Prepare Your Home for the Next CA Earthquake

Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose, and the 8.1 magnitude earthquake in Mexico followed by Hurricane Katia are tragic, albeit urgent, reminders of the importance of preparation before a natural disaster.

Though Hurricanes are not a threat to Californians, we all know that the San Francisco Bay Area sits warmly in Earthquake Country. Unlike hurricanes, there is no way to predict an earthquake well prior to its occurrence, making all the more important since you can’t predict when and where a seismic event will occur.

Photo: CIR online, Flickr, Creative Commons

For California homeowners, it’s an absolute imperative to invest in protecting your home from seismic activities. In addition to preserving your property and dodging devastating financial burdens, you have peace of mind knowing that you’re safer. Here are some things you can do to be a little more ahead of the game come The Big One:

1. Assess the earthquake risks of your area

California is earthquake country (not just wine country, it turns out). This means that most residents live within 30 miles of a fault line. Each county presents difference risks, so be sure to read up on your particular area by checking out this map of fault lines and earthquakes.

The San Andrea Fault in The Carrizo Plain. Photo: Bureau of Land Management

2. Get a policy

Risks vary depending on your property. Whether you own a house, mobile home, condo unit, or you rent, it is important to consider an insurance policy for your property to help you recover the losses from earthquake damage. California Earthquake Authority has policies for all budgets and needs: check out their premier calculator to get started.

3. Retrofit your home

Investing in a retrofit is worth the money for handfuls of reasons, especially for older properties. You’ll receive a discount on your insurance premium. You’ll increase the value of your property. You’ll avoid costly damages–and wee mean costly: a $4,000 retrofit can save you from $400,000 worth of damages if your home slides off its foundation. Check this link for important information.

Damage from the 6.0 magnitude earthquake in Napa August 24, 2014. Photo: Hitchster

4. Secure your space with these easy steps.

Take a good, close look at your house and identify all the possible hazards. This might be the easiest step in prepping your home, and the small effort will go a long way in protecting your home, belongings, and personal safety.

  • Check your bed area. Make sure there is nothing that could fall on you while sleeping. Rearrange shelves, drawers, lamps, and frames so that they will not fall on you.
  • Brace overhead lamp fixtures, water heater, refrigerator, furnace, microwave (yeah, people have died from fallen microwaves during earthquakes), television, and other heavy objects.
  • Place heavy objects on lower shelves, not the top.
  • Latch your cabinets.
    Photo: CIR online

5. Secure you home by going a few steps further.

While the above list provides suggestions of easy, cost-free actions to secure your home, there are more things to do if you want to be an overachiever. Note: unless you’re a licensed professional, it is not recommended that you perform these tasks yourself!

  • If recommended by your gas company, have an automatic gas shutoff valve installed that is triggered by strong vibrations.
  • Install flexible pipe fittings that are more resistant to breakage to avoid gas or water leaks.
  • Repair any deep cracks in ceilings or foundations; if there are any signs of structural defects, get expert advice.
  • Repair defective electrical wiring and leaky gas connections. (These are potential fire risks, that require appropriate professional help: do not work with gas or electrical lines yourself.)
  • Got a big brick chimney? Get rid of it. Or modify it so it’s reinforced and more secure. Masonry chimneys pose an incredible risk, as evidenced by the Loma Prieta earthquake.
  • Seal your windows so they stay in place during a shake. This can prevent windows from shattering. If they do shatter, the glass will stay in one place instead of shattering all over the floor.

This guide is intended to help you secure your property to help prevent and reduce damage to your home. Saving lives and protecting yourself is a the central benefit of preparing your home for an earthquake, but the financial consequences of leaving your home unprotected require serious consideration.

For more information, click here to check out the California Earthquake Authority’s website. And of course, don’t forget to drop, cover, and hold!