|Not all damage is quite so obvious. This was a California quake. (Picture: gallery.usgs.gov )|
Today, I would like to talk a bit about earthquakes. The 5.8 earthquake which occurred in Central Virginia in August, 2011, changed the landscape forever. Two schools were damaged to the point of being condemned and later destroyed. Some nice homes were broken in half, and judging from my last trip up there, still are. Foundations and even brick homes were destroyed. The quake damaged monuments in DC and was felt in high rise buildings in Toronto. Though historical brick buildings have been repaired and two schools rebuilt, the real estate market in the target area will never be the same, nor will the confidence of people living in many areas of the country, who now realize that whether your area is in a known earthquake zone, that an earthquake can in fact occur, anywhere and at anytime. People in the earthquake area were long told that "we don't have real earthquakes here". The builders whose own homes were damaged or destroyed in Virginia of course, knew that they were. However, a large number of people who had damaged glassware, thrown canned goods, collapsed closets or upset Pomeranians really may not have known whether their homes were damaged. This is the point of today's post.
|This is earthquake damage in Japan. (Photo: www.newswise.com)|
FEMA, when it sends teams to a place that has an earthquake is quite naturally focused on those with serious damage. Obvious earthquake damage to a well, a septic, a foundation etc. is certainly going to receive attention whereas the people who don't think they have any damage, are not. However, families can miss damage to their homes, as serious damage may not be obvious until later.
After an earthquake, ANY earthquake, these are things you should note and consider. If you have any of these things at your home, you may wish to hire a licensed contractor to evaluate whether these are cosmetic issues or new structural ones. Remember also that your home may not be damaged by the initial quake, but that aftershock damage is cumulative. The aftershocks may damage a home when the initial quake did not. Turn off gas if you have it, and have your gas company check for leaks as soon as they are able. If you can smell gas, tell your gas company and do not reenter the building.
1. Inspect your home in daylight following the quake. Go to all sides. Note any superficial or large cracks in the foundation or brick structures. Does anything look crooked ? Is the floor protruding from one side when it wasn't before ? Has the roof or the gutters pulled away from the house ?
2. Is your brick chimney still standing ? Does it have cracks or dust from mortar which has fallen from the chimney ? Is it still attached to the building or standing freely by itself ? You should not use the chimney whether it burns wood or vent gas logs until it is inspected. Carbon monoxide is a risk. Certified chimney inspectors do exist and the faster you schedule one, then the faster you can safely use your chimney again.
3. Take a tennis ball and place it on the floor of each room. Does it roll ? If it does then the earthquake may have caused some shifting in the foundation, and you should get an inspection. Note all creaking when you walk on the floors that did not exist before the quake.
4. Are your fences crooked or broken ? Can you open the door to your toolshed or outbuildings ?
Has your deck pulled away from the house ? Do your exterior staircases and interior ones look and feel the same as you use them ? Check everything in daylight.
5. If you have a well your water may have slightly muddy water following a substantial quake for a week or two. Anything more than slight clouding could mean that a well inspector needs to look at your well. There were families who had to have a new well drilled following the 2011 quake. Sometimes the water level of your well will change after a quake.
6. Open all your windows and open all your doors. Open glass sliding doors. Does everything still work ?
7. Look at all the hidden areas in your home. Check crawlspaces, basements, understairs storage, for changes.
8. Check all masonry. Are the concrete pads or patios cracked or damaged ?
9. Check your furnace, hot water heater, and other appliance connections for leakage. Look for plumbing leaks.
10 Look around windows and doorframes for cracks and look at corners of drywall.
11. Check your electrical systems, and check to see if all your lighting fixtures are intact, and if they are, if they are operational.
12. Do you have any area of collapse on your property ? These can just be concave areas where they did not exist before, or actual holes. Note also any sandy areas where they did not exist prior. Keep children and pets away from any soil or areas which has changed following an earthquake until an inspector of some type has certified their safety.
This is not a comprehensive listing of everything that should be done following an earthquake. It is a start which will help families to recall following such an event, that there are specific tasks which will need to be done once the safety of family and pets is assured.
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