Seattle Dangerously Unprepared for Earthquake

earthquake insurance washington home

Seattle remains dangerously unprepared for the megaquake, says a new Crosscut article. The Pacific Northwest journal calls for “quicker and more aggressive action” regarding earthquake preparedness and the need for retrofitting older buildings.

If the Big One struck today, deaths, injuries, and extensive property damage would likely result.

Says Crosscut,

If anything, the development of earthquake science…screams out for quicker and more aggressive action. University of Washington Associate Professor Jeffrey Berman, an expert in engineering for earthquake safety, says that what we are learning about the Seattle, South Whidbey and Cascadia faults suggests that we are at as great a risk, perhaps greater, than California.

There is, though, a geologic factor: the more regular occurrence of moderate quakes that has probably helped California act more seriously. “We don’t have the kind of five-year reminder that they do,” Berman says.

While he’s clear about the need for the city to require retrofitting, he acknowledges that there are complicating factors, especially costs for building owners. And costs also play into the issue of losing historic buildings if their owners can’t afford repairs. Plus, there’s the whole issue of affordable housing, although life-saving benefits there would be the greatest, too, in a major quake.

Earthquake damage to Cadillac Hotel in Pioneer Square, 2001. Credit: Erik Stuhaug via Seattle Municipal Archives
Earthquake damage to Cadillac Hotel in Pioneer Square, 2001. Credit: Erik Stuhaug

One of the hottest business areas in Seattle is Pioneer Square, where many of the buildings are unreinforced masonry (as are many of the buildings in one of the city’s hottest entertainment districts, Ballard, according to the city assessment). For all the concern about imposing costs on businesses and property owners, there’s also the financial realities that would follow a major earthquake. Even now, buildings here, Berman says, are generally built just to ensure inhabitants get out alive, not that the buildings can be used again any time soon…


How do Earthquakes Damage Homes? 

During an earthquake, the back and forth ground shaking impacts a home’s foundation. If the home has structural weaknesses – as many older homes in Seattle, Portland, and the surrounding metro areas do – the shaking will begin to damage the home. According to the city of Seattle, “Many wood-frame homes, particularly those built in Washington before 1965, may not be adequately bolted to their foundation. Without this anchorage, a foundation can be literally jerked out from under the building above by a large earthquake.”

How can you mitigate your risk? Consider retrofitting your home (if needed), purchase QuakeQuotes earthquake insurance to protect your investment, and prepare for the Big One.

Retrofitting Your Home for an Earthquake 

You may want to consider retrofitting your home, particularly if it’s older. Retrofitting is intended to keep your home from being displaced from the foundation in the event of an earthquake. This makes the building safer and less prone to extensive earthquake damage.

If you’re considering retrofitting your home, we recommend researching retrofitting companies on Angi. As a 2015 Angi Super Service award winner, we know first-hand the strict standards Angi requires of all member businesses.

Purchase Earthquake Insurance to Protect Your Investment 

If you’re like many Pacific Northwest residents, your home is your biggest asset. Insurance is a great way to protect this investment. Insurance from can help finance the repair or rebuilding of your home after an earthquake. It will also pay to replace your belongings inside the home, including furniture, electronics, and clothing.

The loss of use of your home is one of the biggest risks you face after an earthquake. According to the Crosscut article, even today’s structures are “generally built just to ensure inhabitants get out alive, not that the buildings can be used again anytime soon.” insurance can provide additional living expenses if your home is not habitable due to earthquake damage.

Would you like to know what your insurance options are? Click here to fill out our quotes request form. We will research your home’s earthquake insurance options with multiple “A” rated insurance companies. If we receive your request by 4pm PST, we’ll reach out to you the same business day.

Prepare for an Earthquake 

Lastly, it’s critical to prepare for the Big One before it happens. Visit our Earthquake Preparedness Board on Pinterest for quick and easy tips on what to do before, during, and after an earthquake. As the old adage says, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.


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