The Thomas, Hill, and Woolsey fires inspired many Ventura County residents to make homes more fire safe, mainly through landscape changes. Preparation for the next local disaster, however, may require an entirely different set of measures, and the consequences of failure to prepare may be even more devastating.
In addition to the danger the San Andreas fault poses to most of California’s population, Ventura County has several additional earthquake faults, including the Oak Ridge, San Cayetano, and Red Mountain faults. Ventura even has the dubious honor of an earthquake fault bearing its name, the Ventura-Pitus Point fault, which runs along the city of Ventura’s foothills, under downtown and all the way to Goleta.
Following the 6.7 magnitude Northridge earthquake in 1994, California building code revisions began requiring increased seismic strengthening for new construction, such as plywood reinforcement of walls. The previous major revision of building code seismic standards followed the 1971 6.6 magnitude Sylmar earthquake. Even if your home was built before, but was unaffected by, these quakes, you could be in danger.
Many areas of Ventura County have clay soils, which expand when moist and contract when dry. This shifting of the ground can damage a foundation, and over time, the foundation can be weakened to the point that it will not sufficiently support a shifting structure during an earthquake.
Some repairs are minimally intrusive. For example, if the middle of a wall is bowing but the top and bottom have not yet begun to lean or slide, a carbon fiber strap can be used without any outside digging or use of heavy equipment, according to a publication of Supportworks, a manufacturer of earthquake stabilization equipment.
The most common repairs require minor drilling and bolting. Will Crawford, President of CXC Contracting, based in Thousand Oaks, has completed a wide range of local earthquake retrofit projects, and some have been exotic, such as installation of a helical pier system to stabilize a structure while doing minimal excavation to an underlying archeological site on Santa Rosa Island. He notes, however, “By far, most of what I do is simply anchoring homes to foundations, using brackets and bolts every four feet for two-story houses.” This type of earthquake retrofit typically costs between $3,000 and $10,000.
There is a good reason for the popularity of this retrofit. It is a key measure identified as a priority by the California Earthquake Authority, qualifying many earthquake insurance policyholders for discounts ranging from 5 percent to 20 percent. After July 1, potential discount percentages will rise to 10 percent to 25 percent. While most earthquake insurance in California is backed by the California Earthquake Authority, policies are generally sold through the same companies offering homeowners’ insurance. Contact your agent to obtain the full list of retrofits required for maximum discounts.
The California Earthquake Authority periodically offers incentives of up to $3,000 on a first-come, first-served basis to incentivize homeowners in select areas to retrofit foundations. Their “Earthquake Brace and Bolt” program, viewable at www.earthquakebracebolt.com, has so far been limited to zip codes outside of Ventura County, focusing on areas of greatest risk and with the highest percentage of pre-1940 houses. It is possible some areas of Ventura County will eventually rise to the level of meriting this priority listing, but waiting for incentives risks being unprotected from the next earthquake.