First Anniversary of the Tohoku Earthquake in Japan Is Reminder About the Importance of Modern Building Codes, says IBHS

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In the U.S., only states in the Pacific Northwest and California have taken necessary steps to incorporate the latest earthquake code protections into statewide building practices

With all that’s at stake, now is the time for states to adopt modern earthquake building code protections and for property owners to take the necessary steps to retrofit their properties to reduce their risk of damage.

As the world commemorates the first anniversary of the massive Tohoku earthquake that shook Japan and caused a devastating tsunami, the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) urges policymakers and property owners to effectively reduce potential loss of life and property from seismic events by adopting modern building codes, and retrofitting existing properties.

“Japan has some of the world’s most rigorous earthquake building code protections in place,” noted Julie Rochman, IBHS president and CEO. “If not for the powerful tsunami that swept away so many structures, the damage from the historic 9.0 quake one year ago likely would have been much less.”

The level of damage in Japan was in stark contrast to destruction in Haiti from a 7.0 quake in 2010. Unfortunately, Haiti had virtually no building codes, as a result, thousands of brittle, poorly constructed buildings partially or fully collapsed, killing 23,000 people, and leaving hundreds of thousands of people homeless.

In the U.S., only states in the Pacific Northwest and California have taken necessary steps to incorporate the latest earthquake code protections into statewide building practices. However, there are well-known and less-well-known, active seismic areas in several other regions. For example, in August 2011, a quake centered near Richmond, Virginia, caused significant damage in Washington, D.C., was felt as far north as New Jersey.

2012 also marks the bicentennial of the New Madrid Earthquakes of 1811-1812, which were the strongest quakes in U.S. history. Today, the New Madrid Seismic Zone, which runs through part of seven states in the Central U.S., is home to 40 million residents and 15 million buildings. If a major earthquake where to hit the New Madrid Zone now, it could cause an estimated $300 billion in damage to 700,000 buildings; it also could leave two million people without shelter, one million without access to water, and 2.6 million households without electricity, according to the Mid-America Earthquake Center.

“With all that’s at stake, now is the time for states to adopt modern earthquake building code protections and for property owners to take the necessary steps to retrofit their properties to reduce their risk of damage,” Rochman said. “The key lesson here is that strong, well-enforced building codes can, and do, save lives and reduce property damage.”

IBHS has a pair of free consumer guides available on its website, http://www.DisasterSafety.org, which provide information about how to effectively prepare property for an earthquake.
Earthquake Risks Around the U.S. – How to Protect Your Property” provides information to help residents and business owners better understand the areas of a home or business most vulnerable to earthquake damage and offers solutions to minimize the risk of property losses.

The information and suggestions presented in this guide range from simple weekend tasks that require basic carpentry skills to more complex projects that may require professional assistance.
Reduce Six Common Earthquake Risk for Under $70” identifies affordable ways to secure five items commonly found in homes so that they are not shaken loose, causing injuries or property damage. Most of these projects can be accomplished by residents or business owners themselves or with the help of someone who is handy with household tools.

For additional guidance, please visit http://www.disastersafety.org/earthquake.

The Insurance Information Institute reminds consumers that earthquakes in the United States are not covered under standard homeowners or business insurance policies. Coverage is usually available for earthquake damage in the form of an endorsement to a home or business insurance policy. For more information about earthquake insurance contact the Insurance Information Institute.

To arrange an interview with IBHS, contact Joseph King at 813-675-1045/813-442-2845, jking(at)ibhs(dot)org or via direct message on Twitter @jsalking.

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About IBHS
IBHS is an independent, nonprofit, scientific and educational organization supported by the property insurance industry. The organization works to reduce the social and economic effects of natural disasters and other risks to residential and commercial property by conducting research and advocating improved construction, maintenance and preparation practices.

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