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Petaluma homeowners now eligible for state grants to reinforce homes against earthquakes

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Petaluma homeowners are eligible for the first time this year to apply for grants of up to $3,000 toward reinforcing houses against earthquakes.

Registration for the 2020 Earthquake Brace + Bolt Program opened Wednesday and closes March 19.

Petaluma’s addition means the city joins Santa Rosa and Sonoma, which became eligible for the program last year.

The program, which defrays the cost of securing older homes with crawl spaces susceptible to earthquake damage, started in 2014. It is run by the California Earthquake Authority, a privately funded, publicly managed nonprofit insurance provider lawmakers created after the 1994 Northridge earthquake.

More than 1 million homes across California and “certainly in Sonoma County and across the Bay Area” are estimated to be good candidates for the Brace + Bolt Program, which runs about $7,000 in Northern California, said Janiele Maffei, the authority’s chief mitigation officer.

Bolstered by millions of dollars from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the authority will be able to provide grants to thousands more homeowners through this year’s program, Maffei said. The program is intended to correct vulnerabilities predominantly found in older homes with crawl spaces between a home and its foundation.

“They have a tendency to topple,” Maffei said of these older designs. “They just do not have the capacity to hold the household over the foundation in a damaging earthquake.”

It takes about two to three days to do the work of more tightly securing a home to its foundation, she said, contrasting the time and money spent on bracing to the potential for hundreds of thousands of dollars of damages an earthquake could incur.

“The work itself is very, very simple and basic, and so beneficial,” she said.

More information about eligibility is available online at earthquakebracebolt.com.

You can reach Staff Writer Will Schmitt at 707-521-5207 or will.schmitt@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @wsreports.

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