This is Earthquake Country

Earthquake fault
Cascadia Subduction Zone
While not as famous as our neighbor to the South, Oregon is very much earthquake country.

Some background
When recently visiting LO City Hall, I found a wealth of interesting information on a variety of topics, one of which is a handy little magazine called “Living on Shaky Ground“. It’s published by Oregon Emergency Management and is available for free.

We happen to live right on top of the Cascadia Subduction Zone. This zone has a history of 8.0 and 9.0 (we are talking HUGE earthquakes) that goes back 10,000 years with these big quakes happening on average every 250 years. It’s now been 312 years since the last big quake. So it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.

So, what can you do? In particular, when it comes to your home and buying a house.

When buying a home inspect, inspect, inspect

A good home inspector will look at the house from a perspective of its structural soundness. If the inspector has concerns, he or she should recommend further inspection be done by a seismic engineer.

I was recently involved in the potential sale of a home that was partially built on stilts with a very sloped lot. I was representing the buyer. Our home inspector determined that the substructure of the stilts provided for East and West support (or shaking) but not for North and South. Basically the Nouthern stilts all sat on the same retaining wall with no lateral bracing. In an earthquake, any shaking from the North to the South would cause that retaining wall to fall over and, yep, the house would go down the hill. Needless to say, my buyer chose to end that transaction and ended up purchasing an entirely different home.

If a more in-depth inspection is required by a seismic engineer, expect to spend about $250 for a sight visit. At this visit you will be able to walk the property and get a naration of what the engineer thinks. If you want to proceed and you want specific observation put into writing, that would include corrective measures to create a secur home, expect to spend several thousand dollars.

Consider getting earthquake insurance

There are limitations to what homes can qualify for earthquake insurance. Most insurance companies will not issue it to older homes. But if your home was built in the last 50 or so years, it may be eligible. And if it is, it is not that expensive to add as a rider to your home owner’s policy. Look into it.

Consider getting your home retrofitted

Newer homes are built to modern codes and standards that do take earthquakes into consideration. So newer homes are going to be more seismicly sound. However, older homes can be retro-fitted. Strapping the house to the foundation, installing cripple walls in the crawlspace, bolting the mudsills to the foundations: these are just a few of the possible corrective measures to make an older home more seismicly worthy.

Some thoughts

In 1993, Oregon had 3 strong earthquakes. I was awoken from sleep by the “Springbreak Quake”, a 5.6 magnitude quake centered about 25 miles South of Lake Oswego in Scotts Mills. That same year Klamath Falls in Southern Oregon had 5.9 and 6.0 earthquakes. Being awoken from sleep by an earthquake makes you feel like you have been through something quite extraordinary. I can not even imagine the shock and destruction of experiencing an 8.0 or 9.0 quake.

Preparedness is the key. Do some research, think about preparing your family and your home for living through an earthquake.

I have recently read quite a bit that the way to react to an earthquake is to get into what is called “The Triangle of Life”. This involves laying against furniture or large objects so that your body is contained in the triangle created between the top of the object and the floor. According to the Oregon Emergency Management Office this is NOT the best response. They recommend DROP, COVER, and HOLD ON. Get underneath a sturdy object, on your knees and crouching on the floor, tuck your head between your arms, and hold onto the object that is protecting you. Almost all scientific, government, and relief organizations, including the Red Cross, are now recommending this method.

Let’s hope it doesn’t happen. Proper Prior Planning being one of my favority policies, do take earthquakes seriously. For a copy of “Living on Shaky Ground”, click here.

As always, thanks for reading.