structures can cause major damage during earthquakes. The City of Seattle has an interactive liquefaction map that you can enter a specific address or an area. For example, you could enter in the neighborhood of Montlake, Seattle and it will generate a map that shows the areas with low and high risk for liquefaction. We will provide a link to the interactive map in the YouTube description. If you home is in an area of concern, then you should absolutely look into a seismic retrofit, if you are in need. Now let’s move inside of your home. When the earth is steady things tend to stay in place, however when the earth starts shaking tall pieces of furniture can fall over, heavy furniture can shift possibly blocking egress, and objects can become flying projectiles. Therefore, we recommend that you conduct a hazard hunt in your home to identify and mitigate those items that could injure a loved one, damage your property or destroy something of value. Go room by room and identify those items. Anything that is six feet or taller should be secured to the studs within the walls. If you have small children drop that height to 4 feet. Secure your televisions, kitchen cabinets, water heater, and large appliances. For your picture frames, you may want to consider replacing any glass with plexiglass and using a seismic hanger that will prevent the pictures from jumping off the hooks. You may also want to consider the placement of window safety film to prevent windows, sliding glass doors, and shower doors from shattering and creating another hazard. Next you should again go room by room and identify the safe areas for an earthquake response. Preferably you want to aim for a safe space that will protect you from falling objects like a sturdy table or desk. If none is available, then an interior wall away from windows and other objects would work. Crouch down to the ground and cover you head and neck with your arms. Afterwards, educate your loved ones on where to go if the earth starts shaking room by room. Note, you should stay in your home and only leave it afterwards, if it is unsafe to remain inside due to a fire or gas leak. Conduct a drill with your family at least once a year, twice would be even better. Everyone in your family should also know where the main shut-off valves are for the electricity, water, and gas supply. Teach everyone how to shut off the utilities and remember to only shut off the gas if you suspect there is a leak after an earthquake. Remember, that the steps you take now could result in a cost savings of somewhere between $4-$6 dollars when compared to recovery costs. Good luck and let us know how it goes.