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Checking Inside & Outside The Home For Earthquake Damage

In the aftermath of an earthquake, damage to homes, buildings and other structures may or may not be visible. That is why it is important to thoroughly check both inside and outside your property as soon as it is safe to do so. “You’d be surprised at how houses and their contents can shift during an earthquake or cause odd things to malfunction,” said Gina Peek, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension housing and consumer specialist. “For instance, in one reported case, attic dust sifted into a smoke detector causing it to begin chirping hours after being rattled in an earthquake.”


Outside the home, begin by examining the foundation, garage and patio floors for cracks and exposed concrete that was previously buried. Also, examine the exterior of the house, including the siding or other types of covering, looking for gaps or overlaps. Give special attention to areas where two different materials join together. The roof should be inspected for cracks and torn shingles while the chimney, including the flashing, should be closely scanned for damage or separation. Also, examine the air conditioner’s condenser, lines and concrete pad to ensure everything is intact and has not shifted.


Any inspection of earthquake damage inside a house or building should include looking for cracks in the slab as well as anything out of the ordinary with the walls, ceilings and floors. “Use a level – or a marble, if there is no carpet – in several places to confirm the floor is level,” Peek said. In the attic, property owners should look for cracks or separation of roof tresses and sheathing. “Check all your windows to make sure they open and close easily,” said Scott Frazier, OSU Cooperative Extension engineer. “This is especially important since windows can be used as a way of escape in case of an emergency such as a fire.” Similar to windows, homeowners should test the doors to all rooms, closets and cabinets, which should remain correctly oriented as well as open and close properly and with ease. Examine all cabinets throughout the house to make sure none have shifted or separated from the wall.


Finally, homeowners should thoroughly check the heating and cooling duct work, particularly where it penetrates the walls and at the joints. If the ductwork has been compromised in any way, the issue should be dealt with quickly because homeowners may be losing heat or cool air, which could affect the energy bill.

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