A Cost Effective Way to Retrofit Schools

hans chr. hansen, architect: hanssted skole / ...

hans chr. hansen, architect: hanssted skole / school, copenhagen 1954-1959 (Photo credit: seier+seier)

Here ‘s an interesting look at how to upgrade schools that might not be able to sustain a significant earthquake. This creates a “cage” so students can assemble in a reinforced area of the school in the event the building crumbles under the stress. This may be a cost effective way of retrofitting schools while facing current budget challenges.

Source:

http://www.oregonlive.com/education/index.ssf/2012/11/earthquakes_and_portland-area.html

Water Heaters: When the Earth Shakes it’s a 600 lb Missile Sitting in Your Garage

Water heater sm

Water heater sm (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This may sound dramatic which I am at times (just ask my husband about my infamous hyperbole over the years) but we are all sitting on a potential 600 pound “Missile” in our homes. A full size water heater can be extremely dangerous if it’s not anchored when a megathrust earthquake hits.

In fact, according to the State of Oregon Building Codes Division: “The water heater seismic strapping requirements and applicableseismic zones have changed with the adoption of the new codes. Now all water heaters under the 2005 Oregon Plumbing Specialty Code statewide must be strapped. Water heaters installed in buildings within the scope of the 2005 Oregon Residential Specialty Code are required to be strapped in all counties in the state except the following: Wasco, Jefferson, Deschutes, Crook, Sherman, Wheeler, Gilliam, Marrow, Grant, Harney, Umatilla, Union, Baker, Malheur and Wallowa.”

Sample Product (this is not an endorsement, I just pulled the top ranking site that popped up on Google):

http://reviews.homedepot.com/1999/100067210/10-3-in-w-x-13-2-in-d-x-2-in-h-galvanized-steel-water-heater-earthquake-restraining-straps-reviews/reviews.htm

I urge everyone to anchor their water heaters before the big one hits, however, I have to add this story that I happen to find very interesting, ironic, sad, whatever… you decide.  We had our water heater replaced and I was informed by the plumber that I need to anchor it down. Not a problem. I went to… now I dislike using store names but I am going to do it this once since I know this large company (like the company I work for) has a listening tool and Google Alerts set to notify their Marketing team back at their headquarters when their brand is referenced online and I want them to see their “logic” at work. OK, so I went to Lowes in Tigard and I asked for an earthquake restraining strap. The clerk on the West side of Portland told me that they don’t have any in this particular store. I was puzzled. She then proceeded to tell me that earthquake straps are available on the East side of the Willamettte River. Huh? I countered that the subduction zone is off the Oregon coast and last time I checked the Pacific is to the west of the Willamette. In fact, the west side of Portland is probably a bit more vulnerable due to the additional proximity to the fault. The clerk nodded and agreed but then she said “try explaining this to our distribution center in North Carolina. In their mind the only thing threatening our area in Mt. Saint Helens.” Really?!? That’s just so…. 1980. So Lowes Companies, Inc. (I am really trying to hit their alerts now) will you please advise your distribution center that seismic straps need to be distributed to ALL of your Portland stores?!?

And, since Home Depot being another large corporation has alerts set up for their competitors (I know this because our company does this) as well, Hi Home Depot, can you please check to ensure that all of your Oregon & Washington stores carry this strap vs. only having it in one store for a silly reason like Lowes… Thanks.

Reference Link:

Click to access Int100.pdf

Bouncing off of the Walls in a 6.5 Earthquake Trying to Save a Goldfish

I lived on the Central Coast of California and I have a few earthquakes under my belt — nothing too crazy — I think the most was 6.5 on the Richter scale. I was definitely aware of the earthquake. I lived in a 3 story townhouse at the time and I was on the middle floor and was home from work that day. I recall being faced with a dilemma — save our Christmas tree or run upstairs and make sure the 39 cent goldfish “Ahi Tuna” remained safe and sound. I headed up the stairs to the top floor and I recall being amazed at how much the building swayed. Ahi made it — I grabbed his bowl before it fell off of the bookcase. Success.

My boyfriend at the time came home from school and asked how I was doing and I was so proud that I saved Ahi from a brutal demise, of which I was greeted with a lecture from a Turkish national who had survived several very deadly earthquakes. According to him the key is to get out of the building. In fact, earlier that day he had a friend from Turkey, who was attending the same university, actually jump from a bathroom window for fear the university’s building would collapse with the 6.5 quake. Poor guy.

