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Natural disasters are unpredictable events that cause significant damage to our lives, properties, and communities. Washington is an especially earthquake-prone region, and residents must be adequately prepared to keep their homes and families safe during these powerful tremors. In this blog, we discuss the necessary steps to safeguard your home in earthquake-prone Washington and minimize the effects of such calamities. Here is what you need to know:
Understanding the Risk
If you live in the state of Washington, it’s important to note that the state is at a higher risk for earthquakes compared to the rest of the continental United States. Washington stays in the list of top five states with the most earthquakes every year. As part of the Pacific Northwest, Washington is situated along the Pacific Ring of Fire, making it susceptible to seismic activities. Earthquakes are a real concern in this area, with over a thousand recorded each year. The Cascadia Subduction Zone, a 600-mile-long fault line off the coast, is especially concerning, as it has been dormant for centuries but has the potential to unleash a devastating 9.0 magnitude earthquake.
Because this area experiences more earthquakes comparatively, it’s vital that as a citizen of Washington that you stay up-to-date on severe seismic activity. Keep yourself informed and up-to-date about the risk of earthquakes in your area. Sign up for alerts and notifications from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and local authorities. Knowing when an earthquake may occur helps you prepare for and react appropriately during the event.
Safeguarding Your Home: Going Beyond the Basics
Evaluate and Upgrade Materials
Some older homes may not have been built with seismic-resistant materials and techniques. In such cases, consider replacing brittle materials prone to falling apart during an earthquake with newer, more resistant alternatives:
- Replace brittle roofing materials: Certain roofing materials like clay tiles and slate shatter during an earthquake, increasing the risk of damage and injuries. Replace these with lighter, more flexible materials like metal or composite shingles that withstand seismic activity better.
- Upgrade your siding: Plaster and stucco siding crack or collapse during an earthquake. Switch to fiber cement or vinyl siding, which are more durable and flexible under stress.
Check and Strengthen Structural Components
Address potential weaknesses in your home’s structure and make necessary reinforcements:
- Inspect and reinforce masonry chimneys: Unreinforced masonry chimneys pose significant hazards during an earthquake. If your home’s chimney doesn’t have reinforcements, consult with a structural engineer to determine any necessary upgrades.
- Bolting to the foundation: Older homes often lack sill plates or have weak connections between the foundation and walls. Properly anchor the sill plate to the foundation using anchor bolts or modern systems like epoxy-set or mechanical anchors.
Earthquake-Resistant Windows and Doors
Windows and doors are susceptible to damage during earthquakes, and broken glass causes injuries. Invest in earthquake-resistant solutions to protect against seismic activities:
- Install shatter-resistant windows: Use shatter-resistant glass or protective films to fortify your windows and safeguard against flying shards.
- Reinforce doors and frames: Strengthen door frames and opt for solid, heavy doors that better withstand earthquakes. Make sure all doors open and close smoothly to facilitate prompt evacuations.
Ensure Utilities are Seismically Secure
Secure and safeguard your utilities to minimize possible damages and outages during an earthquake:
- Gas shutoff valves: Install an automatic earthquake-actuated gas shutoff valve on your gas line to protect against leaks and explosions.
- Flexible gas and water connections: Replace rigid gas and water lines with flexible connections to prevent ruptures caused by shaking.
- Electricity: Use flexible conduits for electrical wiring to minimize the risk of short circuits and power outages during an earthquake.
Interior Safety Measures
- Anchor tall and heavy furniture: Fasten bookcases, wardrobes, and other top-heavy furnishings to the wall to prevent them from tipping over during an earthquake. Use flexible fasteners like nylon straps and earthquake-resistant brackets.
- Install safety latches on cabinets: Installing safety latches on your cabinets prevent the contents from falling out and causing injuries during an earthquake.
- Secure hanging items: Fasten heavy frames, mirrors, and shelves to the wall using sturdy hooks and hangers.
- Anchor appliances: Strap down your water heater, refrigerator, and other large appliances to prevent them from tipping over during an earthquake.
- Reinforce your garage: If your home has a garage, ensure your walls are reinforced and have a properly braced garage door.
Earthquake-prone Washington requires constant vigilance and preparedness from homeowners. By reinforcing your home, securing your belongings, and staying informed, you better safeguard your property and loved ones during these unpredictable natural disasters. Armed with these additional measures, you further strengthen your home’s defense against potential earthquakes and increase the safety level for yourself and your loved ones.