6 Earthquake Preparedness Tips for Business Owners
The magnitude 6.0 earthquake that walloped Napa Valley this past weekend wounded some 120 people, left dozens of homes and businesses condemned, and dealt a particularly devastating blow to the region’s winemakers.
Several vintners’ businesses were literally shattered, like B.R. Cohn Winery in Glen Ellen, Calif., where up to 50 percent of its wine was lost, reports The Washington Post.
While some of the damage wreaked by the biggest temblor to hit the area in 25 years couldn’t have been avoided, University of California San Diego seismologist Tom Rockwell warned that it should serve as a “wake-up call” for California’s wine country. In the future, it could be much worse.
We think Napa’s recent shaker should be a wakeup call for business owners with operations in any earthquake-prone region of the world, regardless of their industry.
Ask yourself: If a quake struck hard right now, right here today, would my inventory and operations -- and, most importantly, my employees -- be safe? Are we ready for the big one? If not, the time to get earthquake ready is immediately, not next week or next month.
With expert tips from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s “Every Business Should Have a Plan” guide, here are six ways to prepare your business for an earthquake now:
1. Put together an earthquake survival kit. If a strong earthquake strikes, your office could be without electricity, Internet, phone, water, gas and sewage services for several days or even weeks. A basic natural disaster survival kit covers you fast with essential supplies during an emergency, when you probably won’t have time to search for or shop for them.
At the very least, the American Red Cross advises that natural disaster survival kits contain the following:
- Water -- one gallon per person, per day (three-day supply for evacuation, two-week supply for home)
- Food -- non-perishable, easy-to-prepare items (three-day supply for evacuation, two-week supply for home)
- Battery-powered or hand-crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio, if possible)
- Extra batteries
- First aid kit -- Anatomy of a First Aid Kit
- Medications (seven-day supply) and medical items
- Multi-purpose tool
- Sanitation and personal hygiene items
- Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies)
- Cell phone with chargers
- Family and emergency contact information
- Extra cash
- Emergency blanket
- Map(s) of the area
If you don’t want to build your own kit -- let alone one for each of your employees -- you can buy individual ones from several online vendors, like Quake Care. The site offers several office-specific earthquake survival kits ranging from $179 to $1,575, depending on the number of employees you need to cover.
2. Meet regularly to go over the basics. Host staff meetings where you discuss how to stay as safe as possible during and immediately after an earthquake. Include basics like dropping, covering and holding on throughout a quake and through aftershocks. (Aftershocks can occur for minutes, days and weeks following the initial temblor.)
Also establish safe places in your office for people to move to during an earthquake. These include areas underneath furniture or against walls, away from windows and bookcases and other large pieces of furniture that could fall.
Securely anchor all framed pictures, mirrors and large cabinets and pieces of furniture to their foundation. Also, bolt and brace gas appliances and water heaters to wall studs.
3. Create an earthquake response plan. Work with your employees to develop a protocol for what to do during and directly following an earthquake. Who will be responsible for what when? Routinely review the plan together and practice safety drills. Reach out to employees with disabilities to see if any special preparations need to be arranged. Also discuss what you will do and where you will meet if your building, store or factory is seriously damaged.
Be sure to include an evacuation plan, complete with the location of emergency exits and office earthquake kits. Also, consider establishing an informative telephone line that employees can call at any time to receive recorded post-emergency information.
4. Assess your risk. FEMA’s Ready.gov website suggests that businesses perform a risk assessment to determine how ready your company is for an earthquake or other natural disaster (and, depressingly, how prepared you are for a “bioligcal, chemical, explosive, nuclear or radiological attack.”) There are several seismic risk-focused firms throughout the U.S. that you can call in for a professional earthquake vulnerability analysis, such as EBI Consulting, CoreLogic and AEI Consultants.
5. Determine how long you can stay in business for. If you can stay in business, you should, especially if you serve local community members who might require your goods and services in the wake of a major earthquake. Which employees, procedures, materials and equipment are essential to keep your business operating? Which are critical to survival and recovery? Do you have emergency payroll, expedited financial decision-making and accounting systems in place to cope with, document and track the costs of a disaster? If something should happen to you, have you designated at least one person who can take over the business in your absence?
You might also want to reach out to key customers and clients. How will you serve them during and after a disaster, if necessary? How do you plan to stay in communication with vital suppliers, shippers and other businesses you interact with regularly?
6. Secure important documents. Keep copies of priority documents and records in a fireproof and waterproof portable container. These include bank account statements, insurance policies, supplier and shipping contact lists, identifying employee information, computer backups and other essential records. Better yet, store copies of these key documents in the cloud.
Kim Lachance Shandrow is the former West Coast editor at Entrepreneur.com. Previously, she was a commerce columnist at Los Angeles CityBeat, a news producer at MSNBC and KNBC in Los Angeles and a frequent contributor to the Los Angeles Times. She has also written for Government Technology magazine, LA Yoga magazine, the Lowell Sun newspaper, HealthCentral.com, PsychCentral.com and the former U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. C. Everett Coop. Follow her on Twitter at @Lashandrow. You can also follow her on Facebook here.