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Earthquake Country – How to Prepare Your Home for an Earthquake

April 14, 2019 3 min read


The noun “earthquake” means: “a sudden and violent shaking of the ground, sometimes causing great destruction, as a result of movements within the earth’s crust or volcanic action” There are several states in the US that make up “earthquake country;” Hawaii, Illinois, California, Oregon, Alaska, Tennessee, Washington, Arkansas, Utah, Nevada, Montana, Missouri, Kentucky, and honorable mention goes to Oklahoma. Those who live in any of these areas need to be prepared for the destruction an earthquake can have on a home, office building, teepee, chicken coop… you get the point. Or do you? The point is: being prepared saves homes and more importantly - lives. Are you prepared? Whether you want to handle the work on your own or hire a contractor, you can avoid high-priced repairs. We’re talking thousands of dollars and that is if the repairs are even possible.

First thing’s first – Get earthquake insurance

The financial consequences of an earthquake can easily become dire. They can quickly expose existing home foundation problems and destroy them. Which leads us to the importance of taking the time to properly strengthen your homes foundation. Taking precaution with your home will also make it easier to sell in the long run. Start by checking with your local building department in order to get the current building codes. Older homes almost always require strengthening and the building department can tell you what is required to keep you and your home safe in your area. The building department may also be able to offer help with simple upgrades, often for free. If you have an unfinished basement, make sure to tackle earthquake strengthening before you finish closing off your walls.

Poured Perimeter Foundations

If your house is built upon poured concrete with few posts or beams, it is possible that your home is being held in place with only a few nails and gravity, which is no match for the force that comes along with an earthquake. Check your basement or crawl space for anchor bolts along the top of the sill plate and along the edge of the foundation. If there are none, you should consider installing them, which is easy to do.

Non-reinforced Masonry Foundations

This type of foundation allows for your home to sit on a perimeter made of concrete blocks that are filled with concrete and rebar. This type requires structural prepping as well, but if these blocks are not filled, you’ll definitely need structural advice from a licensed engineer. This can help you avoid paying astronomical costs in the event that your home does experience the wrath of an earthquake. You may discover that your home has a relatively stable foundation and that it simply requires a creative way to fasten it down for added stability. This can be as simple as adding drywall anchors and bolts into the sill plate of the foundation.

Slab Foundations

Homes that rest directly on a concrete slab or block require metal bolds and straps to tie the sill plate to the concrete. To check if your home is built this way you’ll need to remove a section of drywall in your garage. If sill plates are there you can assume the rest of your home has been built the same way. The good news about this type of home is that it most likely will not collapse, because it doesn’t have very far to fall.

Post-and-pier Foundations

Some homes are supported with concrete blocks or piers that rest upon upright posts. These posts are extremely vulnerable during an earthquake; they are susceptible to swaying movements and may collapse. Repairing collapsed posts is extremely expensive (10’s of thousands of dollars).

Making sure your home is prepared for an earthquake is not the only thing to consider; in the unfortunate event that your home doesn’t make it, do you have a backup shelter and enough emergency food and water to survive? Coordinating with family, friends, and neighbors can help make sure you have a place to stay and enough resources to survive. Others may lose their home and require shelter from you. Do you have the necessary means to provide for yourself and possibly others? Now is the time to make sure your storage is filled with all the disaster preparedness necessities.