Chileans Well Prepared for April 1, 2014 Major Earthquake

On April 1, 2014, an 8.2 magnitude megathrust earthquake hit the city of Iquique, Chile. The epicenter of the quake was approximately 59 miles northwest of Iquique. The earthquake occurred in a region with a long history of big-time seismic activity called the North Chile or Iquique seismic gap. A magnitude 8.8 earthquake hit the region as far back as 1877. The main shock on April 1, 2014 had been preceded by a cluster of mid-sized quakes that struck the same area, and was then followed by a large number of moderate to very large aftershocks. The aftershock felt on April 3rd was measured at 7.7. The location and mechanism of the April 1st quake are consistent with a slip on the primary plate boundary interface, referred to as megathrust, between the Nazca and South America plates. The earthquake was felt in other areas of Chile, Peru and Bolivia.

The community of Iquique and surrounding areas fared extremely well during this major quake. “Strict building codes and the preparedness of millions of Chileans who live along an arc of volcanoes and fault lines likely kept the death toll (7) low. They’re a seismically active region of the world and they are very good at implementing their building codes, similar to California,” said John Bellini, a Denver-based geophysicist at the US Geological Survey. “Because of that, you would see less damage than in other places that have poorer building codes . . . that’s probably one of the reasons there haven’t been as many casualties as there could have been from a magnitude earthquake of this size.”

Are You Ready?


Does time seem to be racing by to you?  Here we are, already a quarter of the way through 2014.  So we’re asking you again:  How are you coming with your planning and preparation for your family’s safety—and survival—if the predicted Cascadia mega-quake should strike?  If the threat still seems too unreal to give it any thought, even after we witnessed the horrific devastation done by the March 2011 mega quake and tsunami in Japan, then think about this.  Every day we live with an almost identical threat off our own Western coast, the Cascadia Pacific Ring of Fire, running 800 miles from Vancouver, B.C. to Northern California. 

As Faultline employees began to make their own personal preparations, all of us initially had some resistance, too.  The hardest part was making the commitment to begin.  Once we took that first step, the planning really took off and we were able to get into the spirit of the thing.  We began thinking ahead to what we would want to include in our emergency kits.  There was definitely some upfront expense, so spreading our purchases out over a period of several weeks lightened the financial load.  Once we had the main items in place, we began to supplement our kits with our own personal, desired items.  We marked perishable food items with the current date to make it easier to rotate out items that had reached their expiration date (6 to 12 months for most food items).

Your emergency supply kit should be able to support you (and your family) for at least 5 days.  Learning from Japan’s horrific experience in 2011, many of our government agencies are now suggesting that we prepare for 7 to 10 days of being on our own, as the likelihood of local services being available within the first 2 to 3 days is slim to none.  And don’t forget, that includes planning for our pets as well. 

Do you have a plan of action to follow if the quake hits during the day when family members are often separated?  This took some real thought on our parts, playing out different scenarios and coming up with the most practical plan.  Phone lines will most likely be out of service.  How will you communicate with each other?  Those of us at Faultline with family and friends out of state designated one of them to be our check-in person.  The generally accepted thought is that in the event of a disaster, out-of-state phone service will be easier to access than local service.

And what about the safety of your home?  Have you had a seismic evaluation to ensure your house is anchored to its foundation?  In order to obtain earthquake insurance, the following must be in place:

1.  The sill plate must be properly bolted to the foundation.

2.  Homes with cripple wall construction are required to have the walls properly reinforced with plywood or oriented strand board sheathing.

3.  Homes built prior to 1980 will need to have the water heater double strapped at the top, around the belly and at the bottom and bolted to the wall studs.

Faultline Constructors offers a free initial evaluation and preliminary cost estimate for anchoring your home to its foundation.  If your house slides off its foundation, you’ll more than likely be left with an uninhabitable home, and you’ll still have a monthly mortgage payment that’s due.

Two excellent resources to help with your planning are:

Portland Bureau of Emergency Management website:

(Phone:  503-823-4375)

American Red Cross “Safe and Well” website:

Also check out SPOT GEN3 satellite GPS messenger for information on the latest technology to enable communication in a disaster situation.

Come on!  Just take that first step—start TALKING and PLANNING.  Aren’t you and your loved ones worth it?  We think you are.


2 Earthquakes Hit West Coast Back-to-Back

On Sunday evening, March 10th, a sizeable magnitude 6.9 earthquake rattled the Northern California coast.  The quake was centered 50 miles west of Eureka and about 4 miles beneath the Pacific seabed.  It was followed by 5 to 6 aftershocks, one measuring magnitude 4.6.

