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It’s Always Earthquake Season—6 Ways to Prepare

It’s Always Earthquake Season—6 Ways to Prepare

By Carol Chastang, SBA Official
Published: January 16, 2014 Updated: January 16, 2014

On January 17, 1994 at 4:31 a.m., Los Angeles area residents were rudely awakened by a 6.7 magnitude  earthquake. The Northridge Earthquake was felt as far away as Las Vegas, 265 miles away. The toll was devastating: an estimated $20 billion in damages, 60 people killed, and more than 40,000 buildings were damaged.  The U.S. Small Business Administration approved 124,262 disaster loans for a total of $4 billion.

In the twenty years since, earthquakes have cost U.S. residents and business owners millions in property losses. And the quakes are happening in unexpected areas. A 4.0 magnitude quake that hit Southern Maine in October 2012  caused minor damages. Yet the 5.8 earthquake that hit the Washington D.C. and Virginia area in August 2011 resulted in significant property losses and rattled nerves to an area unaccustomed to earthquakes. 

According to Seismic maps produced by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), parts of the Central U.S. (Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi) located in the New Madrid seismic zone are at risk for large quakes in the future. Alaska and Hawaii, the Pacific Coast and parts of the Southwest are also vulnerable.  

Knowing your area’s risk for earthquakes is important.  You can find earthquake hazard maps and useful safety tips on the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) website.

Before the earthquake:

  • Develop an emergency plan that covers internal and external communications, options for power outages, data backup, identifying exits, fires escapes, stairways, locked or restricted areas
  • Review your insurance coverage, and understand your business interruption policies

During the earthquake:

  • If you’re indoors, duck, or drop down to the floor.  Take cover under a study desk or table, hold on to it and be prepared to move with it. Stay clear of windows, fireplaces, and heavy furniture or appliances that may fall over.  Stay calm!
  • If you’re outside, get into the open, away from buildings and power lines. If you’re driving, stop if it’s safe, but stay inside your car. Stay away from bridges, overpasses and tunnels.

Once the shaking stops:

  • First, find out who needs medical care. Meet at the central point of contact you established before the quake.   Use an Alert Notification System to keep all employees posted on the recovery status.
  • Check for fire hazards, gas leaks, or damaged electrical wires. Be prepared for aftershocks, which can come for several days after the quake and can topple already weakened building.

Agility Recovery has a great checklist that will help you prepare for an earthquake. The steps you take now will protect your business and minimize the toll on your employees, your property and your sense of security.


Other Resources Earthquakes

American Red Cross: Earthquake Preparedness

U.S. Geological Survey: Earthquake Hazards Program

Global Seismic Monitor

About the Author:

Carol Chastang

SBA Official