For us East Coasters, our recent experience with an earthquake was an unusual one. Of course, they’re comparatively rare here and not as strong as the ones that plague the West Coast, but it still makes you think about what would happen to your house (and you) if a really big one hit. What about my house? Even aside from how it would stand up structurally, I’ve got a lot of books and bookcases – maybe an avalanche waiting to happen. Then there are the china cabinets – it really wouldn’t do to have grandma’s best strewn across the room in shards, would it?
When I start thinking about stuff like this, my natural inclination is to find a book. For example, there’s Homebuilders’ Guide to Earthquake-Resistant Design and Construction, a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) publication that’s been around for years. It’s for homebuilders, but also for homeowners who want some good information about safe homes and how some things can be made safer. It’s based on the International Residential Code (IRC) and explains the basic principles of earthquake-resistant design and what it calls “above-code” measures that can further reduce the amount of damage from an earthquake. I like the idea of guidelines that not only meet but exceed the standards, especially when they can affect safety.
I must admit, though, that I’m not a Mr. Fix-it type. If I were to do an addition to my house, I couldn’t do what this book says needs to be done, but it at least tells me the things to ask a contractor about. Chapter 8, “Anchorage of Home Contents,” is different. It explains how to put locks on cabinets, anchor a PC, and other simple fixes that I can understand – and even do myself. There’s no question but that experiencing an earthquake concentrates the mind powerfully on such things!
Homebuilders’ Guide to Earthquake-Resistant Design and Construction is a useful and reliable guide to building and maintaining a house that can cope with earthquakes. You can look through it here, get a copy for home reference here, or find it in a library.