Well, Utah just had our largest earthquake since 1992. It woke some of us up and rattled the windows. We thought it would be wise to get the word out on how to check for earthquake damage (now that the ground isn’t rocking and rolling quite so much). Check for injuries to yourself and your family and cautiously evacuate if it is unsafe before taking care of your home.
1. Walk the Outside
It goes without saying that if the earthquake is severe, you should stay safe and not enter any spaces that look dangerous or unstable. Let’s just say it again – keep clear until you know it is safe. Keep an eye out for downed power lines and stay away from them as well.
Walk the outside of your building and check for earthquake damage. Be systematic. Check each outer wall, top to bottom. Look for cracks, signs of instability, indents, or bulging walls. Take photos of the damage if you can – you might need documentation for insurance claims.
Look at your roof and gutters and check that you aren’t missing any tiles or that your water spouts haven’t become disconnected. Don’t forget to check roof ridges if you can get to them. Are there heavy tree branches or debris on your roof? If so, your roof might be in danger of collapsing – so be careful about re-entering your house.
Make a note of anything that looks like it is unstable or still moving. And DON’T get too close if that is the case. Finally, check to see if you smell any gas. If you do, do not go into your house. Write down a list of all the things that need to be taken care of.
2. Check The Inside
The inclination is to clean up any earthquake damage inside first. But take a moment and make sure that your house is stable from the outside first.
Check your walls, ceilings and floors for cracks or gaps. Notice if the floor is creakier than before in a specific area. Tap your floor tiles and check for a new hollow sound. Don’t forget to check basements and crawl spaces.
Check your windows and doors – do they still open and close properly (assuming they aren’t broken)? If they don’t, that could indicate some foundational issues that are hidden.
3. Check Utility Lines for Earthquake Damage
It is critical that once you’ve made sure that the foundation of your house is stable and safe that you check your gas line where it comes into your house. Look at your meter and check the dials. Check for the smell of gas – especially around the stove, furnace, and hot water heater. If you smell gas, evacuate immediately. If it is safe, turn off the gas main. Here is a video on how to check.
Look for water leaks – around your water heater, sinks, tub and any hoses attached to your house. If you discover water leaks, turn off the water main if you can.
Finally, check your electrical wires, especially in basements and attics, where wires may be exposed. Check if anything has fallen on them. If any wires are exposed, sparking or appear damaged, turn off the power at the breaker and DO NOT approach any exposed wires or downed lines.
4. Check for Debris & Clean Up
The inclination when checking for earthquake damage is to take care of the obvious stuff first, things like broken glass and tipped over furniture. But making sure that your foundation and utilities are secure first means you can clean up without the fear of your house coming down or of fire. This wasn’t a quake that majorly damaged most homes in Utah, but something to keep in mind for the future.
Make sure you have a pair of solid shoes on and sweep up any broken glass, pottery, etc. You don’t want to worry about cutting your foot. Check that picture frames are stable on the wall – you don’t want them falling off later and hitting someone because they came loose.
Put furniture, books, plates, etc. back where they belong (or stack them on the floor if you’re worried about strong aftershocks).
Take a deep breath. Have a glass of wine. Meditate. Hug your family. Check on your neighbors. Or if there *happens* to be pandemic going on at the same time (lucky you) get on social media and check on everyone. We’ll get through this.