Is my house safe after the earthquake? How to spot earthquake damage

Local News

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – With a 5.7 earthquake rocking Magna and surrounding areas Wednesday morning, many people are now left with a lot of questions…how many aftershocks can we expect?, how can I be prepared for Utah’s next quake? and what do I do after an earthquake? But one question that may be slipping people’s minds is this: Was my house damaged at all and how should I go about inspecting for earthquake damage?

Many people may not think that their house was damaged because the damage is so subtle it is hard to find. However, these damages need to be spotted and repaired in order to avoid more serious issues in the future. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has given tips on how to spot earthquake damage to your home.

  • Examine the entire outside of your home for obvious damage or movement off the foundation.
  • Check the ground on your property to see if it has shifted at all. Are there any breaks in fence lines?
  • Is the floor or roof pulled away or separated from your home in any spots?
  • Does the floor feel “bouncy”, “soggy” or “mushy” when you walk on it? If so, this may mean there is damage under your floor.
  • Has anything fallen off the chimney? Are there cracks in the chimney’s mortar? Cracks in a chimney can become fire hazards or can allow carbon monoxide to leak into your home.
  • If you are worried about your chimney, have a certified chimney inspector come look at it. Contact your insurance company, mortgage company, or the Chimney Safety Institute of America (www.CSIA.org).
  • Inspect stairs, are they still solid? Are the banister and supporting columns secure?
  • Check your windows and doors to see if any of them are newly jammed or blocked.
  • Make sure to look in the crawl spaces, stairwells, basements and attics for signs of damage such as exposed or cracked beams, roof leaks, and foundation cracks.
  • Check basement floors and exterior walls for cracks and bulges. These problems could lead to more serious issues with your home.
  • Look for damage to ceilings, light fixtures, the roof, fuel tanks, and other attachments to the main frame of your home.
  • Check your furnace and hot water heater connections to make sure they are tight and not leaking.
  • Check for sewage and water line damage.
  • Look for new or bigger cracks in the drywall, stucco/plaster. Does the drywall have “stair step” cracks-a clear indicator of earthquake damage? Check closely around windows and door-frames for radiating cracks, the most common site of cracks from earthquakes.

FEMA suggest homeowners thoroughly inspect their homes soon after an earthquake. If there is any newfound damage, it will be helpful to fix it as soon as possible in order to stay away from future problems with your home.

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