Home Buying in 91101>Question Details

newinvestor,  in 91106

Seismic Hazard Zone

Asked by newinvestor, 91106 Tue Mar 23, 2010

How can I find out whether a property is located in a seismic (and other natural) hazard zones? If the property is not located in a seismic hazard zone, does it really mean that it's safer when the big one hits?

Help the community by answering this question:


There are several factors regarding earthquake faults, the distance from a fault line is one. I am a REALTOR, in Pasadena California, but I am also an Architect and often do the structural engineering for the homes I design. I use a structural engineering program that gives me a distance from property to fault line and a rating of the seismic forces required to be designed against. There are numerous maps on line where one can find fault lines for the areas you are researching. An Engineer can give you this info easily and for a minor cost and be much more site specific.

The main issue I would point out is that the distance to a fault could be important information when buying a home, however seismic forces are very unpredictable. In a seismic event the surface of the earth has liquid qualities in how it reacts. Because of this, underground conditions can be blocked or the force waves can be reflected to or away. Picture a rock being dropped in a shallow pool of water, the ring waves would look like how seismic waves move. Now if you place rocks in the pool you will see how seismic forces react with the interference that the underground conditions may cause. Seismic forces can reflect forces too or away depending on where in the fault the forces come from. Perhaps your property is located on the rock. So even the best research may not bring the results and protection you want. The 2 story apartment building that failed in the Northridge Earthquake of 1994 had and an identical building next door which was built by the same people at the same time and did not fail. I have inspected hundreds of homes damaged by earthquakes; a neighborhood can have both heavily damaged and non-damaged homes. Bottom line is that in an earthquake it is really hit and miss.
One thing you can do it make sure your home has as many seismic resisting elements as possible. An Architect or Engineer can advise on those measures.
Your local building department would be a great source of information for all regional hazards.

Curt V. Schultz, REALTOR - Architect
1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue Mar 23, 2010
Hi newinvestor,

You can search the property address at http://myhazards.calema.ca.gov/ to check if a property is in a EQ Hazard zone.

You can also look up a property's FEMA Flood Maps here:

If you are really serious about a property I would consider a Natural Hazards Disclosure report from Disclosure Source, their Premium Report http://www.disclosuresource.com/order.asp

Does it matter if the property is in a Seismic Zone? Probably, and it probably matters what the size of the EQ is too!

Best, Steve
1 vote Thank Flag Link Wed Mar 24, 2010
You can order a natural hazards disclosure report. They are not very expensive and include many types of natural hazards including earthquake, flood, fire, radon, etc. check here: http://www.propertyid.com/platinum/default.asp
1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue Mar 23, 2010
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