Published March 16, 1999
Volume 7, Number 3

Don't Get Shaken Up — April is Earthquake Preparedness Month

Earthquake PreparednessThere are many people who say that the Bay Area is the perfect place to live. Frankly, though, it has its faults. 

With the Hayward, the Calaveras, the San Andreas, and many others, the Bay Area is criss-crossed with fault zones. Typically, Northern California sees small quakes every day, although they are too small to be detected except by seismographs. 

While the science of predicting earthquakes continues to progress, it's not yet possible to foresee when the next large quake will hit. With this in mind, it's a good idea to take a tip from the Boy Scouts and be prepared. 

Duck, Cover, and Hold
Let's start with the most basic information what to do if the ground starts shaking. It's easy to remember the three steps involved: duck, cover, and hold. 

Duck: remain calm and duck or drop to the ground. 

Cover: take cover under a large desk or table and cover your head with your arms. If possible, do so near an interior wall and avoid windows. 

Hold: If ground shaking is severe, you may need to hold on to the object you're under. 

Once the shaking is over, the real work begins. The job is made much easier, however, if a plan is already in place and known to all.

Business Preparedness
Businesses have many specific needs regarding earthquake preparedness, both for employee safety and in protecting the company's interests. 

The best business disaster plans, however, begin at the homes of employees.

"One of the things that we recommend is that businesses encourage employees to prepare their own earthquake plans at home, so that they'll know their families are safe," says Elsie Lujan of the Governor's Office of Emergency Services (OES). 

A safe home is the first step, but it's only the beginning. Businesses can also take a number of actions to ensure employee safety, including conducting employee training programs and drills. 

In fact, the OES is sponsoring a statewide "Duck, Cover, and Hold" drill at 10:30 a.m. on April 6, the anniversary of the San Francisco earthquake.

True preparedness involves much more, however. 

Non-Structural Hazards
One of the most important elements of an earthquake safety plan is to minimize non-structural hazards. Placing heavy objects on high shelves is a bad idea, and items such as file cabinets, computers, equipment, and inventory shelves should be bolted or otherwise secured to prevent toppling in a temblor. 

It's also a good idea to have first aid kits, food, and water on hand. If transportation is made difficult by the event, having these items becomes very important. 

More than Common Sense
Many of the aspects of earthquake preparedness come down to common sense. There are many details, though, which require decision-skills that aren't quite so obvious. 

Association Offers Free Emergency Procedures Manual to Tenants

Another great source for emergency preparedness information is the Hacienda Owners Association's 81-page Emergency Procedures Manual. 

The manual, prepared for the Association by Emergency Management Services, covers the emergency planning requirements of Title 19 of the California Code of Regulations as well as other situations such as fire, earthquake, bomb threats, power failure, civil disturbance, floods, and more. 

"We believe in taking a pro-active stance towards emergency procedures," says James Paxson, general manager of the Hacienda Owners Association. "By providing information like this, we can help the park's tenants take that stance as well." 

CCR Title 19
While most emergency preparedness measures are voluntary, Title 19 of the California Code of Regulations places some legal requirements on building owners, managers, and occupants as well. 

Sections 3.09 and 3.10 of the code require that persons responsible for buildings of two or more stories conduct a variety of pre-fire planning and evacuation activities, such as posting and distribution of emergency instructions, development of a written facility emergency plan, selection of floor wardens, and more. These requirements are detailed in the manual.

Emergency Response Teams
The manual also outlines the formation of emergency response teams, which allows for an efficient chain of command in an emergency situation. 

By selecting floor managers, medical assistance coordinators, fire suppression/damage assessment coordinators, communications coordinators, and a floor warden, the emergency response team can take charge of a situation until professional help arrives. 

Ordering a Manual
Emergency Procedures Manuals are available from the Hacienda Owners Association by calling (925) 734-6500 or by the Hacienda web site's security page.

The OES offers a comprehensive manual, supported by slides and other resources, detailing an earthquake preparedness course for business. It addresses a number of interesting safety topics, including:

  • when to evacuate a building; 
  • establishing recall and retention policies; 
  • earthquake-related fires or hazardous equipment spills; and
  • conducting a hazard vulnerability analysis of your business.The OES training course also devotes attention to the knowledge required for a business to both survive and recover from an earthquake. For instance, a business restoration plan should be created which includes essential facilities or the establishment of temporary facilities and restoring damaged utility systems to minimal operating levels. 

For some companies, it may be necessary to control access to facilities. Others may need to develop employee recovery and assistance programs which would allow for flexible work hours, emergency cash grants, assistance with childcare, commuting, or telecommuting. 

Now More than Ever
If there is a positive aspect to be taken from the 1989 Loma Prieta quake and the 1995 Northridge quake, it is that we know now more than we ever have about how to minimize the effects of an earthquake, in terms of both property and personal loss. 

Much of this information has been compiled and categorized by agencies like the OES and California Seismic Safety Commission. 

The OES is probably the best source of earthquake preparedness information for both individuals and businesses. 

Here are some items among the OES offerings, all available at no cost from their Oakland office:

  • Corporate Comprehensive Earthquake Preparedness Planning Guidelines. This 40+ page booklet is designed to help companies develop a comprehensive, systematic plan to respond effectively to a major earthquake, and covers actions before and after a quake. 
  • Business Resumption Planning Guidelines. This booklet, also 40 pages, details elements of a sound resumption plan, including client services, security, records storage, HR issues, and more. The OES also offers a variety of audio/visual materials from its lending library, including videos and scripted slide programs. The office for the Coastal Region of OES, which includes the Bay Area, is located at 1300 Clay Street, Suite 400, in downtown Oakland. Their phone number is (510) 286-0869. 

Earthquake Information Resources

Governor's Office of Emergency Services (510/286-0895, www.oes.ca.gov) Your one-stop shop for earthquake preparedness, with information packets for homes and businesses as well as details on reducing the risks of nonstructural earthquake damage, employee awareness training, and much more. Plus, all materials come free of charge.

Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) (510/464-7900, www.abag.ca.gov) Includes online maps which illustrate projected ground-shaking in Bay Area cities if earthquakes were to occur on different faults. 

Northern California Earthquake Data Center (quake.geo.berkeley.edu) A joint project of U.C. Berkeley and the U.S. Geological Survey, this site is linked in real time to the UC Berkeley Digital Seismic Network, with details on Northern California's daily quakes. 


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