The following Monday afternoon, March 11th, Oregon experienced a magnitude 5.1 earthquake about 250 miles northwest of Coos Bay.  No damage was reported.

The California quake was felt widely across the region of Humboldt County, although no damage was reported.  More than 3,000 people reported on the USGS website that they felt the quake.  Some reported a long, rolling shake that woke their children and knocked items off shelves.  Some of those responding live across the border in Oregon.  “This lasted longer than any earthquake I’ve ever felt,” one woman reported who lives about a mile from the coast in Ferndale, near Eureka.  “It just kept going and going, very slowly and softly.  It was not violent.  It almost felt like you were in a boat that was rocking.  The animals, they felt it.  My two horses were running around out by the barn, and my dogs, six dogs, were ready to get out of the house.” 

Eureka experienced a magnitude 5.6 earthquake in February, 2012 that did not cause serious damage.  However, in 2010 a magnitude 6.5 quake struck offshore that broke glass in some buildings and caused a few bumps and cuts among residents.  That earthquake was about 25 miles closer to land than Sunday night’s quake.

David Leech, Inc. and Faultline Constructors Accepted into City of Portland’s FIR Program

We’re very excited to announce that David Leech, Inc. and Faultline Constructors have been accepted into the City of Portland’s Field Issuance Remodel program (FIR).  This program is designed to serve licensed contractors, architects and engineers in the State of Oregon who perform residential alterations and additions within the City of Portland.  We can now offer our clients several advantages and benefits by our acceptance into FIR:

1.  The permitting process becomes so much simpler.  The FIR program is designed to assign only the required reviews for a particular project, which allows City staff to customize their review to fit the individual needs of each project and avoid delays.

2.  FIR provides pre-design consultation, site meeting, and process management assistance.  FIR staff are available for consultation even before the preliminary documents are prepared.  Most FIR projects move rapidly through the permitting process, eliminating the annoying repeated checksheets and resubmittals of permit documents.

3.  FIR inspectors are able to evaluate proposed projects on site, and in some cases inspectors can approve immediate start up of the project by providing job-site consultation, approve work to begin, and issue approved plans and inspection record cards the very next day.

4.  Plan review and inspections are assigned to the same inspector.  This means we can develop a continuous working relationship with the same person from beginning through final inspection.  This applies to all building, mechanical, plumbing and electrical permits.

5.  The FIR program is based on an hourly rate structure, which allows the City to offer pre-application consults and after-hour inspections to be billed at their current customary hourly rate.

6.  A well-managed project, from start to finish, will lower overall costs because we will avoid unnecessary inspector visits and limit the number of corrections and reinspections.  It also will mean less time spent in the DevelopmentServicesCenter (hooray!) and will keep our projects on schedule.

We’re very thankful to have been accepted into the FIR program and look forward to sharing this benefit with our deserving clients.  Now as we go about building people’s dreams, and holding your safety as our top priority, we offer one more valuable service to make your experience with us the best one ever!

Earthquake Bracing of Residential Water Heaters

Most counties throughout our state now require that all residential water heaters be strapped or braced.  During an earthquake, water heaters can topple over and move, causing:

·      Broken gas lines, gas leaks and electrical wiring damage

·      Fires that may result in significant and costly property damage

·      Broken water lines and flooding

As we know, repairing fire and flooding damage can cost several thousand dollars, and in some extreme cases, the entire cost of a home.  Replacing your water heater after an earthquake can cost more than $500.

The good news is there are relatively inexpensive solutions available.  You can purchase and install a strap kit or bracing kit from your local hardware store.  You can also have a licensed plumber strap your water heater according to code.

Metal tubing, or heavy metal strapping, and lag screws and washers, should be used to secure the water heater to the wall studs.  The water heater is required to have at least two straps:  one within the upper one-third and one within the lower one-third of the water heater’s vertical dimensions.  Be sure to check the straps once a year, as they may come loose due to various vibrations.  Also, gas and water lines should have flexible pipes.  These are safer than rigid pipes during an earthquake. 

Helpful Resources

Your local home improvement store:  Home Depot, Lowe’s, etc.

Go to, and under the Earthquake section, search for “Brace Hot Water Heaters” for specific bracing instructions.

Review the publication Guidelines for Earthquake Bracing of Residential Water Heaters made available through the Department of General Services, Division of the State Architect, revised August 11, 2004.  This is available on line at  (Please note the underscore:  waterheaterbracing_08-11-04.pdf)

To view a short video of simulated earthquakes, which includes the toppling of an unstrapped water heater, visit:


Earthquake Home Safety: Are Automatic Gas Shut-Off Valves a Good Idea?

