State offering funds to help improve homes' earthquake safety

New funds for earthquake retrofitting are available for California residents in high-risk zones.

State officials announced that $13.2 million will be offered to 4,400 applicants in grants of $3,000 each.

There are 1.2 million families who live in high seismic-hazard areas.

For the first time, homeowners in cities including Palo Alto, Lancaster, Oxnard, Palm Springs and Fremont are eligible to apply for grants.

Last year David Beilfuss of Pasadena described himself as "house rich and cash poor." Still, he decided to sign up for a grant from the Earthquake Brace + Bolt program out of fear of becoming homeless.

"My wife and I knew that even with earthquake insurance we needed to do more to protect our family, our home and our investment," he said.

Homes that were constructed before 1980 and especially before 1940 are particularly vulnerable to being toppled off their foundations.

State officials say that critical retrofitting involves bolting the house to the ground and installing plywood bracing known as cripple walls.

The major earthquakes in Northridge, Napa and Loma Prieta left homes in ruins.

"I saw the devastation. I saw the disruption to homeowners after the Napa earthquake, houses that came off of their foundation not yet reoccupied two years after the earthquake," says Janiele Maffei, chief mitigation officer with the California Earthquake Authority.

Information on obtaining the grant is available at EarthquakeBraceBolt.com. It also includes a list of contractors who can do the work.
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