A blue house at twilight.

Going Beyond Earthquake Insurance

We talk a lot about what you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones in the event of an earthquake, but what about your property? We’ve all heard of earthquake insurance, a great start, but there is more you can do to ensure you have a safe place to go home to – things that could even make you money in the long run!

Start with the Foundations

As with so many things, it’s best to begin at the base. In your home’s case, this means the foundation. Houses built after 1980 are required to be secured to their foundations, however many are still bolted improperly. If you have any doubt whether or not your foundations are secure, contact a professional to have a look. If your Victoria local, we recommend QuakeSafe.

If a building is not properly attached to its foundations at the time of a large earthquake the walls can shift, tilting or even collapsing a home and making it unsafe for occupation. After a major earthquake teams of engineers will move from place to place inspecting homes for safety, dictating whether or not you may re-enter your residence. If your home is deemed unfit or too severely damaged it could take a very long time (years in some cases) to get a contractor to fix the problem – you can bet they’ll be busy!

Work your way up

Once you know your foundations are secure (the single biggest factor in a home’s survival rate) move on to other areas. Natural Resources Canada has some great suggestions on things you can do, as well as some pointers on how to assess your vulnerability.

Generally speaking, structural preparedness boils down to keeping your home sturdy, reinforced, and well-maintained. Pay special attention to chimneys and masonry as the rigid building materials can crumble and wreak havoc, hurling heavy debris as they collapse. If you notice cracks, fissures, or loose pieces in your stonework, be sure to address it immediately.

Bricks with a hand cart

Securing hazardous fixtures in your home is another great step. Water tanks and gas appliances can cause damage far beyond other equipment if they come loose. Imagine having your whole home intact after a major disaster, but flooding with water and poisonous/explosive gas. Talk about going from bad to worse!

At the Top

At the end of the day, we want you to have a roof over your head. But we also want it to be a safe roof, immune from collapse. We’re picky like that.

Have a professional secure ceiling joists and beams with steel t-straps and connectors (braces) to add stability and make your ceiling able to withstand greater swaying and to add resistance to collapse if a heavy item (eg a tree) falls on it. Metal roof ties will also assist with this.

Bird on a roof

Consider adding safety chains to any lights or decorations hanging from your ceiling, and make sure any electrical boxes are securely fastened to strong ceiling joists. You can also add plywood sheathing to reinforce ceilings around chimneys to keep bricks and mortar from breaking through.

Lastly, fix any loose roof tiles quickly and keep your roof maintained and secured to the surface beneath.

Making Money

Sprouts growing from stacks of coins

So how do these invisible home renovations put money in your pocket? The profit is twofold:

Being able to assure potential buyers that your home is earthquake ready is a feather in your cap, and can differentiate you from others on the market. Having a safe, secure home is a top priority for buyers everywhere.

According to the Faultlines podcast by Johanna Wagstaffe and the CBC, homes that are stable and safe can shoot up in value if they are near damaged areas. Construction companies will be on the hunt for places to use as secure office space, and to house their staff while they help to lift the neighborhood back to its feet. In some cases, survivors of the Christchurch earthquake were able to retire with the money made through selling intact homes.

Conclusion

Earthquake insurance is a step in the right direction if you are living on, or moving to, the West coast of BC, however it can take months to get paid after a major emergency. Having an intact, safe, dry home amidst chaos is an instant, more profitable investment and a great way to compliment your insurance.

Article written by Zenia Platten – Writer and emergency preparedness professional.

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