I of course scoffed at his concerns because after all we were in California and our building codes were superior… It’s not like buildings collapse from earthquakes in our region?!?! (See CNN article documenting the deaths from the older building collapse) Oh, the hubris. He was right. This was the turning point where I realized that we are all vulnerable — some  aspects of protection are based on pure luck while others are based on how we choose to respond when the ground begins shaking.

Earthquake Richter Scale

Earthquake Richter Scale (Photo credit: Wikipedia)    (Poor guy.) That just floored me. I reminded him that we were in the United States and we, of course, (Cut me some slack, I was very naive at the time) had better building codes in the state of California (Please check out the CNN story at the end of this post… two people died from this earthquake because of a building collapse… touche he was correct). Please forgive the hubris.

What did I learn from this experience? 

  • Don’t rely on the building code
  • Secure your bookcase and if you are worried about something valuable (even if it’s a 39 cent goldfish, keep it close to the ground)
  • Make a sound decision to either duck and cover (if it’s a new building) and if it’s un-reinforced masonry then make a call to get out of the building as soon as possible. This is your call — size up the building and determine what works for you. (Again, I am no expert – it’s purely up to you)
  • Find someone who has been through a larger earthquake to give you sound advice

CNN Article:

http://articles.cnn.com/2003-12-22/us/ca.earthquake_1_marilyn-zafuto-bill-ellsworth-original-quake?_s=PM:US

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The Sixth Sense: I Can Hear Earthquakes (seriously)

No seriously… I can. It’s completely bizarre and I won’t promise that it’s for every earthquake but while I lived in California I could hear them coming. It was bizarre. The first time I heard an earthquake it sounded like a large Semi roaring through my quiet neighborhood — 30 seconds later the house would shake.

Initially it freaked me out but then it became a parlor trick.

In 2003 we had a series of small earthquakes that would rattle the house and my boyfriend at the time would be sitting in our living room with another Turkish friend and I would pass through the room saying “Earthquake” – 30 seconds later the house would shake. (I am completely serious…) They would frantically look at each other and I would return to the room and tell them I was a witch.

I could be, but I highly doubt it. It was fun watching them question and worry about it.

I have read about other people hearing the loud Semi truck roaring before an earthquake hits so I don’t feel like I am all alone on this one.

At most, “touched” individuals (I love this expression) could predict a quake was coming 30 seconds prior but nothing more. So who knows if my skills remain in tact but I sure hope I don’t hear a Semi truck any time soon.

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English: A picture of the 2004 tsunami in Ao N...

English: A picture of the 2004 tsunami in Ao Nang, Krabi Province, Thailand. Français : Image montrant le raz-de-marée de 2004 à Ao Nang, en Thaïlande. Italiano: Una fotografia del maremoto dell’Oceano Indiano ad Ao Nang, in Tailandia. Español: Imagen del terremoto del Océano Índico de 2004 en Ao Nang, Tailandia. മലയാളം: 2004-ൽ ഇന്ത്യൻ മഹാസമുദ്രത്തിൽ ഉണ്ടായ സുനാമി, തായ്‌ലാന്റിലെ ആവോ നാങിൽ നിന്നുള്ള ചിത്രം. Myanmasa: ဆူနာမီ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chicken Little: The Ground Will Rumble

Marshfield, Oregon (now Coos Bay) circa 1920

Marshfield, Oregon (now Coos Bay) circa 1920 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, most of my family is from Coos County and boy do they find me annoying. I swear I can start a conversation about how so and so’s son is doing on Varsity basketball and quickly steer the conversation to “Did you know the Tsunami wave will reach all the way to Mingus Park and Blossom Gulch?” I know they get off the phone with me, shake their head, and say “she is at it again.” I can’t help it. This earthquake is looming in the distance and no one has a clue when it will strike. This scares me to death.

I have so many family members down in Coos Bay, let alone worrying about my own kids here in Portland, and I feel this topic is worth discussing. I especially find it disturbing that scientists are saying that the quakes that are occurring offshore in the 5.0-6.0 range are a sign of a megathrust quake in the future — where it might be sooner rather than later. I used to think that these small quakes were a good thing because it is releasing energy by taking pressure off of the fault. Not so according to one study issued by the State of Oregon. That’s unfortunately a myth.

So, I continue to plague my family gatherings with, “so do you have a gallon of water per person, per day for over a week…. and how are you with supplies.” (Cue their eye roll) I only do this because I care so deeply about their safety and I need to focus on my own family and I want the peace of mind knowing that my family and friends are safe.

