Don't Overlook Earthquake Damage

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Release date: 
May 17, 2001
Release Number: 
1361-72

Olympia, WA -- Even though the Nisqually Earthquake happened nearly two months ago, Washington residents are still discovering damage done by the quake to their homes and properties, said officials of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

"Earthquake damages are sometimes hard to assess," said Bill Lokey, Federal Coordinating Officer. "If a flood destroys your home, it's obvious. You can easily see the water line. But earthquake damages are different, because a small crack could become a huge problem in a few weeks."

Because 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. Walls can separate and cracks start to form weeks after the earthquake.

To see if the Nisqually Earthquake created problems with your home or property, check the following:

House Structure:

  • Has any portion of your house collapsed?
  • Has the house shifted on its foundation? Has it fallen away from the foundation in any place?
  • Is the structure noticeably leaning? When looked at from a distance, does it look tilted?
  • Do you see severe cracks or openings between the structure and outdoor steps or porches?
  • Do you experience seriously increased vibrations from passing trucks and buses?
  • Do you see severe cracks in external walls?

Chimneys:

  • Are there cracks between the chimney and the exterior wall or the roof?
  • Are there cracks in the liner?
  • Do you find unexplained debris in the fireplace?

Utilities:

  • Are power lines to your house noticeably sagging?
  • Is your hot water heater leaning or tilted?
  • Are all the water connections secure and dry-pipes, toilets, faucets?

Interior:

  • Are doors and windows more difficult to open?
  • Is the roof leaking? Look for water damage to the ceiling.
  • Has the furnace shifted in any way? Are ducts and exhaust pipes connected and undamaged?
  • Do you experience unexplained draftiness? Cracks in the walls, poorly aligned window frames, and loosened exterior siding can all let in breezes.
  • Has the floor separated from walls or stairwells anywhere inside the house?
  • Are there cracks between walls and such built-in fixtures as lights, cupboards or bookcases?

Earthquake damage can be subtle. Cracks between the walls can allow water to leak in and cause serious problems in the future, like 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 with your home or property that you believe are caused by the Feb. 28 quake, register with FEMA before the May 31 deadline by calling 1-800-462-9029 or TTY 1-800-462-7585. Lines are open Monday through Saturday, 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. If you have already registered with FEMA but notice additional damage to your property, call the Helpline at 1-800-525-0321 (TTY 1-800-462-7585) to report your findings.

FEMA disaster assistance covers basic needs only and will not normally compensate individuals for their entire loss. Persons covered by insurance may receive assistance from the government for areas not covered by their insurance. Some disaster aid does not have to be paid back, while other types of help may come in the form of loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). FEMA representatives will explain the process when persons call for...

Last Updated: 
July 16, 2012 - 18:46
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