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Company works to retro-fit quake-prone homes

March 16, 2010 12:35:33 AM PDT
Tuesday's earthquake is once again reminding Southern Californians about the importance of proper retrofitting. Here is a look at what some residents are doing to make their homes more earthquake-safe.Tuesday's quake did not cause any significant damage but the probability of an even larger earthquake hitting Southern California in the future still persists. Which is why some local residents are taking that extra step and retrofitting their homes. Experts say it's the best way to prepare for "the big one."

Workers with the White Castle Construction company have been working non-stop since the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile. Their main task: retrofitting homes by bolting them down to their foundations.

"The house is like a very strong football player with weak ankles," said White Castle owner Michael Goldberg. "And what we do is come in and we retro-fit, meaning we come behind and do it the way it should have been done in the first place, had they known, and we drill through and put bolts holding the two together."

Experts say it's the best way to minimize movement during an earthquake. Which is why homeowner John Barry has hired the company.

"I've seen the earlier earthquakes. I remember being at my mom's house going out to the front door and literally seeing the sidewalk roll like the ocean," said Barry.

But Barry needs to go one step further. His 1920s Hancock Park house is old. So he's replacing the concrete foundation as well.

Los Angeles homeowner Randi Rose is also bolting down her house.

"The one in Haiti, the one in Chile, it's just one more thing that we need to be mindful of," said Rose.

But experts say it's not just outside a house where people should get prepared.

"The most important a person can do to make their home safe is to secure items that might fall over," said Thomas Jordan, director, SoCal Earthquake Center.

John Barry has also installed an automatic shut-off valve which will turn off water and gas.

He may be spending about $4,000 to get his house ready, but he says the result is priceless.

"You know, for me, I've been putting it off for years, and I thought, 'better safe than sorry,'" said Barry.

And it's not just people in California that need to prepare. Experts say there are 35 states that are at risk of having damaging earthquakes, including Missouri, Ohio and even New York.

The good news is, at least in California, commercial buildings are up to code. Now it's up to homeowners to get their houses ready too.