My advice to all in the Northwest. Prepare. Prepare. Prepare. (a gallon of water, per person, per day for over a week… and don’t forget about your pets, they need water too)

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A Prediction of 10,000 deaths in the Northwest

I read a study recently discussed on KGW which stated scientists estimate 10,000 people in the Northwest will perish from this megaquake…. this gives me chills. I’m not an overly religious person but I actually catch myself saying a little prayer that my children are not among the casualties. I really, really pray they always remain safe and this earthquake doesn’t occur in their (very long) lifetime.

Unfortunately, I can see this large body count happening after growing up along the coast. The news of the earthquake is a slap in the face and many live in denial. I feel there was almost a false sense of security that “we live God’s country” – we don’t have tornadoes (BTW, I read that one did touchdown in Coos County about 30 plus years ago), no hurricanes (OK, we will not count the Columbus Day storm, where winds at Cape Blanco were well over 145 mph), no black widow spiders (we have the Hobo Spider and they are nasty little suckers), but all in all…. it’s a pretty tame environment or at least so I thought.

Many residents may think that they can muscle through this event, which they may and I hope they do, but without knowing where is safe and where landslides

English: Damage from the Columbus Day Storm of...

English: Damage from the Columbus Day Storm of 1962 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

may occur, how can you truly be safe?

I implore anyone living along the coasts of Washington and Oregon… know the path of a tsunami whether it’s from a local earthquake or a distant one. (The paths may vary depending on the location of the seismic activity) It will surprise you.

Have a plan and execute it flawlessly.

Evacuation Maps:

Oregon

http://www.oregongeology.com/sub/earthquakes/coastal/Tsubrochures.htm

Washington

Click to access ger_tsunami_inundation_maps.pdf

KGW Article:

http://www.kgw.com/home/Report-makes-chilling-forecast-on-NW-quake-198444741.html

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The Turkish Earthquakes

English: Map showing the epicentre of the 1999...

English: Map showing the epicentre of the 1999 İzmit earthquake. Türkçe: 1999 Gölcük Depremi merkezi ve etki alanı (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I spent a lot of time in Turkey for personal reasons and I got to know the country and I met many people along the way. For one thing, it’s a gorgeous country and they have amazing food, however, they are plagued with an active fault that produced two very serious earthquakes that toppled many buildings where many lives were lost. Granted many of those who perished were in buildings with un-reinforced masonry, however, it still doesn’t discount the fact that many people died.

I have heard  push back on preparations in the Northwest after referencing these incredible death tolls. In fact, some Americans think the Turkish deaths were a result of older building codes — Many Turkish buildings were older and the US building standards are much better.

Not so fast… not really… not always.

I know in Portland that geologists worry about roughly 1,600 structures in the downtown area. These are older brick buildings, like the ones in parts of Turkey, that couldn’t handle significant shaking. The earthquake in 1999 was only a 7.6… in the Northwest we are talking about a 9.0+.  That is exponentially worse than the Turkish quakes.

These brick buildings in the Northwest will be no match for megaquake. I know the going theory is duck and cover, however, in my personal (unprofessional opinion) if you are in an un-reinforced brick building…. cover your head and run… run for your life.

I knew of three people in the Gölcük earthquake (pronounced Gul-juck) — one person was on the 6th floor of his building and it collapsed as he slept. Amazingly enough he rode the collapsing debris down, dusted himself off and began searching for neighbors in the rubble. I had another friend who was on the second floor of her building, asleep in her bed, and the building collapsed on her. Her will to dig won out and in shock she dusted herself off and staggered down the street counting her blessings…. the last person I met was a survivor… a sole survivor… he lost 9 people in the earthquake. I was told he stood in line and the government issued him 9 death certificates. He lost his parents, siblings, a spouse, and two young nieces.

Anyone reading this, please take these warnings seriously and prepare. It may save your life.

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The L Bracket, My friend

I am a mom and I’m always looking for ways to improve the safety of my home to ensure that my kiddos are kept safe and sound. I recently went to my favorite home improvement box store and discovered the L bracket. I initially purchased and installed them after reading a viral blog (a heart wrenching post about a mom who lost her little girl to a small dresser that fell on the 3 year old) — after securing various pieces of furniture in my kids’ rooms I realized that these lovely brackets may be helpful in minimizing my large furniture from becoming projectiles during a large earthquake. In fact, I just made arrangements for a handyman  to install them in various areas of my home in an attempt to keep my family a little safer (that is if we are home when this hits).

I am even considering violating some antiques with this bracket – these older pieces are heavy and dangerous if they become tossed about.

Home Cinema

Home Cinema (Photo credit: Grant Mitchell)

L Brackets (and this is not an endorsement of any product):

http://www.homedepot.com/webapp/catalog/servlet/Search?keyword=l+brackets

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