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Earthquake! Threats to Your Home, Safety, and your Biggest Investment

June 1, 2009

Living in Southern California has many incredible lifestyle perks. The weather, creative people, and a steady stream of new things to see and do surely top my list.  Unfortunately, as with most things, these are balanced out by earthquakes, fires, and in many places, a higher crime rate. As a recent victim of a break in at my home, I can attest to this.

With all the things going on in our lives, how can you truly protect your home on a daily basis from the darker side of life? I highly recommend all of my clients take steps like activating an alarm system on their doors and windows.  This is a major deterrent for most burglars- a blaring alarm or a barking dog can scare off all but the most determined. But what if the danger is more insidious? This week we will examine some of the worst threats to your home, your family’s safety, and your biggest investment.

Earthquake:

Getting your home ready for an earthquake involves some effort. Recent rumblings have reminded me that it’s a sure thing to experience an earthquake if you live in Los Angeles. There are ways to be prepared for “the big one.” Find a corner or a closet in your home and begin to prep the most important elements of a survival kit, including a gallon of water, per family member, per day.  This is incredibly important!

Emergency organizations remind us that our water line from the tap could be contaminated from ruptured sewer lines, and undrinkable in the aftermath of an earthquake.  A two week supply is a great start.  You can use normal bottled water containers from the grocery store, but they tend to leak, so camping gear water containers are suggested for their size and true storage capacity.

Other important things to prepare include items for avoiding infection. A good First Aid kit, medicines, handy-wipes, and personal care items like shampoo, conditioner, toilet paper, tampons, and toothpaste will go very far in the event of a serious disaster, and could mean the difference between your family surviving comfortably in rough conditions long enough to get medical attention. Also consider prepping a small toolkit and clothing for everyone in the family, as well as blankets, diapers, glasses, and anything necessary to life for children and elderly family members.

For homes built before 1935, making sure the house has been properly bolted will protect your investment through shaky times. This is a job for a contractor. Securing large furniture, artwork, and water heaters to the walls can keep things from falling on you.  Another thing that may save your life is learning how to shut off your gas valve, water line, and electricity in case the lines are damaged.  We can help with all of this!

During an earthquake, remember to move as quickly as possible to interior walls and doorways, protecting your head and avoiding glass windows.  If you have more than one child, consider making a plan regarding which parent will secure which children if possible to avoid confusion.

In the aftermath of an earthquake of some magnitude, you should be prepared for aftershocks.  Immediately check to see if anyone is injured and might need first aid.  For your safety, you should also check on your gas appliances, water lines, and electrical lines.  This is where it really helps to know where your shut off valves are! Shut off anything that might have a leak and DO NOT use matches, or appliances with electrical switches, or light a cigarette until you have been cleared by the gas company or emergency services to do so.  Stay away from damaged buildings and broken glass. Knowing the closest fire, police, and medical assistance locations could save your life!

This is a good time to check on your pets, neighbors, and anyone in your near vicinity.  Experts warn against using your phone for anything but emergency calls at this point. Select a family member out of town for everyone to contact, because long distance phone services are often the first to be returned to working order.  Get to know your neighbors, and consider sharing equipment like backup generators and large tents in case of long term emergency.  Who knows… one might be a doctor or a nurse!

The first 72 hours after an earthquake of magnitude are the most critical. Things you assume are readily available and safe for use may be compromised! Spend a few hours preparing your home and family for the worst, and you will weather the storm in better condition than most.

We work with our clients to safeguard their homes against damage in case of emergency, and educate them about some of the most confusing and obscure systems in their house.  Do you know where YOUR gas shut off valve is? Sprinkler shut off? Give us a call and we can empower you to properly protect your domain.

A wonderful resource for more information is this site:http://www.mygreathome.com/safety/earthquake_preparedness/index.htm

LA Fire Department Earthquake Preparedness Handbook: http://www.lafd.org/eqhbtext.htm

Southern California Earthquake Data Center: http://www.data.scec.org/

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 2, 2009 4:32 am

    I have been a home inspector for 11+ years. We have inspected everything you can think of. I read and right a lot of blogs. I always find it funny how people forget to get a home inspection after an earthquake. Fire Places, Chimney, Gas and water pipes. They may all become damaged in even a small earthquake. All something to think about.

    • lauriemarch permalink*
      June 2, 2009 5:41 am

      Wonderful advice! So happy to see you representing home inspectors online and on twitter. There are things that the trained eye can detect that we miss all the time regarding our homes. How long after an earthquake should homeowners call you?

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