Today at lunch with clients we talked about the big earthquake scare that's been all over the news lately. Is the "Big One" hitting Oregon in the near future? In our lifetime? How can we protect ourselves and be prepared?
Mega earthquakes (8.7–9.2) occur regularly in the Pacific Northwest. The last mega quake that shook Portland occurred on January 26, 1700. For the past 10,000 years, the average time between mega quakes has been 300 years. Is it time?
The next mega quake may shake the foundations from Vancouver, BC to northern California. It could be the largest natural disaster in U.S. history, dwarfing Hurricane Katrina in damage, suffering and costs. In Portland, thousands of people could die and tens of thousands might be injured. Thousands and thousands of Portlander’s could end up homeless, as homes built before 1980 slip off their foundations, crumple and collapse. (Note: Older houses were not attached to the foundations – only gravity keeps them in place.)
Not all damage will be physical. The equity in the house they live in is where the wealth is stored for most middle class Americans. For unprepared homeowners, an earthquake could not only destroy their homes, if they survive, it could also leave them with nothing except a mortgage payment for a house that no longer exists. Bankruptcy may be final aftershock.
We cannot prevent earthquakes. We can, however, be prepared. Minimal preparation includes:
- Attaching your house to the foundation (also called seismic retrofitting). The city estimates that there are 105,000 Portland homes that were built before 1970 and therefore were probably not initially bolted to their foundations. That makes them highly vulnerable during a major quake; they could be knocked off their foundations and damaged to the point that they are uninhabitable. Of course, some homeowners have bolted their houses down in the years since they were built, but we don't know how many. The city's best estimate is that at least 50,000 homes are still not bolted down. Fortunately, in most cases, it is not insanely expensive to bolt a house down. A local contractor that does a lot of seismic strengthening says the average cost is $3,400. For some people, that's a lot of money. But for people who can afford to spend $20,000 remodeling their kitchen, it's feasible. That's why the Bureau of Development Services, supported by Commissioner Dan Saltzman, is developing a strategy to make sure that whenever Portlanders apply for building/remodeling permits, they get information about the importance and relative ease of quake-proofing their homes.
- Buying earthquake insurance (most insurance companies require seismic retrofitting).
- Having emergency provisions of food, water, pet food, prescription medicine, etc.
- Creating a family plan. All communications except satellite phones will be down for several weeks—Who picks up the kids? Where does your family meet? Who is out of area contact to convey messages?
Protect yourself. Prepare your family for an earthquake. To learn how to prepare for an earthquake and other natural disasters, go to the following link:
We can preserve our neighborhoods by taking simple steps to ensure that our neighborhood houses survive The Big One.
Please call me if you'd like help in locating resources for seismic retrofitting, earthquake insurance and earthquake survival kits.
Courtesy of: All Things Real Estate Newspaper/Oregonlive.com
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