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Commissioner Steve Novick

Official Website for Commissioner Steve Novick

Phone: 503-823-4682

fax: 503-823-4019

1221 SW 4th Ave. Suite 210, Portland, OR 97204

Bolting down the house

Many of us in the Pacific Northwest have heard the warning before, but it bears repeating: Oregon has a 40 percent chance of a major seismic event within the next 50 years. While it’s impossible to know when the next earthquake will occur, we shouldn't make the mistake of assuming we have decades to prepare.

Much of Portland’s infrastructure is woefully inadequate to withstand a major seismic event, including many homes in the city. Homes built before 1974—of which there are approximately 100,000— are likely particularly vulnerable to structural failure in the event of an earthquake, because many of them were not bolted to their foundation during construction. On top of that, only 20 percent of Oregon homes have earthquake insurance.

Sounds scary, right? It is, but the good news is that there are steps we can take to be prepared and to better ensure that the City of Roses is truly sustainable beyond a major disaster. One of the steps homeowners can take is to make sure your home is bolted to its foundation so it is much more likely to withstand an earthquake.

As it turns out, my own home that my fiancé and I recently purchased in Multnomah Village is not bolted to the foundation.

This afternoon, however, I spent time with the good folks from Clean Energy Works, home efficiency experts from Olson and Jones, and an earthquake preparedness contractor from Earthquake-Tech, Tim Cook. We surveyed my house to make final preparations to upgrade its energy performance and prepare the house to withstand a major earthquake by bolting it to the foundation. The total cost of the project amounts to about $4,000, which is typical for these retrofits (although some houses require more complex and more expensive treatments).

For most Portland residents, their home is their most valuable asset. By undergoing a total home evaluation with energy and seismic assessments, my home will become both energy efficient and seismically sound. If you are interested in learning more about retrofit options, I encourage you to contact Clean Energy Works of Oregon, who can assess your home, identify quality construction contractors, and help assemble a financial package that takes advantage of various financial efficiency incentives.

Lastly, I’d be remised if I didn’t also remind you to keep stock of a home emergency kit and make and review an emergency plan with your family.

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