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Checking Your Home And Surroundings After An Earthquake

When an earthquake strikes, the wisest thing to do is to get out of your home into the open as quickly as possible. There is the chance that your house will collapse, causing serious injury or death to those within. Once the primary quake is over, it is still best to remain outside, as there are always aftershocks and these can be nearly as strong as the first earthquake. When you are satisfied that the quakes are over, it still would not be advisable to move back into your home immediately – it is easy for damage to have been done to the structure and to the utilities entering it.

Assessing Your Home From The Outside

Before entering your home again, it should be thoroughly checked from the outside. Sometimes the damage is so profound that there is no question that it is uninhabitable, but at other times, the damage can still be severe, but not obvious. The first thing to look for would be cracks in the outside walls. If the cracks are wider than one eighth of an inch, there may be damage to the framing within the walls.

Take a step back about 25 feet and look to see if the building is leaning at all. Slight leans might not be apparent when you are standing right next to the house. While you are there, look to see whether the chimney is still undamaged, and whether the roof is warped or shifted. If you see any of the above signs, your building may be too dangerous to live in, and will need a building inspector to check it out.

Gas Leaks

If you use gas either for your cooking stove or for your heat, you will need to be sure that the lines going into your house are intact. If you hear hissing gas or smell gas, leave the area fast; gas is highly explosive. Call the company that supplies gas from a cell phone or at a neighbor’s house. You might be able to turn off the gas yourself, but it will need to be turned back on by service personnel from the gas company.

The Water Line

Water Preserver
If your water line has been broken by the earthquake, you will need to find an alternative source of water right away. Do not use any water from the tap. Hopefully, you will have an emergency supply of water available, or the means to filter it. You and your family will have to wait until the pipes are reconnected and the system checked for contamination before you will be able to use your tap again.

Sewage Lines

If the sewage pipes have been damaged, you will not be able to use the toilet, even if your home is otherwise habitable. Any damaged sewage lines can cause leakage into the emergency supply of water, too, so caution should definitely be exercised when using the tap water until the utility companies have made repairs.