How to prepare your home for an earthquake

Some of the most vulnerable Californians can receive thousands of dollars from the state to better protect their homes.

The Earthquake Brace & Bolt program was established in 2015 by the California Earthquake Authority and the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services in order to stabilize more than 1 million homes that are most at-risk when the earth shifts, jolts and trembles.

How to qualify

Qualifying residents are awarded up to $3,000 to retrofit their residences — typically older houses built before 1980 — to help prevent earthquake damage.

Also, homeowners earning up to $72,080 per household are now eligible for an additional low-income grant on a first-come, first-serve basis. Depending on a home’s needs and location, the supplemental award may cover up to 100% of a retrofit’s cost.

Applications to register are submitted directly to the Earthquake Brace & Bolt program online, and participants are selected through a random drawing.

However, homeowners must wait for a 30-day registration window to reopen in 2023 before any new applications are accepted. Historically, registration is open between mid-October and December.

How the program works

The program can help connect residents with trained and vetted contractors, who will improve the stability of homes that were constructed before 1980 with wood frames and raised foundations — a design that predated improved seismic built codes that required sufficient bracing and bolting in crawl spaces.

On average, these kinds of fixes typically cost $3,000 to $7,500.

The Earthquake Brace & Bolt program is a reimbursement, so checks will be sent to homeowners after the retrofit and all necessary approvals are completed. Some low-income eligible homeowners can receive a small portion of funds to help cover up-front costs, such as contractor bids and building permit fees.

The program is limited to specific ZIP codes.

Residents living in certain types of homes in at-risk ZIP codes can apply for the grant program, including several in Humboldt County, where a 6.4 magnitude earthquake shook some residentsoff their literal foundations and cut power to more than 70,000 residents on Tuesday.

Dozens of cities across the Bay Area qualify, including Berkeley, Fremont, Milpitas, Mountain View, Oakland, Pleasanton, Pittsburg, Richmond, San Jose, Sunnyvale and Walnut Creek. A complete list of qualifying ZIP codes can be found here. Several new locations are added annually.

According to the Earthquake Brace & Bolt website, “tens of millions” of dollars have been granted to help more than 18,000 people since the program’s founding.

Typical homeowners insurance plans do not cover most structural damage caused by earthquakes. However, the California Earthquake Authority offers a “Hazard Reduction Discount,” which cuts up to 25% off its policy premiums for homes that have been retrofitted up to code.

Changes to make inside your home now

• Appliances: Water heaters should be strapped to the wall. If water heaters fall during an earthquake, the impact could start a fire and cut off water access to a home. A fire extinguisher should be on hand, preferably in multiple accessible locations. Check to make sure electric garage doors are able to be opened manually.

• Furnishings: Beds should be moved from under any windows. Bolting down and securing items like large paintings, bookshelves, ceiling fans and TVs can help prevent injuries.

• Storage: Keep caustic and flammable liquids — gas cans, paint thinners, weed killers, nail polish — in low, child-proof cabinets and lower shelves. Child locks can also be installed on cabinets to prevent injuries from falling kitchenware and other household items. An earthquake emergency supply kit should be equipped with tools — flashlights, a first aid kit, nonperishable food, chargers — and stored in a readily accessible location.

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