On Wednesday, a grant program got underway for homeowners who want to earthquake retrofit their houses. Earthquake Brace + Bolt, funded by money from the state and the California Earthquake Authority, will give homeowners up to $3,000 to help finance retrofit work.
When the next Big One hits, many old houses in the state will be vulnerable to collapse. After the South Napa earthquake in August 2014, said California Earthquake Authority CEO Glenn Pomeroy, you could see the difference between homes that had been retrofitted and those that hadn't.
"You'd see, in one case, two homes side by side, built about the same period of time, similar construction. And one had been retrofitted, and it stood tall and strong; the other had not been retrofitted, and it toppled off its foundation," said Pomeroy in an interview with KQED's Joshua Johnson.
To help prepare residents, Gov. Jerry Brown approved $3 million in funding last year to expand the retrofit grant program and to cut the cost of earthquake insurance. For retrofitted homes, insurance through the California Earthquake Authority can drop by 20 percent. Retrofit grants will be awarded to 1,600 homes this year, selected through an application and lottery system.
"They may not have won the Powerball, but they have this opportunity to win the opportunity to make their homes safer," said Pomeroy.
So how can you get some of that money?
First you must qualify and apply, and then an approved contractor can begin the retrofit work. Registration for the program is open until Feb. 20. You can find the application form and more information on the Earthquake Brace + Bolt website, but we've broken down some of the key questions below.
Do I qualify?
Grantees must own and live in the home being retrofitted. And the house has to meet the structural requirements of the program. (The houses primarily accepted for funding are those that are most at risk for collapse and those that involve simple retrofitting -- i.e., houses built pre-1979, with a heavy house atop a flimsy frame and not attached to the foundation, with a cripple wall space under the first floor.)
Also, only certain ZIP codes are eligible for grant funding. Those are:
OK, I qualify, now what?
You have to register either online or through a paper application by Feb. 20. You will then find out if you've been accepted, waitlisted or rejected. If you're accepted, you have eight weeks to pick a contractor and get your building permit.
After the building permit is submitted to the EB+B program, then work can begin.
That's all I need to know?
There are a number of rules that govern the contractor and refitting process, but the primary ones to know are:
- You can't have done brace and bolt retrofitting before you're accepted into the program
- The building permit must be dated after the acceptance into the program
- The work must meet state and program standards
- Retrofitting work must be done in the crawl space and also has to include strapping down the water heater
- Work can either be done by the homeowner or by a contractor -- EB+B has a list of contractors who have experience with retrofitting work and have completed FEMA training
Once everything is done, you have to submit photos (from before and after), any receipts and contractor's invoice, and a final signed inspection from the county's building inspector -- along with all other required paperwork.
For more information, visit the EB+B website.