Beyond Duck and Cover: Earthquake Preparedness

Beyond Duck and Cover: Earthquake Preparedness

Earthquakes strike suddenly and without warning—you’ve heard this before. As sunny and bright Southern Californians we are numb to earthquake scare-tactics. We don’t know if a big one or small one is coming, we don’t know when…but the fact is that it is always earthquake season thanks to the San Andreas Fault. So, you’ve got to be ready for an earthquake. As property owners and managers it is your responsibility to keep people and properties safe by minimizing risk and recovering efficiently after a disaster. If an earthquake were to strike right now, would your building be ready? Would your people be safe?

Preparedness is the best way to protect your people and properties, be ready for an earthquake before it happens.  But, what does being prepared mean and how do you get there? Workplace preparedness is an ongoing team effort: requiring the participation of owners, managers, workers and tenants. It’s also helpful to involve the building designer and maintenance support, if possible.  There are several aspects to preparedness that you will need to cover and stay on top of as you go:

Earthquake Insurance is not included in most business insurance policies. Proactive property owners and managers considering additional coverage think of the damage that “the big one” might do to their assets, but the truth is that even small earthquakes can cause major damage, especially to a building that is at high risk.  You should take earthquake insurance into consideration because it will decrease recovery costs and help you get back to business sooner, if you have to shut down. Make sure that you are familiar with coverage exclusions when you’re researching for a policy that’s right for you.

Vulnerabilities- does your building have structural/non-structural vulnerabilities? You can research structural vulnerabilities by contacting the local building-regulatory agency. Non-structural vulnerabilities include items that are not effectively anchored, reinforced and secured leading to potential property loss and damage during earthquakes. Check out Quake Smart to learn how to identify and address your building’s vulnerabilities to decrease potential damage.

Get a team together! Develop a plan of action for reacting to a disaster. Your team will be in charge of maintaining emergency items such as food and water. Please refer here for a detailed list. We recommend that your team of organizers/responders are trained for first-aid and CPR.  Make all employees and tenants aware of the safest places to go to during an earthquake.  Develop exit strategies and a system to account for everyone after a disaster. Practice the exit and have mandatory drills so that people know what to expect.

Secure all important data and documents. It is best to keep physical copies of computer backups, records, account statements and insurance policies in a waterproof/fireproof portable container and digital copies of these in the cloud. Make sure that you are updating these documents in the container and cloud on a regular basis. It’s a good idea to set an Outlook reminder so that you don’t forget.

After the earthquake, get back to business as quickly as possible. If you have tenants that provide services and commodities it’s crucial that you help them open their doors as the community will depend on them to recover as well. Evaluate your plan and supplies and adjust it to be even better prepared for the next natural disaster.

Please check out the following links to start or fine-tune your disaster plan of action.

California Commercial Property Owner’s Guide to Earthquake Safety

California Department of Conservation Tsunami Information

Earthquake Insurance – National Association of Insurance Commissioners

Make sure you register for BOMA OC’s upcoming Seminar- Earthquake! A Destructive Natural Phenomenon to learn more about earthquakes and how to prepare for them.