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This morning, residents along the U.S. East Coast experienced something unusual for that part of the world: A 4.8 earthquake. While not considered a major earthquake, the temblor with an epicenter near Lebanon, NJ is the strongest recorded in the Northeast in over a decade, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). A second, smaller earthquake (2.0 magnitude) hit the region less than two hours later, according to USGS.

New Jersey, Earthquake Damage, USGS, Earthquake
The U.S. Geological Survey tentatively measured the quake as a 4.8 temblor with its epicenter near Lebanon, NJ. (Source: USGS)


Did The Earthquake Damage Your Facility?

While the sensation of the ground moving is hard to miss, earthquake damage to a building can go unnoticed: it can mimic regular wear and tear, or may be located in rarely used rooms or spaces. Even if you don’t notice it right away, your facilities may have sustained damage from the earthquake, or any aftershocks that occur.

With that in mind, it’s important to take a second look, as “hidden” damage could pose major structural or safety hazards. Here are 15 steps that will help you spot any earthquake damage, courtesy of FEMA:

  1. Examine the entire outside of the structure for collapse or obvious movement of the foundation. Is there “crushing” damage at the ends of the walls or at the bottom corners?
  2. Check the ground for areas where the ground may have shifted. Are there any breaks in fence lines or other structures that might indicate nearby damage?
  3. Does the building look crooked or out of plumb?
  4. Is the floor or roof pulling away or separated from the building supports? Are decks or porches now separated from the main structure? Are exits now susceptible to blockage?
  5. Are there new or bigger cracks in the drywall, stucco or plaster? Does the drywall have “stair step” or “X” shaped cracks ─ a clear indicator of earthquake damage? Check closely around windows and doorframes for radiating cracks. For brick or concrete block buildings, is there “stair step” cracking the joints?
  6. Does the floor feel “bouncy,” “soggy” or “mushy” when you walk on it? This may indicate damage beneath the floor.
  7. Has anything fallen off a chimney or parapet? Are there any signs of cracks in the chimney’s mortar? Such cracks can be structural, fire hazards and/or allow deadly carbon monoxide leaks.
  8. To ensure your safety, have a certified chimney inspector evaluate chimneys. Contact your insurance company, mortgage company, or the Chimney Safety Institute of America to find someone.
  9. Inspect stairs for stability. If they were solid before the quake, and now they wobble when you walk on them, they may be a hazard. Are banister and supporting columns secure?

    East Coast, Earthquake Damage
    (Source: Adobe Stock / Andrey VP)
  10. Are any windows or doors newly jammed or blocked? Can you easily raise and lower windows, or have they become difficult to move since the quake? Do all doors open and close without resistance?
  11. Inspect crawl spaces, stairwells, basements and attics for signs of damage such as exposed or cracked beams, roof leaks, and foundation cracks.
  12. Check basement floors and exterior walls for cracks and bulges that may indicate more serious problems.
  13. Look for damage to ceilings, partitions and light fixtures, as well as the roof, fuel tanks and other attachments to the building’s main frame.
  14. Check HVAC connections to make sure they are tight and not leaking.
  15. Check for sewage and water line damage. If you suspect sewage lines are damaged, avoid using the toilets and call a plumber. If you are on a water system and the water pipes are damaged, contact the water company and avoid using water from the tap. If you have a water well and suspect damage to the well or pipes, don’t use the water and call a well company.
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