Of all the natural disasters that man has to deal with, Earthquakes hold a special fear. Storms, whether a hurricane coming in from the ocean or a tornado roaring across the plains usually offers some warning, and most folks know what to do to seek cover. Earthquakes on the other hand come out of nowhere with no warning and most people either freeze in place or run wildly, not knowing what to do. For thousands of years they have been blamed on God. No doubt because many times they are directly related to a volcano erupting and exploding causing death and destruction, or the Earth unexpectedly opens up swallowing homes and people. The Bible book of Matthew sites earthquakes as a sign of the "last days".
Kansan's are a tough group made up of a core that has ties to the farm. When a band of thunderstorms roar through in the spring threatening tornados many don't give it a lot of thought. We are used to them. The farmers are just hoping that there isn't bad hail and are thankful for the rain they bring. But you let a trembler come through that someone in California wouldn't even pause for if they were in the middle of a sentence, and we'll talk about that for weeks. Face it, earthquakes in Kansas, that's just weird.
So why would a home inspector write about earthquakes? Well, there was an article recently on www.drudgereport.com that sited an article from Wichita, Kan which had a quote from officials at the US Geological Survey that said we here in Kansas better get ready for more. So I thought it might be helpful to provide some information about our homes and businesses that in the event of a major earthquake may be of some help. The internet is loaded with information so I encourage everyone to do some research, educate yourself.
Concerning your home, the main cause of injury and death during an earthquake is being struck or buried by falling debris. An earthquake comes so suddenly and lasts such a short period of time there is simply little time to think. You need to take the time and look at your surroundings and decide what could fall and injure you. Naturally TV's, bookshelves, large dressers, pictures, and so on can fall and hurt us. As far as your house itself is concerned it may be the opposite of what you think. If something looks solid and strong such as brick or rock, that is generally the most dangerous. An earthquake causes things to sway and shake and that is exactly what takes down masonry structures, so If you have a brick or stone house or fireplace stay clear of those areas. A brick wall or fireplace 8 feet tall can cause damage or injury twice that distance or 16 feet out. If you live in an older home with plaster walls and ceilings immediately seek refuge in a doorway or if you have time get out. Falling Plaster can come off ceilings and walls in big heavy pieces that can cause severe injury. Construction has changed over the years. Houses have gotten lighter, moving away from things such as plaster walls to drywall. Drywall is at least thirty percent lighter than when it first came out and stronger. Steel beams have been replaced by wooden Laminate beams. Studies have proven that this type of construction fares much better in earthquakes. Many are surprised to learn that modern houses are actually to a degree flexible. A house may sway and rock, drywall may split and separate, glass may break, but usually the structure remains standing. A typical residential house has a much better survival rate as does a concrete block and brick commercial building.
What you should do to your home:
Make sure your house is securely fastened to the foundation. I have been in many houses that have the foundation bolts in place but the washers and nuts were never installed. Check siding to make sure it is properly nailed. Check decks to make sure they are fastened to the house properly and screws or nails added as necessary. Basically what we are talking about is just standard home maintenance.
There is a lot of information about earthquakes in Kansas. One website is KGS-Kansas Earthquakes. Another site that covers Kansas as well as other areas is www.earthquaketrack.com. I appreciate any questions or comments about my articles you may have. Please feel free to contact me.
My goal is to have a series of articles that deal with items that may be found on the home inspection report. There will also be articles on choosing a home inspector and a realtor. This information will be based on my experience in the construction industry as well as information I research. I welcome your comments. If you have a question or would like to see an article on a particular subject please ask.