Recently we’ve had a few requests for information regarding the pros and cons of having an automatic gas shut-off valve, or earthquake valve, installed.  An earthquake valve automatically shuts down natural gas service to a home or business when an earthquake registers at or above a level that could damage equipment.

Electrical lines, gas lines and water lines are all flowing into our homes from a much larger source, and when these lines are damaged and leaking, our homes are in great danger of a fire, explosion or a flood.  During an earthquake, gas appliances can topple over or move around, breaking rigid connections that supply fuel.  Sometimes walls collapse and land on top of gas lines or meters, causing damage that could spark a fire.  Mobile homes commonly fall off jacks if they’re not properly anchored to a foundation, breaking gas lines leading into the home.  Studies have found that more than half of all fires after an earthquake came from natural gas leaks.

Utility companies recommend shutting your gas off immediately after an earthquake if you smell gas.  But if you’re at work or away when the earthquake hits, you may not be able to get home in time.  That’s where an automatic gas shut-off valve can be of real benefit.

There are two types of valves that are commonly installed today—one is sensitive to motion and the other to excessive gas flow.  The valve is installed directly onto your gas meter, can be easily reset, and does not need to be replaced after an earthquake.  These devices should be installed by a licensed HVAC or plumbing contractor, and typically range between $300. to $500. per meter, including installation.

We think it’s definitely an idea worth considering, and the pros do seem to outweigh the cons.  An HVAC or plumbing contractor can provide more detailed information, and assist in determining which type of valve would be the best application for your home.  As we say at Faultline everyday, it’s all about being prepared beforehand.

Helpful Earthquake News and Information


For those interested in keeping up with the latest seismic news in the Pacific Northwest, here are a few good websites to visit.  All of them offer a variety of current and historical earthquake information, including seismic activity maps and interesting, helpful earthquake-related articles.

By the way, how are you coming with your own earthquake preparedness plans?

2 Years Post Disaster in Japan: Have You Started to Prepare?

Scientists were baffled at how the world’s most organized and earthquake-ready nation could have been taken so much by surprise by the mega quake and tsunami that struck the island of Japan in March of 2011.  They were hit by an earthquake roughly 25 times more powerful than experts thought possible in that part of the country.  How could the forecast have been so wrong?  The short answer is, they didn’t look far enough BACK in geologic time to see that quakes and tsunamis just this big had indeed occurred there before.  Had they prepared themselves for a much larger quake and wave, the outcome may have been entirely different.

Exactly the same is true of the Cascadia subduction zone—an almost identical threat off the west coast of North America.  When it was first discovered, many scientists thought Cascadia’s fault was incapable of generating giant earthquakes.  Now they know they were wrong.  They, too, just hadn’t looked far enough into the past.

People living in the United States and Canada, when they think about earthquake disasters, probably conjure up the San Andreas fault in the worst-case scenario.  As Californians wait for the  “Big One,” people wonder which city the San Andreas will wreck next—San Francisco or Los Angeles?  But guess what?  If by the “Big One” they mean the earthquake that will wreak havoc over the widest geographic area, that could destroy the most critical infrastructure, and that could send a train of tsunamis across the Pacific, then the San Andreas could not possibly be the culprit.  It would have to be Cascadia’s fault.  The one smack dab in our own front yard.

The Cascadia subduction zone is a crack in the Earth’s crust, roughly 60 miles offshore and running 800 miles from northern Vancouver Island to Northern California.  This fault is part of the infamous Pacific Ring of Fire, the impact zone where several massive tectonic plates collide.  Here, a slab of the Pacific Ocean floor called the Juan de Fuca plate, slides eastward and downward, “subducting” underneath the continental plate of North America.

Based on historical averages, the southern end of the fault–from Cape Mendocino, California, to Newport, Oregon—has a large earthquake every 240 years.  For the northern end—from mid-Oregon to mid-Vancouver Island—the average “recurrence interval” is 480 years, according to a recent Canadian study.  And while the north may have only half as many jolts, they tend to be full-size disasters in which the entire fault breaks from end to end.

With a time-line of 41 events, the science team at OSU has now calculated that the California-Oregon end of Cascadia’s fault has a 37 percent chance of producing a major earthquake in the next 50 years.  The odds are at 10 percent that an even larger quake will strike the upper end, in a full-margin rupture, within 15 years.  Given that the last big quake was 312 years ago, one might argue that a major event on the Cascadia Subduction Zone is ominously overdue.

