If you have just moved to a quake-prone section of the country from a non-quake-prone area, you are in for a new experience, to say the least. This is especially true if you're looking at houses to buy. Not only do you have to get used to occasional shaking, but you have to redo your concept of decorating and having a strong, sturdy home. If you are used to brick being one of the strongest materials available (maybe you came from a windy area where brick was king), now you have to get used to brick being one of the more dangerous materials available. Still, that doesn't mean you have to avoid brick completely. If you want to have the look of an exposed brick wall inside your home, for example, you have a few options.
Existing Brick Walls
If you're considering buying a very old home, you may find real brick walls. Your pre-sale home inspection should tell you if these walls are reinforced or unreinforced. If they are unreinforced, either don't buy the home, or be prepared to spend the money to have the walls reinforced immediately. Unreinforced masonry has a very good chance of collapsing in a quake, and retrofitting can be expensive.
If the walls are reinforced, and you decide to buy, have the walls inspected by engineers who can tell you if the reinforcements are up to current technological standards. If they aren't, get to work and get those walls shored up. As more and more quakes happen, scientists, engineers, and builders learn more about what works and doesn't work to keep a wall upright. Take advantage of this knowledge, especially if the wall is an interior wall. Even reinforced masonry can see damage and have bits crumble off during a quake, so ensure that each and every brick is as secure as can be -- and don't put your bed or any seats next to those walls.
You Want to Add Real Brick
If the home doesn't have actual brick walls, but you want that look and want to use real brick, you can find thinner brick veneers made of real brick. Curbly describes the process used to turn a downtown San Diego condo (and yes, downtown San Diego sits directly over one end of a quake fault, the Rose Canyon fault) into a New-York-warehouse-style home using these veneers. Some veneers use materials other than brick, like plastic, so ensure that the ones you buy are made of real brick material if you really want an authentic look.
If you've decided you just don't want to mess with real brick, or you can't find it (or your homeowner's association forbids it), go for the faux look, which can be pretty realistic looking if you find the right material. Apartment Therapy lists five different ways to fake the exposed-brick look, ranging from painted stencils to molded paneling to drywall that's formed to resemble bricks on one side. There's even 3-D brick wallpaper that's removable.
If you'd like more information about getting that brick look or living with brick in a quake zone, contact a masonry company in the new city. They will be very knowledgeable about how brick reacts in an earthquake and how to use it safely. They can also help you evaluate any existing brick walls for retrofitting.