Shake, Rattle...and Retrofit - Page 5

Protecting your home and family against the next major earthquake

For most of the day, the setting was a typical one at the Horoupian household, a Jones & Emmons perched on a hilltop circle on Stanford campus. Horoupian, a New Jersey transplant who had been living in her Eichler for four years, and her mother-in-law were enjoying the afternoon together, when a friend living a few miles away, in Los Altos, called her on the phone.

woman standing at window warped effect on image

While her mother-in-law was busy in the kitchen, Horoupian carried on with her phone call from the family room. The conversation was quiet at first, and then news of the quake shattered the calm.

"My friend told me that an earthquake had hit, but I felt nothing," Horoupian recalled. "I guess the quake had reached her a few seconds before me. And then I felt it. I just threw the phone down, and knew right away that it was the big one."

Her friend's warning allowed Horoupian just enough time to grab her mother-in-law and dart to shelter under a nearby doorframe. And then she couldn't believe what was before her eyes.

"There was a tremendous noise and a tremendous force," recalled Horoupian. "Then all the glass at the same time just shot out of the windows. Big pieces of glass shooting across one end of the room to the other. Flying through the living room, and the dining room. It was really scary."

While her home's single-pane glass exploded, the cupboards flew open and dumped their insides onto the floor, and the chandelier in the living room rocked from one side of the ceiling to the other. Frightened and in shock, Horoupian and her mother-in-law huddled together in the doorway. Somehow they were spared from the barrage of glass all around them.

When her nightmare had ended, Horoupian discovered the damage was confined primarily to her living and dining rooms, where she counted six large-paned windows that had imploded. Posts had shifted off the center of beams, but the roof appeared undamaged. Personal belongings had been thrown around in the kitchen, family room, and atrium, but the glass in each of those areas remained intact.

"I was surprised at the amount of damage, especially all the glass," Horoupian said years later, "and I was also surprised that the insurance company called the extent of the damage cosmetic."

Her insurance company's appraisal actually served as a compliment to her Eichler's bolted foundation, which was strong enough to prevent any structural damage to the house. On the other hand, the home next door, which was not an Eichler, did suffer foundation problems. The neighbors on the other side lost a chimney and a few windows.

Nearby, a two-story Eichler suffered damage to its interior staircase and chimney structure. Throughout the Stanford campus, destruction was common; even the church and museum were affected.

Even though her insurance company was most cooperative, Horoupian's rebuilding and retrofitting that followed was a drawn-out process. "In the craziness of the earthquake, it was very hard to find an architect," Horoupian said. "The whole repair job was three weeks of work, but it took a year to put it all together.

"Now that it's over, I feel so much more secure today because of the retrofit. Replacing some of the glass panels with shear wall, and adding a few bolts here and there. It gave us back our peace of mind, and good sleep at night."



Photos: David Toerge, Ernie Braun, John Eng


Earthquake Safety: earthquakesafety.com

Keycon, Inc.: keycon-inc.com

Simpson Strong-Tie: www.strongtie.com

California Emergency Management Agency: oes.ca.gov

Southern California Earthquake Center: scec.org

The Great California Shakeout: shakeout.org

Compliance and Safety LLC: safety tips