2014 Napa quake sparked idea for ‘Seismocon’ device to test home’s structural integrity

NAPA — Thousands of people in Northern California are asking themselves a key question after Humboldt County was rocked by a 6.4 magnitude earthquake Tuesday: is my house safe?

It’s a question that people in Napa know all too well, but one man is on a mission to give people the answer in the palm of their hand instead of waiting for months.

“Can we go inside the house again? Is it safe,” asked Mike Sjoblom after his Napa home was hit by a 6.0 magnitude earthquake in 2014.

But he says it inspired him to work to find an answer, not just for himself but for anyone who has to ask the question. It’s called the Seismocon and it can immediately tell you if your home has been structurally compromised.

“When your building has been rattled back and forth and it still works the same guarantee the structural integrity has been compromised but to what degree is it safe or not?” Sjoblom said.

He’s a winemaker by day, a career that has captured his heart, but he now considers the Seismocon his brainchild.

“It was me and my daughter who were woken up by violent violent shaking,” he recalled of the Napa quake. “My house is about one kilometer from the epicenter. It was really scary. My daughter couldn’t get out of her room and shortly after we were outside, it was dark, the power was out and my daughter asked me can we go outside and I said I don’t know.”

You can still see the damage done, similar damage is only just being realized in Humboldt County.

“This corner section here collapsed and fell down and crashed down on the street,” he said of a building that sustained significant damage from the Napa quake.

Sjoblom says his patented technology is about the size of a small box and uses lasers, artificial intelligence, and data to immediately tell if a building is safe to enter after a seismic event.

“It was based on my first question that I realized that no one could give an answer to,” he said. “It was really, can I go back into my house, can my kids go to school, is that bridge safe? And nobody really knows.”

He plans to price out his system on a subscription basis at roughly $15-$20 per month, but he says his true goal is priceless.

“My biggest paycheck is when my system saves one life,” said Sjoblom. “Then I accomplished what I wanted to.”

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