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Earthquake: Ready To Ride It Out? Part 3

May 4, 2011

By Steven Sandberg

MEDFORD, Ore. — Seeing the effects of March’s earthquake and tsunami in Japan has homeowners in the Rogue Valley wanting to be sure they have a solid footing in the event of an earthquake.

Emergency managers it takes more than just being ready to ride out an earthquake. Plans need to be in place, supplies need to be stocked, and steps need to be taken early for the benefit of you and your home.

“Government is not going to bail you out Johnny-on-the-spot. We have to go through the event. The most important is treating the injured and creating corridors for travel,” says Mike Curry, the Emergency Manager for Jackson County.

If a major earthquake were to cripple the region’s infrastructure, emergency responders are trained to attend to the most critically hit areas. That means for the individual person, it could take several days before they receive help.

Says Curry, “The mantra that we’ve been singing since, seems like forever, is self-reliance and self preparedness.”

That means taking steps ahead of time to be ready. Jackson County Emergency Management recommends having two emergency kits. A smaller one should have important documents plus a small amount of food and water that you can grab quickly during an evacuation. A second kit should be stocked with enough supplies to last for at least 72 hours.

“If people are self reliant for those first 3 to 5 days,” says Curry, “that’s the easiest way for government to help, because we’re going to be involved in a lot of different aspects.”

After people see a major earthquake, it not only has them scrambling to make sure that they are ready, but also to make sure their homes are built ready. The fear than an earthquake could severely damage their homes sends people calling on Scott Pingle with KAS & Associates, who will go check things out.

“Any time there’s an earthquake in California, or earthquakes in other areas, we do see an increase in calls, of wanting to have their homes checked.”

He says most of the time, seismically retrofitting your house isn’t worth the cost.

“The value that you actually get short of really making sure the home is tied down to the foundation well, you’re not getting a lot of bang for your buck.”

That’s because homes built after 1974 are already built to seismic code and anchored firmly to the foundation. Older homes may not be seismically fit, and are ineligible for earthquake insurance without the retrofitting, but many times that ends up costing several thousand dollars.

Pingle says, “Even though they may just be sheetrocked walls, there’s a lot of redundancy built in to single family homes with intersecting walls that help support in both directions.”

Pingle says most damage from an earthquake would only be cosmetic.

“Mostly it’s cracked sheet rock, maybe some busted windows. The actual structure damage typically is not too bad unless you have some failure in the soil below the home.”

He hopes it can give homeowners peace of mind on solid ground.