While these websites provide useful information, we advise seeking advice from a trained structural engineer, professional builder, and/or architect before starting structural retrofitting projects.
General Information about Earthquakes, Buildings, and General Preparedness
www.geology.utah.gov Utah Geological Survey geologic hazards website. The Utah Geological Survey website contains much detailed information on Utah’s active faults. It has a large amount of geologic information (some summarized for public use and some highly technical), many scientific reports documenting and interpreting detailed geologic investigations of the Wasatch fault and other active Utah faults, videos and maps showing the location of Utah’s known active faults, hazard maps showing liquefaction and shaking intensities under various earthquake scenarios, and other useful information. Check out the video “fly over” of the Wasatch fault. In addition to earthquake information, this website contains much information on other geologic hazards in Utah including landslides, rock falls, radon, problem soils, and many others.
www.beready.utah.gov This website maintained by the Utah Comprehensive Emergency Management Agency contains much valuable information to help you prepare for earthquakes, as well as many other kinds of emergencies in Utah.
www.ussc.utah.gov Utah Seismic Safety Commission. This organization is comprised of representatives of nearly every government agency and organization involved in earthquake safety, coordinates earthquake planning in Utah, encourages earthquake legislation, and has helped publish several excellent guides to earthquake preparedness.
www.inharmswayhelp.org In Harms Way. This nonprofit organization, launched by Dr. Ron Harris, Professor of Geology at Brigham Young University, is dedicated to preventing natural hazards from becoming natural disasters. The group lives by the motto that it is better to teach people how to protect themselves from natural disasters than to rescue them or recover their bodies later. Their efforts are divided between the Indonesia area of the southern Pacific, Mexico, and Utah.
www.ussc.utah.gov/publications/roots_earthquake_low.pdf Putting Down Roots in Earthquake Country—Your Handbook for Earthquakes in Utah. This 34-page book provides an excellent overview of Utah’s geologic faults and earthquake risk, and many excellent tips on how to prepare. Unfortunately, many people misinterpret the risk tables on page 15; we refer you instead to the statement in “don’t be fooled” at the bottom of the same page, which states: “In Utah, many seismically vulnerable buildings increase the damage potential. On a geologic time table, Utah is due for its next ‘Big One’—and, unfortunately, is a lot like California in this regard.” We also remind you of newer information by the Utah Geological Survey stating that major earthquakes occur on the central segments of the Wasatch fault on average spacing of about 270 years, and that it has been about 300 years since the last major earthquake on any of these segments.
http://geology.utah.gov/online/pdf/pi-38.pdf Home Buyers Guide to Earthquake Hazards in Utah. This public information guide prepared by the Utah Geological Survey contains general information for home buyers on Utah’s earthquake risk, as well as general information on other geology-related hazards a home buyer should consider.
flash.org The non-profit Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH®) is a leading consumer advocate for strengthening homes and safeguarding families from natural and manmade disasters. Their mission is to promote life safety, property protection, and resiliency by empowering the community with knowledge and resources for strengthening homes and safeguarding families from natural and man-made disasters. Their website has general information on strengthening and safeguarding your home, as well as videos on various aspects of preparing for earthquakes.
Websites mostly about Unreinforced Masonry Buildings (URMs)
www.ussc.utah.gov/publications.html The Utah Guide for the Seismic Improvement of Unreinforced Masonry Buildings. This publication by the Utah Seismic Safety Commission is written mostly for builders, architects, engineers, and advanced do-it-yourselfers, is a difficult read for the general person. However, it is written specifically for the types of URMs we have in Utah and has considerable direct advice (something missing in many websites). A significantly updated version is in draft mode as of early 2015, and is expected to be released “soon”.
http://heritage.utah.gov/history/earthquake Bracing for the Big One. This guide, prepared by the Utah Division of State History, contains detailed instructions on how to retrofit many of Utah’s historic buildings. Many of the instructions are written for advanced do-it-yourselfers.
Fix the Bricks. Get matching grants to help you retrofit your home. One of the most exciting programs we know of to actually improve Utah’s URM problem. This website by Salt Lake City Emergency Management has detailed maps showing general areas with most URMs in Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County, an informative video, and sources of additional information.
www.seattle.gov/dpd/codesrules/changestocode/unreinforcedmasonrybuildings/whatwhy/ This website is from the City of Seattle, Department of Planning and Development, Unreinforced Masonry Project. It contains much information about URMs, but its buried down a few layers—don’t hesitate to “dig” a bit. Similar to Utah, Washington State has many URMs.
www.fema.gov/media-library/assets/documents/18030 Unreinforced Masonry Buildings and Earthquakes – Developing Successful Risk Reduction Programs. Federal Emergency Management Agency Publication P-774, October 2009. This FEMA publication states: “This document provides guidance on how to develop programs to reduce the earthquake risks of existing unreinforced masonry buildings. The volume shows that this building type is typically the most seismically vulnerable category of construction in a community, and it is by far the most common type of building to be singled out for voluntary or mandatory seismic risk reduction programs in the United States. While the information presented is based on extensive earthquake engineering knowledge, this guide has been written for use by a non-technical audience, including government officials, building owners, and the general public. It also contains relevant information for building officials, consulting structural engineers and building contractors, and includes illustrations and photographs of URM buildings and describes their seismic vulnerabilities.” Our note: This volume has much general information, but it is short on detailed instructions on what a building owner should actually do; it and most other sources recommend consulting trained professionals for advice on retrofitting URMs.
