How To Reduce A Property’s Earthquake Vulnerability

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Pictured: A home in Napa, damaged by a 6.0 earthquake in 2014. (Alvin Jornada / EPA)

The United States Geological Survey currently states that there is a 63% chance of a 6.7 magnitude or higher earthquake will strike the San Francisco Bay Area within the next 30 years. With that in mind are you and your properties prepared?

First, it’s important to understand what seismic upgrades are and why they’d be necessary for a building or structure. Seismic upgrades involve strengthening existing structures to increase their resistance to earthquake-induced forces such as ground shaking and faults movement. These efforts are aimed at minimizing potential damage and reducing the likelihood of collapse in the event of an earthquake. For construction companies, this means increasing the safety of their projects while also providing better protection against earthquakes for occupants of buildings or structures.

How to identify if a property needs seismic upgrades?

There are a few key indicators that can help you determine if a property needs seismic upgrades. The first is the age of the building or structure – if it was built prior to modern earthquake safety codes and regulations, then it is likely in need of earthquake retrofitting. Another indicator is the location of the property – those located in geologically active areas such as along fault lines or close to bodies of water might require additional structural protection from seismic activity. Additionally, a professional structural engineer should be consulted for an assessment if there are any indications that the property has sustained damage from earthquakes in the past or might be vulnerable to future events. Finally, visual inspection of the building’s foundation and walls can also indicate if seismic upgrades are necessary such as cracks in masonry work, uneven floors, misaligned windows and doors, etc.

Types of Seismic Upgrades

Seismic upgrades come in many forms and require different approaches depending on the building’s age and condition as well as existing building codes. A few common methods for earthquake-proofing buildings include:

  • Adding steel straps to reinforce walls or columns
  • Retrofitting column foundations
  • Installing bracings or concrete walls
  • Bolting wooden buildings onto permanent foundations
  • Adding shear walls or diaphragms – Repointing masonry work
  • Adding cross-ties between beams and posts
  • Installing sway braces between ceilings, roofs and walls
  • Improving connections between wood framing members Each approach is designed to address specific vulnerabilities which must be identified prior to making any changes.

Are Seismic Upgrades Necessary?

While seismic upgrades can seem like an added expense for construction companies, if done correctly they can ensure greater safety for all involved parties as well as provide reassurance through lesser chances of damage that could potentially lead to expensive repair costs down the road. As such, it’s important that all properties whether multi-family homes or larger commercial properties invest in proper seismic upgrade measures. This is especially important when the property is in an area that is prone to earthquakes.

Want to speak with a professional or schedule an inspection?

If you’re concerned about your home or business being vulnerable to a seismic event, let us help. Our inspections can provide you with the information you need to make the best decisions for safety and protection. Get in touch with us today to schedule an inspection and take the first step towards securing your property from a seismic disaster.