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Gephardt: How To Assess Earthquake Damage In Your Home

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Many residents across the Wasatch Front suffered damages to their homes after a 5.7-magnitude earthquake rocked the northern part of the state. The incident left many homeowners wondering, “How do I know if my home is still structurally sound and safe to sleep in tonight?”

Teresa Hunsaker of the Utah State University Extension said older homes built with older materials are, naturally, more at risk for damage.

“The brickwork, the mortar may not be as secure, and so you’re going to want to check that over very carefully,” said Hunsaker. “We want you to really, truly look for any gaps in the pulled out bricks; anything like that definitely would be in place. Also, structurally, you’re going to look along the foundation. You’re also going to look at the framing of the house — what shifted cracks inside the house that you can see as well as outside — and all of your door frames. Are they closing accurately? That’s going to let you know that there was a shift (in the foundation) as well.”

Things that protrude from your home like chimneys tend to take the damage the worst.

“We’ve got a fireplace, we need to check that. We need to get binoculars out because we don’t want you on the roof,” said Hunsaker. “But we want you to check that fireplace and the chimney and all of the work associated with fireplace and chimney.”

Even that small damage can mean big expenses, and as reported last month, earthquake damage is not covered under your standard homeowners policy.

Only about 8% of homeowners nationally have earthquake insurance added on. The number is a little higher here in Utah — 14%. That means the vast majority of people in Utah who are now looking to repair their homes will have the financial burden placed upon themselves.

“There are things that we need to do — take care of the cleanup and some of the repair work — and you know things like that on our own, and not expect necessarily that the government will step in,” said Hunsaker.

She also advised getting in touch with an engineer to give homeowners a proper assessment of the damage.

Officials said this is a great time to walk around your house and not just assess damage, but assess the damage that could come if and when another large rumble occurs. Are your pictures and TV breast to the wall? What about the glasses and vases on your shelves? Is there anything heavy that sits above where you or your family sleeps?

No fatalities were reported today, but officials encouraged homeowners to take proactive steps now to make sure it stays that way next time.

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