Puyallup: News

Earthquake Retrofit course to prepare Puyallup-area homeowners for the worst

By Allison Needles

aneedles@puyallupherald.com

March 28, 2017 10:21 AM

How prepared are the homes in the Puyallup Valley for a major earthquake?

That’s the question officials from the city of Puyallup and Pierce County Emergency Management will be asking at an upcoming Earthquake Retrofit course, which is free and open to the public.

“This whole area — the whole Puget Sound area — is very vulnerable to earthquakes,” said Pat Donovan, emergency manager for Puyallup. “The soil types that are in the Valley will cause a lot of that area to liquify (during an earthquake). Any type of structure built on those soils needs to be restructured.”

This whole area — the whole Puget Sound area — is very vulnerable to earthquakes. The soil types that are in the Valley will cause a lot of that area to liquify (during an earthquake). Any type of structure built on those soils needs to be restructured.

Pat Donovan, emergency manager for the city of Puyallup

Be the first to know.

No one covers what is happening in our community better than we do. And with a digital subscription, you'll never miss a local story.

Some houses, ones built before the 1980s in particular, were not built to withstand some natural disasters. Housing codes change every year, but people still live in some of those older houses.

“If a house is not retrofitted, it’s just sitting on a foundation,” said Peggy LovellFord, a community educator for Pierce County Emergency Management. “So (retrofitting) is attaching the house to its foundation.”

“Puyallup and the whole Valley have some beautifully-styled homes, and they weren’t required to have those things when they were built,” added Donovan.

In 2015, The New Yorker published an article discussing the future rupture of the Cascadia subduction zone in the Pacific Northwest, titled “The Really Big One.” The rupture would cause an estimated 8.0 to 9.2 magnitude earthquake. It gathered a lot of attention from locals, including seismologist and spokesman for the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, Bill Steele, who discussed its impacts on Pierce County.

For many scientists, it’s not a matter of if the “Big One” hits, but when. And when it does, it will cause some destruction.

“We do live in an active earthquake area,” LovellFord said. “At minimum, I just want people who have those types of homes to educate themselves.”

At minimum, I just want people who have those types of homes to educate themselves.

Peggy LovellFord, community educator for Pierce County Emergency Management

The Earthquake Retrofit course aims to do just that. There, locals can learn about home evaluations, the permit process, proper bolt and plate installation and engineering solutions. They can also figure out whether or not their houses are retrofitted, and if not, what they can do to prepare, including where to find materials or who to hire for the job.

“It’s helping the homeowners help themselves,” Donovan said.

General safety practices include strapping water heaters to the wall and making sure there are no loose objects resting directly above heads that could easily fall over and cause damage.

It’s important to keep locals aware of the possibilities, said LovellFord, which includes being prepared for the weeks following a major earthquake event.

“We’re recommending people to be ready for two weeks (on their own),” she said.

The workshop will be presented by LovellFord and Rick Hopkins, a Pierce County building official with planning and land services, and is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. April 5 at the Puyallup Public Library, 324 S. Meridian, in downtown Puyallup.

Allison Needles: 253-256-7043, @herald_allison

Earthquake Retrofit Course

When: 6:30 to 8 p.m. April 5

Where: Puyallup Public Library, 324 S. Meridian