Two years after witnessing the devastation in Japan, what have you done to prepare for your family’s safety should this mega quake strike along the Cascadia?  Is your home anchored to its foundation?  Do you have earthquake insurance in place?  Have you put together your emergency supply kit to last your family at least 3 days without local services?  Do you have a plan of action to follow if the quake hits during the day when family members are separated?  Being prepared is our best hope of survival.  Please, start talking and making plans, and then carry out those plans.  There just won’t be time enough to throw things together when the shaking starts.

(Portions excerpted from an article by Jerry Thompson, Discover Magazine, 2012)


Report Makes Chilling Forecast on NW Quake

A new report published by the Oregon Seismic Safety Policy Advisory Commission, a group comprised of more than 150 volunteer experts, makes a pretty grim prediction for the Northwest—WHEN—not IF—a mega earthquake and tsunami occur just off the Pacific Northwest coast.  At a meeting held March 14, 2013, the Commission told Oregon legislators that more than 10,000 people could die—coastal towns would be inundated—schools, buildings and bridges would collapse—and economic damage could hit $32 billion.

In 2011, the Oregon Legislature authorized the study of what would happen if a quake and tsunami such as the one that devastated Japan hit the Pacific Northwest.  Seismic experts say another monster quake and tsunami are overdue.  “This earthquake will hit us again,” Ken Yu, an engineer and chairman of the Commission told lawmakers.  “It’s just a matter of how soon.”  And when it does, there will be devastation and death from Northern California to British Columbia.  Many Oregon communities will be left without water, power, heat and telephone service.  Gasoline supplies will be disrupted.

The Japan quake and tsunami that hit in 2011 were a wakeup call for the Pacific Northwest.  Geologically, Oregon and Japan are mirror images.  Despite the devastation in Japan, that country was more prepared than Oregon because it had spent billions on technology to reduce the damage.  Jay Wilson, the Advisory Commission’s Vice Chairman, was able to visit Japan and said he was profoundly affected as he walked through villages ravaged by the tsunami.  “It was just as if these communities were ghost towns, and for the most part there was nothing left,” said Wilson, who works for the Clackamas County Emergency Management Department.

Experts representing a variety of state agencies, industries and organizations weighed in on the report’s findings and shared with lawmakers how they have begun planning.  Maree Wacker, Chief Executive Officer of the American Red Cross of Oregon, said it is important for residents to have their own contingency plans for natural disasters.  “Oregonians as individuals are underprepared.”

The American Red Cross offers an earthquake app to help prepare your family and home, find help and let others know you are safe even if the power is out.  From your mobile phone, call “**REDCROSS” (**73327677), and the Red Cross will send you a link to download the app to your phone, or you can download them directly from the iTunes or Google Play app stores.

How are YOU coming on YOUR preparation plans?  It’s time.


More Tsunami Debris Washes Ashore on Oregon Coast

Almost a year after the March 2011 magnitude 9 earthquake and tsunami that struck near the city of Honshu, Japan, tsunami debris continues to wash ashore on the Oregon and Washington coasts, this time once again near Gleneden Beach, Oregon.

Rick Boatner, Invasive Species Wildlife Integrity Coordinator with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, stated, “In our opinion, it is part of the tsunami debris, and we believe the boat was a support vessel for a commercial fishing boat, based on the hull design.”

John Chapman, a research scientist at the Hatfield Marine Science Center, who lead the work on the invasive species research on the dock that washed ashore near GlenedenBeach on June 5, 2012, also believes the boat is more debris from the tsunami triggered by the megaquake in Japan.  The boat was about 30 feet long, and 99 percent of the vessel was covered in gooseneck barnacle.  Mr. Chapman went on to say, “That’s an open ocean barnacle.  It’s fairly common.  We found another type of mussel called a Mediterranean mussel.  We’ve still got to identify that one to the species.  Right now that’s what we think it is, but we’re not positive.  That would not be a native species to Oregon.”

Scientists at the Hatfield Marine Science Center have been looking at the tsunami debris that has washed ashore to date.  They’re finding species that occur on both sides of the ocean.  Mr. Chapman said when the first debris began showing up, “There were so many species easy to find only from Japan.  Now, we’re finding things from both sides.  That does not mean that it’s OK, it just means it’s not so easy to tell if these are harmless organisms or things from Japan.  The general question from the public is, is this a dangerous thing?  We try to address that.”