I already own a home—what should I do to ensure my family’s safety?
First—determine if your home is a URM. How to Recognize a URM?
My home is NOT a URM (or, I have addressed my URM concerns)
Congratulations! If your home is not a URM, or if you have resolved your URM concerns, then you have already made the single most important decision you can make to increase your family’s chance of surviving a major earthquake.
Next steps. Even newer houses and apartments should be evaluated for earthquake safety. In addition to shaking, investigate:
- Does it have other structural concerns such as a “soft story,” non-ductile concrete frame, unreinforced chimney, parapet walls, or weakly attached fixtures?
- Is it built directly on a fault (see map and Utah Geological Survey website)?
- Does it have a liquefaction risk? Liquefaction is “fluidization” of silty or sandy sediment that can cause buildings to settle, break apart, or tilt, and is usually caused by shaking—learn about it, and consider it in your decisions.
- Is there a nearby building, wall, chimney, or other tall structure that could fall on your building during an earthquake?
- Is it on or adjacent to a slope or in or near an area with known landslides? (learn more about landslides in Utah)
- Is it below a canyon mouth or in another area that might experience a debris flow?
- Does it have other earth-related issues such as expansive or collapsible soil or radon gas?
- Look inside for tall shelves and bookcases, weakly attached chandeliers or mirrors, precarious electronics, high vases and ceramic objects, or other objects that may fall.
- Determine if gas and water lines have flexible connections (flexible hoses should not snap during shaking).
- Assure that water heaters and other large objects are properly anchored.
My home IS a URM
- The best option is to completely retrofit or replace the home following designs created by a licensed architect, structural engineer, or builder trained in earthquake construction. Unfortunately, this can be very expensive, but it is the best solution.
- Can I retrofit one or two rooms now? We make it clear—our advice is to retrofit or replace the entire building. Nevertheless, retrofitting part of the building is better than not doing anything at all. However, it must be understood that a person in a different part of the house probably will not have time to run to the retrofitted part after shaking starts. But, retrofitting the parts of the house that are most frequently occupied does increase your family’s odds of surviving the earthquake.
- Will I lose a lot of space? Fortunately—no. Retrofitting a room typically only removes about 5 inches off each reinforced wall.
- We cannot give you specific advice. Each URM is unique and the best solutions require considerable evaluation and decision-making by someone who is trained in earthquake-resistant building design.
- The internet and many publications provide a wealth of information on retrofitting URMs. See links on retrofitting URMs.
- Can I do it on my own? We always recommend that you obtain the guidance of a trained professional before attempting any building retrofit. But, yes, by carefully following proper designs, do-it-yourselfers with considerable carpentry and building skills may be able to do most of the work themselves.
- Is retrofitting worth it? You have to decide, but be sure to look at the big picture. Keep in mind that retrofitted buildings may still suffer enough damage to be condemned after an earthquake (non-URMs are sometimes damaged enough to be condemned too.) Also, in addition to the structural retrofitting, you may need to address old wiring, plumping, heating, cooling, and other issues.
- Can I just sell it? We hope you will inform potential buyers of the risk of a URM. You have to decide whether your conscience will allow you to sell a URM to someone who is not informed.