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Northridge Earthquake Anniversary: Despite retrofits, are homes any safer now?




Bulmaro Roderte, a crew leader with the company Seismic Safety, measures wood used to retrofit a home in Eagle Rock. Seismic Safety is one of the companies approved by the California Earthquake Authority to participate in a pilot program to encourage homeowners to retrofit.
Bulmaro Roderte, a crew leader with the company Seismic Safety, measures wood used to retrofit a home in Eagle Rock. Seismic Safety is one of the companies approved by the California Earthquake Authority to participate in a pilot program to encourage homeowners to retrofit.
Sanden Totten/KPCC
Bulmaro Roderte, a crew leader with the company Seismic Safety, measures wood used to retrofit a home in Eagle Rock. Seismic Safety is one of the companies approved by the California Earthquake Authority to participate in a pilot program to encourage homeowners to retrofit.
Contractors often get very little room in which to enter the crawlspace beneath a home. Retrofitting is not a job for the claustrophobic.
Sanden Totten/KPCC
Bulmaro Roderte, a crew leader with the company Seismic Safety, measures wood used to retrofit a home in Eagle Rock. Seismic Safety is one of the companies approved by the California Earthquake Authority to participate in a pilot program to encourage homeowners to retrofit.
Contractor Ken Compton is working to bolt and brace a home in Eagle Rock. Compton has worked in the retrofitting business for over 20 years and in that time he has seen some retrofits done by other contractors that were subpar.
Sanden Totten/KPCC
Bulmaro Roderte, a crew leader with the company Seismic Safety, measures wood used to retrofit a home in Eagle Rock. Seismic Safety is one of the companies approved by the California Earthquake Authority to participate in a pilot program to encourage homeowners to retrofit.
A contractor with Seismic Safety shows the proper technique for applying plywood braces to a cripple wall.
Sanden Totten/KPCC
Bulmaro Roderte, a crew leader with the company Seismic Safety, measures wood used to retrofit a home in Eagle Rock. Seismic Safety is one of the companies approved by the California Earthquake Authority to participate in a pilot program to encourage homeowners to retrofit.
The plywood is used to support the cripple wall after it is bolted to the frame. Plywood is remarkably strong and flexible, making it an ideal reinforcement for seismic retrofits.
Sanden Totten/KPCC


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This is one in a weeklong series of stories on KPCC leading up to Friday's 20th anniversary of the devastating 1994 Northridge Earthquake. The series will take a look at the quake's history, its effects and its legacy on the people of Southern California. You can view more stories on our Northridge Anniversary page. Let us know what you think on our Facebook page, on Twitter and in the comments below.

Twenty years ago this Friday, the Northridge Earthquake struck.

RELATED: The Northridge Earthquake 20 years later

The quake caused $20 billion dollars in damage, much of it to buildings. This week, we're looking at the ways we are and are not prepared for a similar disaster now.

Cities — including LA — have encouraged homeowners to voluntarily retrofit their dwellings to make them better able to withstand shaking. But as KPCC's Sanden Totten reports, there are no mandatory state standards for such work. And many retrofits may not be up to the task.

Have you retrofitted your home against seismic risk? Are you confident it's now safe? Let us know on our Facebook page, on Twitter ("@" mention @KPCC) and in the comments below.

A timeline of the 1994 Northridge Earthquake