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Residential Seismic Strengthening Program Announced by Bureau of Development Services


City of Portland, Bureau of Development Services


April 7, 2011

Contact: Jim Nicks, Inspection Manager, 503.823.1054 | 

(Portland Ore.) The Bureau of Development Services is pleased to announce its new Residential Seismic Strengthening Program for one and two family residential buildings. This program is intended to provide homeowners and contractors a simple guide to evaluating existing homes to determine if certain improvements would be beneficial in order to reduce the risk of earthquake damage.

The standards set forth in the program are based on FEMA recommendations and provisions of the 2006 International Existing Building Code and focus on how to anchor the home to its foundation and strengthen cripple walls, if necessary.

"Providing homeowners streamlined and simple programs to improve the safety of their home is something that we strive to do," stated Paul Scarlett, Bureau of Development Services Director. "This program is a great way to do just that, especially in light of the recent earthquakes happening around the world."

A Residential Seismic Strengthening Program webpage has been developed and can be found under Quick Links at The Residential Seismic Strengthening Brochure provides information on:

  • Why many older homes lack foundation anchors.
  • What to look for when evaluating a homes need for seismic strengthening.
  • How to obtain a permit to perform seismic strengthening and why permitting is important.
  • Step-by-step instructions on how to perform the work.
  • Limitations that apply to the Residential Seismic Strengthening Program.

For more information on how to prepare for earthquakes or other disasters, please visit the Portland Office of Emergency Management website at

For more information about the Bureau of Development Services and the program and services it provides to the City of Portland please visit




susan bloom

April 28, 2011 at 1:29 PM

i am hiring a friend who is not licensed and/or bonded to retrofit my 104 year old home in northeast portland. i understand that in order to qualify for earthquake insurance i will have to have the work inspected by a structural engineer. we are trying to find definitive code requirements for retrofitting and are having a hard time doing so. can you help to direct us to a website or an office that can give us the exact work which must be done? thank you, susan


Dean Zarosinski PE

July 14, 2011 at 9:00 AM

This brochure directs the homeowner to do work that normally requires structural calculations to determine bolting requirements per ACI 318 Appendix D including a lateral analysis in accordance to the Oregon residential and structural specialty codes, This brochure omits informing the homeowner of the code requirements for special inspection when installing the expansion or adhesive anchors.

Proper seismic retrofits should be designed by a registered professional following current codes. When a homeowner brings in plans and has the city staff perform engineering design services is beyond the city plans examiners scope of work. If they do provide engineering services and do not sign and wet stamp their work the plans examiners are in violation of state statutes.


Ross Caron

July 27, 2011 at 11:37 AM


The work permitted under the Residential Seismic Strengthening program does not require structural calculations or plans to be prepared by a design professional. The brochure clearly states it is not intended to bring an existing building up to current code, and any structural modifications beyond the specific program limitations will typically require a professional design. The program is in compliance with State code and is based upon recommendations set forth by FEMA and guidelines within the 2006 IEBC, Appendix A, chapter A3. The program was also modeled after similar programs that have been implemented in Cities such as Los Angeles, CA and Seattle, WA.

The Residential Seismic Strengthening program is a program intended to provide information and resources to property owners about strengthening existing one and two family dwellings to reduce the likelihood and/or severity of potential earthquake damage. It provides a set of prescriptive standards and details intended for use only on buildings that meet certain criteria as defined in the program.

I hope that this helps you better understand the intent of the program. If you have further concerns or questions about the program, please contact Jim Nicks, BDS Inspection Services Manager, at 503-823-1054.


Bruce Anderson

August 3, 2011 at 11:31 AM

Thank you for clarifying Dean's email above. I really do appreciate what you are trying to do. I don't think this in any way makes Dean's work unnecessary, but does encourage many more people to be better prepared who can't afford the whole engineering stick.


John Moor

January 14, 2012 at 9:39 PM

I have liked your Residential business article. I hope you will be continuing it to update.
Jana Shobnom



March 12, 2012 at 10:50 AM

I understand that in order to have your insurance policy include seismic coverage, you have to show proof of retrofit by a certified contractor or company. If you were to use a contractor to do this that was not certified, can you hire someone to do the inspection in order to have written documentation that the house was bolted /retrofitted one could use for the insurance company? If so who would be able to do those type of inspections? Sheila



August 31, 2014 at 8:53 PM

Susan, Sheila and Julie (if you are still reading this!)

I just got earthquake insurance last week from American Modern and they did not ask about retrofitting. I asked if there would be a discount if I did it and they said no.

This may vary by company, but there is insurance without the necessity of retrofitting out there. Hope this helps.

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