Of course, no one is ever really prepared. Earthquakes are always a surprise. But they do happen and quite possibly sooner than you think.
We are pretty fortunate to live in a country that has strict enforcement of its building codes. Those building codes are constantly improving the safety of the building occupant. Unfortunately, the items that are part of the building codes and inspected by the building inspectors relating to the structure of the building, cannot be seen once the home is built.
All of the structural components that help make the house or building stronger in order to endure the most earth-shaking quakes are on the ground, in concrete, and part of the framing. Let’s just say that the newer the building, the stronger it is due to the more stringent building codes and enforcement. It is also true that single story homes are less damaged from earthquakes than two story homes. So what can you do? Sell your home and go buy a new single story home? If that is not practical, the next best thing is to say your prayers before you go to bed and secure everything in the home that can tip over.
There is plenty you can do to minimize the impact on you and your family. I am not going to discuss all the things in this article, but I will attempt to get you started. First of all, the most prevalent thing I noticed in homes after the January 17, 1994, earthquake was the number of masonry chimneys that went down. We lost one ourselves. If you have a masonry chimney, replace it!
The second thing I noticed was the number of windows that were broken. I have replaced thousands of windows since then with new, vinyl windows, and not the retrofit ones either. I don’t believe in the retrofit windows so refuse to install them. We will see if the new dual-glazed vinyl windows are more yielding then the old single-glazed aluminum ones after the next earthquake. One thing for sure, I am taking bets that the retrofits will have leaks after the house gets a good shaking.
Lastly, the number one thing you can do is make sure that the refrigerator, chest of drawers, china hutches and any other tall cabinets are secured to studs inside the wall. Also, the water heater should be secured. Heavy pictures, loose items on shelves near beds and couches were we spend a lot of time should be also be secured. These last few items are easy fixes, so go ahead and get prepared!