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Is your home earthquake-ready?

Jill Overmyer

Earthquakes can be extremely destructive and pose an ever-present threat for those living in certain areas. Fortunately, there are a number of effective precautions that home owners can take to limit damages and losses.

Protecting possessions

Securing unattached objects is the simplest and least expensive place to start when preparing your home for an earthquake. Some of the major things to secure include:

  • Cabinets and bookcases. The Institute for Business and Home Safety IBHS) recommends using brackets or straps to secure them to the wall and installing latches on cabinet doors to help prevent contents from falling out. To prevent injuries from falling objects, install ledge barriers on shelves, and store heavy items on bottom shelves.
  • Large appliances. These should be securely anchored to nearby walls using seismic appliance straps. This is especially true for items like water heaters, which are connected to water and gas lines, according to IBHS.
  • Electronic appliances. Things like televisions, microwaves and sound systems should be secured to surface tops using nylon straps and buckles to prevent them from toppling and breaking.
  • Hanging objects. Secure loosely hanging light fixtures and suspended ceilings using chain straps or wire minimum 14-gauge, according to IBHS).

Protecting the structure

Many homes are not structurally enforced against earthquakes. Although methods for reinforcing your home can be expensive, they may prevent much of the damage associated with an earthquake:

  • Add anchor bolts or steel plates to attach the home’s frame to the foundation, according to IBHS.
  • Strengthen your home’s cripple wall the short stud wall between the top of the foundation and the first floor). This can be done relatively inexpensively, according to the Southern California Earthquake Center.
  • Anchor your first-floor walls to corner studs and the flooring system.
  • Strengthen the connection between the roof and the top-floor walls.

You can do some of these retrofits yourself. However, it is always a good idea to consult a professional to make sure you’re getting the maximum benefit.

Earthquake insurance

While the water and fire damage that may occur during an earthquake are covered by standard home insurance, damage to your possessions and your home’s structure are not, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Earthquake insurance is available to homeowners as an endorsement to their home insurance policy. In California, homeowners can purchase coverage through the California Earthquake Authority. Deductibles range from 2 percent to 20 percent of your home’s replacement cost and are naturally higher in earthquake-prone areas.

While there’s no way of telling when an earthquake will hit, getting the proper home insurance coverage — as well taking the initiative to safeguard your home and possessions — can get your home earthquake-ready.

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