How to spot earthquake damage
Often earthquake damage can mimic plain old wear and tear or be so subtle it's hard to find.
Taking these simple steps will help you spot any earthquake damage:
- Examine the entire outside of the structure for collapse or obvious movement off the foundation.
- Check the ground for fissures or areas where the ground may have shifted. Are there any breaks in fence lines or other structures that might indicate nearby damage?
- Does the building look crooked or out of plumb?
- Is the floor or roof pulling away or separated from the building supports?
- Does the floor feel "bouncy", "soggy" or "mushy" when you walk on it? This may indicate damage under the floor.
- Has anything fallen off the chimney or parapet? Are there any signs of cracks in the chimney's mortar? Such cracks can be fire hazards or allow deadly carbon monoxide to leak into the house.
- To ensure your safety, have a certified chimney inspector evaluate your chimney. Contact your insurance company, mortgage company, or the Chimney Safety Institute of America (http://www.CSIA.org).
- Inspect stairs for stability. If they were solid before the earthquake, and now they wobble when you walk on them, they may be a hazard. Are the banister and supporting columns secure?
- Are any windows or doors newly jammed or blocked? Can you easily raise and lower windows, or have they become difficult to move since the quake? Do all doors open and close without resistance?
- Look in the crawl spaces, stairwells, basements, attics and other exposed areas for signs of damage such as exposed or cracked beams, roof leaks, and foundation cracks.
- Check basement floors and exterior walls for cracks and bulges that may indicate more serious problems.
- Look for damage to ceilings, partitions, light fixtures, the roof, fuel tanks, and other attachments to the main frame of the structure.
- Check your furnace and hot water heater connections to make sure they are tight and not leaking.
- Check for sewage and water line damage. If you suspect sewage lines are damaged, avoid using the toilets and call a plumber. If you are on "city water" and the water pipes are damaged, contact the water company and avoid using water from the tap. If you have a well and suspect damage to the well or pipes, do not use the water and call a well company. You can obtain safe water from undamaged water heaters or by melting ice cubes.
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