DUBLIN (KPIX 5) — The Alameda County Office of Emergency Services hosted a community training session Wednesday, titled “Reducing the Risks of Nonstructural Earthquake Damage.”

Ed Huston, a FEMA instructor, says advances in building materials and construction techniques over the decades have improved the survivability of the buildings themselves. But now attention is turning to the interior, with the goal of reducing the time and money spent to get citizens back to normal.

“Once the building is strong enough, and is ductile enough, we have to protect the contents. And that’s where we get to being back on our feet sooner,” said Huston.

A simple but often overlooked step to prepare homes for shaking is securing bookcases. FEMA advises both the top and bottom of bookcases should be secured. If securing to a wall stud is not possible, then multiple wall anchors may be necessary.

Expensive computer equipment like towers and LCD monitors should also be bolted or strapped down. The devices are often top heavy and commonly topple over, costing thousands of dollars to replace.

As for shelving, FEMA says to consider installing a short lip on the edge of the shelf, or an elastic barrier like a bungee cord, to prevent items from sliding off.

“There’s a lot of simple things that the individual homeowner, the individual business owner can do that would mitigate a lot of damage,” said Huston.

Paul Hess, emergency manager for Alameda County’s Office of Emergency Services, said all the county’s critical servers are bolted to the floor, ceiling and walls. Hess says minimal investments in various straps and bolts now could save days, even weeks of cleanup and repair for homeowners, and prevent extended downtime for business owners.

“It is an inconvenience for sure. You have to make the choice as a homeowner. ‘Do I put latches on? Or am I OK with a total loss of all your dishes, glassware and other items?’” said Hess.

FEMA is updating its earthquake preparedness guidelines and is expected to release it in September.

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