Minimize Earthquake Damage to your Home

Residents of coastal British Columbia will probably experience a moderate-to-strong earthquake at some point during their lifetime; a scary thought, indeed! We often think of ground shaking as the major source of earthquake damage, but the secondary effects, such as landslides, liquefaction, flooding and fire also cause significant damage to property. How will your home withstand an earthquake? Three simple steps to prepare now can significantly minimize earthquake damage to your home if and when The Big One hits so that you can take shelter there until services are restored.

1. The house foundation is properly secured.

Since 1973 builders have been required to bolt the house to its concrete foundation and to ensure that exterior walls are properly braced to prevent racking (twisting) of the house during an earthquake. In some older homes there is a short stud wall, also called a cripple wall, between the first floor and the foundation that is a common point of failure in a seismic event. Turning these short walls into a shear wall will reduce the risk of collapse. If you are unsure of the condition of the house foundation it is a good idea to have a home inspector identify what areas need to be improved for earthquake safety.

2. The hot water tank is secured with a seismic support strap.

Gas, electricity and water supply lines may be damaged during an earthquake. Secure the Hot Water tank to help prevent gas leaks, water line damage and flooding, keeping in mind that water stored in the tank is safe for drinking in the event that services to the home are damaged. In addition to inspecting these items for earthquake preparedness a building inspection will determine the current condition of the gas, electrical and water lines in your home in case repairs are needed

3. The on-off positions for the main water and electrical shut-off’s are clearly labelled.

Make sure every responsible member of your household knows the locations for the main Water and Electrical shut-offs and how to operate them. If you have Natural Gas check that the shut-off wrench is located near the meter so that the gas can be turned off if there is a leak or fire. If the gas is turned off, do not turn it on again. This must be done by a qualified professional.

How do you determine the seismic adequacy of your home?

There are companies that exclusively specialize in retrofitting your home to make it more stable but typically these upgrades are included in larger construction or renovation projects. Seismic upgrading costs will vary depending on the complexity of the project and access to the structural components.

In an earthquake the goals are simple; stay safe, minimize damage to your property, and be prepared to survive for at least 72 hours without help. Seismologists say, the best possible protection is a well braced and anchored home. Take action now to prepare your home for when you need it most.

Contact Us to get a home inspection to help you to determine if your house meets current standards so that in case of an earthquake you can minimize damage and be prepared.

For more information on Earthquake Preparedness follow these links:

Natural Resources Canada – Reducing Earthquake Damage to your Home

Government of Canada – Earthquakes – What to do?