Not much good results from a major earthquake. The only possible benefit occurs when an earthquake unleashes groundwater in drought-stricken regions.
Major earthquakes can ignite fires and gas explosions, damage buildings and kill thousands of people.
In my first earthquake experience, I was in southern California 75 miles from the epicenter of the 1971 Sylmar killer quake at 6:01 a.m. on Feb. 1, 1971. It was 6.6 in magnitude.
Four buildings at the Veterans Administration Hospital collapsed in the 1971 Sylmar earthquake.
As a young radio newscaster, I was in the studio delivering my regular 6 a.m. newscast when the big plate glass window — separating the disc jockey from me — began violently shaking. It seemed to go on for a minute.
Vividly, I recall adlibbing the words: “Ladies and gentlemen, it would appear we’re in the middle of an earthquake. Stay tuned to KDUO News for further details.”
Later, I would report nearly 60 people died, most were hospital patients, and there was $553 million in damage. Less than 10 percent of the damage was insured. Aftershocks continued for weeks afterward.
The U.S. Geological Survey forecasts a 46-percent probability of a 7.5 magnitude earthquake by 2044 in southern California. But there are countless reports of earthquakes around the world.
So my sense is that all businesses should prepare for such seismic events.
Here are six basic recommended steps:
1. Gather information
Communication is paramount. Have and share contact information for everyone connected with your company. Understand that voice traffic in disasters like earthquakes will clog mobile phone carriers so be prepared to text people, not telephone them.
For up-to-date information during an earthquake, use the U.S. Geological Survey’s Web site.
2. Stay protected
Prepare to be self-sufficient for several days. Stock up on first aid supplies, water and food for the worst-case scenarios.
Train your staff on the dos and don’ts of earthquake preparedness. Identify the safe areas in your business where employees can congregate. Earthquake-proof your building so that heavy equipment doesn’t fall on your workers.
3. Earthquake insurance
Unless you can self-insure against earthquakes, you might want to consider earthquake insurance. While it’s true premiums are expensive, you’d be able to recoup your losses and continue to operate as a business.
As in all valuable papers, store multiple copies of your policy, contact info for your insurance company and comprehensive documentation of your assets in secure locations. Pictures are good. Beware of any timeline requirements and follow the right protocol to file an insurance claim.
4. Supply chain precautions
Consider the importance of your supply chain for your company’s future. You should identify and list your primary and backup suppliers and follow other best-practices to protect your supply chain.
5. Contingency plan for human resources
In the event of an earthquake, be aware that members of your team might not be able to report for work. Key employees and managers should have telecommuting abilities.
They should also be able to interface with employees and exchange them if you have multiple locations.
6. Protect your revenue stream – clients
For easy access, store emergency contact info for your anchor clients and prospects. Once the emergency is over and you’ve handled salient priorities, contact your clients. They’ll appreciate the red carpet service.
From the Coach’s Corner, here are more disaster-related tips:
19 Tips to Protect Your Core Assets from a Disaster — Hurricane Katrina put us on notice how important disaster planning is. Is your business ready? Biz Coach Terry Corbell provides a 19-point business continuity plan.
Risk Management – Making Best Decisions, Using Right Tactics — To prevent a crisis from interfering with the continuity of your business, you must strategically plan to manage any potential risks. That means avoiding the classic mistakes routinely made by companies, and making the right decisions for proactive measures to minimize any dangers.
Planning an Event? Here are 25 Emergency Preparedness Tips — In order to successfully plan major events, it’s a great idea to consider taking 25 precautions, courtesy of Robert Grossman of Focus Creative Group, a communications consulting and development company.
5 Data Recovery Planning Tips for Computer Failures — Just a generation ago, risk management was a lot less complicated. Many businesses didn’t have to worry about hardware or software failures. Everything was processed manually. But in this digital age, business is severely disrupted if your system crashes and you haven’t backed up your information.
Public Relations Expert Provides Crisis Management Tips — Appearances count. But universities, presidential candidates and businesses have all demonstrated a lack of awareness about good public relations.
“Playing polo is like trying to play golf during an earthquake.”