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Recent earthquakes a reminder to check your home is safe

Following recent and widely felt earthquakes, the Earthquake Commission is encouraging homeowners to check the condition of their homes, making sure that their foundations, chimneys, and tall and heavy furniture are secure.

Director Resilience Research, Hugh Cowan, says that summer is a good time for keeping property well maintained and checking for any work that needs to be done.

“The recent earthquakes in the North Island are another reminder that New Zealand experiences natural hazard events. Even these smaller scale earthquakes can cause damage to foundations or chimneys, so now is the time to make some checks.”

There are steps householders can take now that will reduce the risk of damage in a natural disaster and make them and their family safer.

“For most of us, summer is often when we carry out home maintenance and repairs. So it is worth doing some checks and there may be simple jobs that can be done immediately. Securing hot water cylinders and furniture to walls are pretty straightforward tasks that don’t take long but can really make a big difference.

“In a natural disaster they can be a danger and cause water damage. If you’re getting plumbing work done, talk to your plumber about what it might take to replace older clay-style pipes and connections with more flexible fittings that allow for extra movement too.”

Dr Cowan says that while work relating to foundations and chimneys may be more significant, homeowners can check these for any work that may be required and consider making improvements alongside other maintenance or renovation work.

“A home that is properly secured to its foundations will likely experience less movement and damage during an earthquake. If your home has a suspended timber floor, you may be able to go under your house to check this.

“You do need to take safety precautions and if you feel at all uncertain about going under your house, ask a licensed building practitioner to carry out a check. They will know how to do this safely, what to look for, and will be able to advise you on what’s required.”

Professionals are also likely to be required for removing a brick or concrete masonry chimney.

“Previous earthquakes have shown how dangerous chimneys made from brick or unreinforced concrete masonry can be during an earthquake. When these extend above the roofline they can collapse to the outside of the house or through the roof and cause a lot of damage.”

Dr Cowan says that EQC’s message for New Zealanders is to spend time this summer working out what they can do to make their homes safe and secure.

“It is all about Fix, Fasten, Don’t Forget. Time spent checking and improving your home reduces the risk of damage occurring, means you’ll recover more quickly, and helps to keep your family safer if a natural disaster occurs.”

More detailed information about checking your home, go to www.eqc.govt.nz/homeowners

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