Utah's Best Home Inspections! IXL Infrared Management 801/921-3150

We Perform Home Inspections and Commercial Infrared Surveys/ Residential and Commercial Properties, in the Provo, Orem, Spanish Fork, Lehi, Pleasant Grove and surrounding areas of Utah, Utilizing the Latest Infrared Thermal Imaging Technology.

Utah Home Inspections & Earthquake Preparedness

by Lance McKinney
Earthquakes are a serious threat to life and property. While the “dip slip” type of faults that we experience here in Uath are less destructive than the “transverse or strike slip” faults of the west coast, there are still plenty to reasons to be concerned. Catastrophic earthquakes are rare, but even  minor ones can cause substantial damage to residential and personal property. Preparation can go a long way towards putting at ease many of theses concerns.
Inspecting your home for earthquake preparedness, will assist in making you aware  of some common weaknesses to even minor  seismic activity. Homeowners significantly decrease the probability that their  homes will be adversely affected by a seismic event if these weak spots have  been identified and addressed before an earthquake strikes.

Facts and Figures

According to the Utah Geological Survey shows the many areas of concern in the state of Utah. FEMA shows 45 states and  territories in the United States are at moderate to very high risk for  earthquakes.

Damage resulting from earthquakes in the United States is estimated at $4.4  billion per year, according to a 2000 FEMA report.

Shaking ground accounts for 99% of earthquake-related damage to residences.  Other earthquake-related events, such as fault ruptures, liquefaction of soil,  dam failure, lateral spreading, landslide, and tsunami account for the remaining  1% of damage.

Potential Hazards

  • Natural gas connections may rupture or break during an earthquake, which, if  ignited by an errant spark or other catalyst, results in gas leaks, fire and/or  explosion.
  • Full water heaters typically weigh approximately 450 pounds. Unbraced water  heaters may fall over during an earthquake and rupture water, gas and/or  electrical connections, resulting in an electrical or fire hazard.
  • Homes that are not properly secured to their foundations or that do not have  sturdy foundations may break loose and cause gas connections to rupture and a  subsequent fire hazard. Older concrete foundations are at a higher risk because  the concrete may have already started to crumble and weaken over time. Homes  built on unreinforced concrete, brick or stone masonry foundations are also at a  higher risk.
  • Stud walls that are not properly braced for  horizontal movement may fail, causing a home to fall.
  • Homes that are built on steep slopes may collapse if the posts that support  them are not properly braced.
  • Walls that are constructed out of unreinforced clay, concrete, stone, adobe  or brick masonry may fail in an earthquake because the mortar that binds them  together is typically not strong enough to sustain seismic activity.
  • Rooms that are built over garages may collapse during an earthquake because  the strength of the walls in the vicinity of the opening of the garage door is  reduced.
    Room over a garage that has collapsed
  • Unreinforced masonry chimneys may collapse during an earthquake. The section  above the roofline is particularly at risk, and bricks may fall into the  home.
  • Heavy furniture, shelving and appliances that are not anchored may become  dislodged during an earthquake and can cause damage or injury, or can block an  emergency exit for occupants trying to escape.
  • Windows may shatter during an earthquake and can cause injury.
  • Toxic substances that are stored in breakable containers may spill during an  earthquake and cause a hazard to occupants.

Inspection

Home Owners may want to check for the following:

  • Any appliances in the home that run on natural gas should be securely  anchored to the floor or walls.
  • Water and gas pipes should be flexible to prevent ruptures and leaks.
  • If no automatic gas shutoff valve is installed, the manual gas shutoff valve  should be in a location that is accessible to occupants in the event that they  need to shut it off quickly.
  • Cement foundations should not be seriously cracked or crumbling.
  • Homes should be securely bolted to the foundation.
  • Wood stud floors supporting the first floor should be braced with plywood  panels nailed to the studs or diagonal wood sheathing.
  • Freestanding water heaters should be braced with steel plumber’s tape or  with metal straps attached to wall studs.
  • Braces or plywood panels should surround and reinforce garage doors that are  not in line with the rest of the house.
  • Masonry foundations and walls should be reinforced with anchor bolts and  steel.
  • Columns and walls that support homes on hillsides should be adequately  braced.
  • There should be sheet metal straps and angle bracing installed to hold the  unreinforced masonry chimney to the house. Plywood panels should be present at  the ceiling or roof to prevent bricks from falling into the home. Children’s’ play areas should be located away from the chimney.
  • Large appliances and furniture inside the home should be secured to the  walls or floor with flexible cable, braided wire or metal strapping.
  • Heavy objects or mirrors should be installed away from beds.
  • Cabinets that contain heavy or breakable objects should be secured with  sliding bolts or childproof latches on the doors.
  • Hazardous materials should be kept in non-breakable containers and stored  securely away from heat sources and appliances.
In summary, the extent of damage caused by an earthquake is typically more  substantial if a home is not ready when it strikes. In addition to getting your home ready there may be a few things that you need to do be sure that you and your family is prepared for an earthquake. Take a little time now, before it  strikes.  Homeowners can take appropriate measures by inspecting their homes themselves or getting it inspected annually by an InterNACHI inspector.
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