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Why Participate


Why Participate in the ESS program - California Contractors &Earthquake Soft Story (ESS) is an earthquake retrofit incentive program designed to keep homeowners safer from residential earthquake damage. The California Residential Mitigation Program (CRMP) created ESS to provide California homeowners with grants up to $13,000 to seismically retrofit their house to better withstand earthquakes. A soft-story earthquake retrofit strengthens part of the ground floor of the house so the existing structure can better withstand the side to side shaking that occurs during an earthquake. Homeowners with this type of residence may participate if their home:

  • Was built prior to 2000;
  • Is a single-family home;
  • Has no more than two stories; and
  • Has a living space over garage

Participating in the ESS Program is an excellent business opportunity for contractors. CRMP has provided retrofit grants to thousands of California homeowners to help pay for a seismic retrofit of their home. Licensed contractors participating in the program are the backbone of our retrofit programs' success.

The ESS program provides grants for a specific FEMA P-1100 seismic retrofit. This type of retrofit strengthens a single-family house by adding support where there's a living space over the garage to help prevent the second floor from collapsing into the unsupported garage space during an earthquake.

Why Should California Contractors Want ESS Jobs?

  • No Fees - There is no fee for you to participate in ESS, and any California licensed Type A or B general contractor in good standing may participate.
  • Demand - Thousands of homes in California need this type of retrofit.
  • Exclusivity - Homeowners invited into the ESS grant program are required to hire a contractor from the ESS Contractor Directory. Contractors can get in the Directory by simply registering, and completing our free training.
  • Free Seismic Retrofit Training - ESS offers free online training to contractors. Developed by FEMA, this brief training will help you learn to identify common seismic vulnerabilities of living space over garage houses, how to retrofit those homes, and how to apply applicable construction guidelines.
  • ESS Contractor Directory -  After successfully registering and completing the free training, you'll be added to the ESS Contractor Directory. Homeowners participating in ESS must hire a contractor from the Contractor Directory. Once you are listed in the Directory, your business is searchable by homeowners looking for a contractor to do their ESS retrofit work.
  • FREE Marketing Support - Participating Contractors can receive free marketing materials including ESS brochures, an "ESS & FEMA-Trained" logo to use on your website and social media, and yard signs to promote your retrofit business.
  • Program Support -We are here for you! We provide an easy-to-use online Contractor Dashboard where you can manage your ESS projects, and our customer service team is available Monday through Friday during normal business hours to answer your questions. Simply Contact Us.

How to Get Started

Contractors who want to join ESS must:

  • Be a California licensed Type A or B general contractor in good standing.
  • Create an online account by registering as a Contractor.
  • Successfully complete the required, free FEMA online seismic retrofit training, and then you'll be added to the Contractor Directory.

Still have questions about joining ESS? Contact Us.

About the ESS Retrofit

Vulnerabilities of Living Space Over Garage Construction

ESS provides retrofit funding for single-family, two-story houses with a living space over the garage. Having a living space over a garage creates an earthquake "soft story" vulnerability. The vulnerability is caused by the large open space and wall openings on the lowest floor. An ESS retrofit can improve the expected earthquake performance of the living space over garage house.

Retrofitting the Soft Story

The types of structural vulnerabilities that may need to be addressed in an ESS retrofit include:

  • inadequate sill plate anchorage
  • large open areas created by garage, utility, storage, and crawl spaces
  • large openings like the garage door
  • walls with many openings that leave very little solid wall, and
  • lack of bracing on the wood stud walls around the ground floor.

ESS provides retrofit funding for four different house types:

  • Type 1 - House over garage* with partial living space on the ground floor/garage level.
  • Type 2 - Room over garage* with the remainder of the house supported over a raised foundation that has been retrofitted through the EBB program (or has sill plate anchorage and cripple wall bracing that meets the requirements of FEMA P-1100).
  • Type 3 - Room over garage* with the remainder of the house supported over a raised foundation that will be retrofitted with an EBB retrofit.
  • Type 4 - House over garage* with no living space on the ground floor/garage level.

In addition to the seismic retrofit, the water heater must be properly strapped to reduce the likelihood of water and fire damage, and to protect the water supply.

*”Garage” is defined as an unconverted, functional garage with a garage door opening.

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Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: (877) 232-4300

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