Websites mostly about Improving Wood-Frame Buildings that have Seismic Design Problems
www.disastersrus.org/emtools/earthquakes/earthquake.pdf Is Your Home Protected from Earthquake Disaster? This is one of the better how-to guides for owners of wood-frame homes and details several projects you can do, both structural (walls, foundations, etc.) and non-structural (wall hangings, water heaters, etc.), to improve your homes earthquake resistance and families safety. Like most resources, for unreinforced masonry buildings, it simply recommends consulting a professional engineer.
http://www.fema.gov/media-library/assets/documents/6015?id=2103FEMA 232 Homebuilders’ Guide to Earthquake-Resistant Design and Construction (2006) This guide replaces the Home Builder’s Guide to Seismic Resistant Construction and all earlier versions of FEMA 232. It presents seismic design and construction guidance for one- and two-family light frame residential structures that can be utilized by homebuilders, homeowners, and other non-engineers, and provides supplemental information to the 2003 edition of the International Residential Code. Includes background information on the principles of seismic resistance and how earthquake forces impact conventional residential construction and more detailed information on architectural considerations. Discussions of masonry and stone elements, examples of typical floor plans for earthquake resistant one- and two-story homes, excerpts of seismic requirements from building codes, and checklists for home builders are included. The guide also presents a series of “above code recommendations” and low cost measures that would increase the performance of the building and help keep it functional after an earthquake.
www.fema.gov/media-library/assets/documents/1017?id=1449 Earthquake Safety Guide for Homeowners (2005) This updated safety guide, which was originally developed and published by the California Seismic Safety Commission, provides homeowners with a good start to strengthening their homes against earthquake damage. The guide also illustrates the relative cost of prevention versus repair or replacement. (Available in multiple languages)
www.seattle.gov/emergency/library/mitigation/HR%20Book%202%20-%20assessment.pdf Earthquake Home Retrofit Handbook, by City of Seattle, 2002. This is a step-by-step handbook for retrofitting and reinforcing wood-frame houses that meet several basic construction critieria. It’s an excellent guide if your home is “standard” wood-frame construction.
www.quake.abag.ca.gov/residents/planset/ Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) Earthquakes and Hazards Program. Standard Plan Set for Residential Seismic Retrofitting. ABAG stated: “ABAG concluded that most homeowners are not retrofitting—and those that retrofit are not doing all the work needed to significantly change the likelihood that their homes will be habitable following future earthquakes. One of the problems that homeowners mentioned in an ABAG survey was that they did not know what to do. This plan set is a tool to help homeowners know what needs to be done. They can use the plan set to get bids from contractors, or, if experienced, can do the work themselves.” Note that Utah Earthquake Safety presents this California website and plan as an example plan only. We do not imply that it will meet all Utah Building Code requirements—for example, snow load requirements are different in Utah. It is designed for a typical wood-frame home that meets several standard criteria.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=tg5pfL5eDf8 This is a youtube video showing some basic retrofitting techniques for a wood-frame house with no cripple wall or a very short cripple wall (the short wall between the foundation and floor of a house).
www.disastersafety.org/blog/top-10-ways-to-reduce-the-risk-of-earthquake-damage/ This website lists ten things you should do to reduce the risk of earthquake damage in your home. It is written under the assumption that you do not live in a URM.
Various Commercial Websites Several commercial websites provide information that generally supports and encourages purchase of their products. Most have some good information but we recommend studying several before make financial decisions. We list two here that have useful information not specific to their products, but note that many more are easily located on the internet by searching on terms such as “earthquake safety” and “earthquake retrofit,” etc.. Most are directed toward wood-frame houses. Note that we do not endorse any company and do not make any claims about any products or services.
www.earthquakesafety.com This website by Earthquake Safety, Inc. contains basic information on retrofitting wood-frame houses, including some good sketches showing how to anchor houses to foundations. They also provide an interesting case study documenting how much money can be saved by retrofitting.
www.bayarearetrofit.com/seismic-retrofit-2/seismic-retrofit/ This is another commercial website from California that contains valuable information. The following statement is from their website: “This Seismic Retrofit Guide for Homeowners is an unabridged version of the article written by Bay Area Retrofit for the April 2006 edition of the Journal of Light Construction, a national trade magazine, called ‘Seismic Retrofitting of Cripple Walls,’ and explores the function of house bolting and other matters regarding seismic retrofitting. This article discusses how to bolt a house and convert the cripple walls into shear walls, which is the essence of any seismic retrofit. It is intended to help you evaluate your seismic retrofit needs, determine if your house needs seismic retrofitting, has been retrofitted properly, or needs for you to retrofit your house even further. Every house is different and no house matches exactly what you will see here, though the earthquake engineering principles are always the same for every seismic retrofit. Seismic retrofitting a house to the foundation costs thousands of dollars and researching this topic is the best way to make sure your money is well spent when it comes to retrofitting your house. If your home has not yet been seismically retrofitted to the foundation with a good earthquake retrofit, this guide will help you determine how best to do it. If it has already been seismically retrofitted, this guide will help you evaluate the effectiveness of your home’s retrofit and if it has been done properly. House bolting is only one part of a seismic retrofit and here you will discover there are many other things that comprise a seismic retrofit.”
Commercial Building Information
We do not attempt to provide information on commercial buildings. Here is one California-based publication that can get you started.
www.seismic.ca.gov/pub/CSSC_2006-02_COG.pdf Commercial Property Owner’s Guide to Earthquake Safety. It’s written for California, but this pamphlet contains much information useful to Utah commercial building owners.