Make your Los Angeles home earthquake ready
That’s the number of earthquakes that occur each year in Southern California, according to the United States Geological Survey.
Officials at the University of California Berkeley Seismological Laboratory say about two of those rank at a magnitude of 5.5 or above on the Richter scale. That magnitude is enough to cause major damage to the structure of any building. While we have no way of predicting when an earthquake will strike, it’s best to be prepared for when an earthquake hits the Los Angeles area.
Homeowners need to make sure their homes are structurally sound. Abe Simantob, of highly rated LA Private Eyes Engineers in Los Angeles, says it’s important for a home to have shear walls if it’s going to hold up against an earthquake.
“Imagine a table with four legs,” he says. “If the legs are bolted to the ground and you shake the table, it’s going to wobble. If we nail sheets of plywood between the legs and shake it again, it doesn’t wobble so much. That’s what shear walls are.”
Simantob says it’s also important to make sure that a home’s structure is properly bolted down, or it may be shaken off its foundation by an earthquake.
Walls and foundations aren’t the only parts of a home that are highly susceptible to damage from earthquakes. Ken LaRue, of highly rated Weatherline Reroofing and Repairs in Orange, Calif., warns the type of roofing makes a big difference in how much damage might occur during an earthquake.
“Fiberglass shingles are the best because they’re very lightweight,” he says, noting tile roofing can weigh three times as much as fiberglass. LaRue explains excess weight could cause potential problems, as it could fall off the roof during an earthquake and damage other parts of the home and cause injuries.
There are also smaller steps that a homeowner can take that can be just as important in preparing for an earthquake. Securing the water heater to the wall is an important one.
“Many people think it’s just a regulation,” says Lindsay Latham, of highly rated Fix All Handyman Service in Anaheim, Calif. “They don’t know that if the water system fails, there are 40 gallons of water stored away in the water heater that can be used.”
If the water heater comes loose in a quake, it can easily snap the gas line and cause a very dangerous leak. Latham suggests that homeowners should have an idea what natural gas smells like so they can spot a leak right away. He stresses that gas leaks are “extremely likely” to result from an earthquake.
“There’s no breaker for gas lines like there is for electricity. If the line snaps gas will spill. Then all it takes is someone to light a match and it’ll catch on fire,” Latham says. “You just have to be diligent. People don’t think it’s going to happen so they aren’t prepared.”
Ten ways to prepare your home for an earthquake
1. Have an inspection done to make sure your home is up to code.
2. Locate and know how to use your emergency shut off valves.
3. Buy a crescent wrench (the tool needed to operate the shut off valves) and store it near the valves.
4. Make sure no fire hazards, such as paint, are stored in the attic. They are much less likely to spill and catch fire on ground level.
5. If you have any knick knacks on shelves or tables, secure them – especially if they’re valuable.
6. Bolt down all large appliances like the water heater and refrigerator.
7. Have an emergency plan and make sure everyone in your home knows what it is.
8. Locate the safest places in the home during an earthquake, in case you can’t exit right away.
9. Make sure everything you may need is easily accessible, in case you do have to evacuate your home.
10. Have an emergency kit ready. Include canned goods, water, first aid supplies and medications if needed.