How to check for damage after a quake

We’ve all been there!! Uh oh! We just had a quake! Now what? After making sure you/your loved ones (including pets) are accounted for & safe, check out your home:
1. Check The External House Structure:
• Survey all portions of your house to see if any part collapsed or sustained damage.
• Check to see if the house shifted on its foundation, or fell away from the foundation in any place.
• Check to see if the house is noticeably leaning, or looks tilted from a distance.
• Look for severe cracks or openings, especially around outdoor steps or porches.
• If inside the house, check to see if you are experiencing seriously increased vibrations from passing trucks and buses.
• Look for cracks in external walls. Check to see if existing cracks in the walls are getting bigger.
• Check to see if mortars are separating from the blocks.
• Look for sink holes or large divots in the ground next to the foundation.
2. Check The Chimneys:
• Look for cracks between the chimney and the exterior wall or the roof.
• Look for cracks in the liner.
• Check to see if there is unexplained debris in the fireplace.
3. Check Utilities:
• Check to see if power lines to your house are noticeably sagging.
• Check to see if hot water heater is leaning or tilted.
• Check to see if all the water connections, dry-pipes, toilets, faucets are secure.
4. Check the Inside Of the House:
• Check to see if doors and windows are harder to open, and if doors do not shut properly.
• Check to see if the roof is leaking. Look for water damage to the ceiling.
• Check to see if the furnace has shifted in any way, and if ducts and exhaust pipes are connected and undamaged.
• If inside the house, check to see if you are experiencing unexplained draftiness. Look for cracks in the walls, poorly aligned window frames, and loosened exterior siding. They can all let in breezes.
• Check to see if the floor is separated from walls or stairwells inside the house.
• Look for cracks between walls and built-in fixtures such as lights, cupboards or bookcases.
• Look for gaps around plumbing pipes that exit the foundation wall.
According to FEMA, the effects of an earthquake are sometimes slow to appear. Residents are urged to inspect their homes for damages that may have just come to light. Officials said walls can separate and cracks start to form weeks after the earthquake strikes.
FEMA officials said earthquake damages can be subtle as well. If not fixed in time, cracks between the walls can allow water to leak in and cause serious problems in the future, for example, rotting wood or a problem with mold. A structure that has shifted from its foundation leaves unsupported areas weakened and liable to break away.
If you discover problems in your house caused by the earthquakes, you may contact your local emergency management agencies.
For additional information see

Earthquake Preparedness

Are you prepared for our next earthquake?
Think about a few things to make you safer and better prepared.

  1. Bed — Large objects, like dressers or artwork, should be secured so as not to fall in or around your bed.
  2. Flashlights — A small expense, but have them everywhere.  Some residents have them not only in bedside drawers, but mounted inside all closet doors for easy access in the dark.
  3. Shoes — A good idea to have bedside, should you have to move through the house when items are displaced or broken.
  4. Phone — Phone lines, cell and land, are the first things to get jammed in a not-so-minor earthquake.  A quick text message saying “we’re okay” to friends or family can sometimes go through more effectively even if phone lines are down.
  5. Neighbors — Be a good neighbor and check on those near you, especially the elderly who do not have family nearby.
  6. Bottled Water — It always a good idea to have bottled water stored away for brushing and washing (and drinking), should there be an temporary outage in water service.
  7. Gas — If you smell gas, especially after a quake, call Southern California Gas Company immediately at (1-800-427-2200).

Note from Bart: If you smell gas, you should try to shut off the gas supply. Calling the gas company might be impossible.
(See number 4)

Most people should have earthquake shutoff valves, but also should know how to turn of the gas (and water as well) in the event of a leak.

Note from Joe:I agree that residents should know how to turn off the gas. It requires a special but inexpensive wrench which you can obtain at OSH or another hardware store.  At our house we have it “zip tied” to the gas shut off valve so it will always be right there when needed.

You can find more tips at:

Good luck and be safe.

Earthquake preparedness 2014