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Los Angeles – Earthquakes Big and Small Are Bad News for Homes

Posted on March 16, 2010

Crack kills

Southern California has serious lifestyle perks. The weather, creative people, and a steady stream of new things to see and do top my list of reasons to be here.  Unfortunately, as with most things, these are balanced out by earthquakes, fires, and in many places, a higher crime rate. As a recent victim of a break in at my home, I can attest to this.  Being awakened last night at 4 am by a little 4.4 earthquake reminded me of all the important things to know when you live in Earthquake land…

With all the things going on in our lives, how can you truly protect your home on a daily basis from the reality of life? I highly recommend all of my clients take steps like activating an alarm system on their doors and windows.  This is a major deterrent for most burglars- a blaring alarm or a barking dog can scare off all but the most determined. But what if the danger is more insidious? The damage caused by earthquakes, be it The Big One or smaller seismic adjustments, threaten your family’s safety – and your biggest investment.


This is a good time to mention having a home inventory done.  A photographic inventory of your home’s exterior, interior rooms and features, and all of your belongings and collections will help you speedily make an insurance claim and move on faster.  Make sure you leave a copy of your inventory with your home insurance agent and or a safety deposit box or a family member out of town!

Getting your home ready for an earthquake involves some effort. Recent rumblings have reminded me that it’s a sure thing to experience an earthquake if you live in Los Angeles. There are ways to be prepared for The Big One. Find a corner or a closet in your home and begin to prep the most important elements of a survival kit, including a gallon of water, per family member, per day.  This is incredibly important!

Emergency organizations remind us that our water line from the tap could be contaminated from ruptured sewer lines, and undrinkable in the aftermath of an earthquake.  A two week supply is a great start.  You can use normal bottled water containers from the grocery store, but they tend to leak, so camping gear water containers are suggested for their size and true storage capacity.

Other important things to prepare include items for avoiding infection. A good First Aid kit, medicines, handy-wipes, and personal care items like shampoo, conditioner, toilet paper, tampons, and toothpaste will go very far in the event of a serious disaster, and could mean the difference between your family surviving comfortably in rough conditions long enough to get medical attention. Also consider prepping a small toolkit and clothing for everyone in the family, as well as blankets, diapers, glasses, and anything necessary to life for children and elderly family members.

For homes built before 1935, making sure the house has been properly bolted will protect your investment through shaky times. This is a job for a contractor. Securing large furniture, artwork, and water heaters to the walls can keep things from falling on you.  Another thing that may save your life is learning how to shut off your gas valve, water line, and electricity in case the lines are damaged.  We can help with all of this!

During an earthquake, remember to move as quickly as possible to interior walls and doorways, protecting your head and avoiding glass windows.  If you have more than one child, consider making a plan regarding which parent will secure which children if possible to avoid confusion.

In the aftermath of an earthquake of some magnitude, you should be prepared for aftershocks.  Immediately check to see if anyone is injured and might need first aid.  For your safety, you should also check on your gas appliances, water lines, and electrical lines.  This is where it really helps to know where your shut off valves are! Shut off anything that might have a leak and DO NOT use matches, or appliances with electrical switches, or light a cigarette until you have been cleared by the gas company or emergency services to do so.  Stay away from damaged buildings and broken glass. Knowing the closest fire, police, and medical assistance locations could save your life!

This is a good time to check on your pets, neighbors, and anyone in your near vicinity.  Experts warn against using your phone for anything but emergency calls at this point. Select a family member out of town for everyone to contact, because long distance phone services are often the first to be returned to working order.  Get to know your neighbors, and consider sharing equipment like backup generators and large tents in case of long term emergency.  Who knows… one might be a doctor or a nurse!

The first 72 hours after an earthquake of magnitude are the most critical. Things you assume are readily available and safe for use may be compromised! Spend a few hours preparing your home and family for the worst, and you will weather the storm in better condition than most.

We work with our clients to safeguard their homes against damage in case of emergency, and educate them about some of the most confusing and obscure systems in their house.  Do you know where YOUR gas shut off valve is? Sprinkler shut off? Give us a call and we can empower you to properly protect your domain.

A wonderful resource for more information is this site:

LA Fire Department Earthquake Preparedness Handbook:

Southern California Earthquake Data Center:

Client Love for Improvemental

Laurie did a museum quality restoration of my 1921 Craftsman. She also managed my move, had the chimney rebuilt, supervised the installation of new rain gutters, a new hot water heater, and about fifty other things. She somehow did all of this on time and on budget. She's really good. She did such a good job on my house, I recommended her to my parents. That's not something you do unless you're really happy with a person's work.

- Adam, Hollywood Hills