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Most people think that earthquakes occur only in places like California, Alaska and Japan. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Several major and numerous minor quakes have occurred in the midwestern and eastern United States, as well as in eastern Canada.

At least one-fourth of all businesses that close because of a disaster never reopen, mostly because they were unprepared for the fallout. So, being prepared for an earthquake is a good investment in your business.

Here is a step-by-step guide for protecting your staff and keeping your business going after an earthquake, with much of the advice also applicable to any other calamity.

Before an earthquake

Your employees’ safety is first and foremost during an earthquake.

Train your staff in what to do if an earthquake hits. The most common advice is to drop, cover and hold:
• Drop down to the floor.
• Take cover under strong furniture like a desk.
• Hold on to the furniture for the duration of the quake.

Your employees should stay indoors until the shaking stops and they are sure it’s safe to exit. They should also stay away from bookcases or furniture that can fall on them.

Ensure that your building can withstand the impact of a natural disaster, and that your contents and inventory are sufficiently protected. If you rent, consult with your landlord to make sure your building is up to earthquake code. If you own, and you are unsure, call a specialist to evaluate your premises.

Also, you can take steps to mitigate potential impacts such as loose shelving, removing heavy items from top shelves, securing cabinets with breakables in them, and securing wall art and inventory to avoid damage to the products or injury to staff.

Planning for after a quake

There are a number of factors to consider when planning for how to keep your employees safe after an earthquake or any other disaster, and how to keep your business going.

Conduct a hazard assessment of your workplace – Determine what parts of your business need to be operational as soon as possible following a disaster, and make a plan on how to resume those operations.

Create a disaster-response plan – Top of mind should be your workers’ safety after the incident. Consider how you would transport injured staff to hospitals or administer first aid for those with less serious injuries. This should also include how you would take care of them until help can arrive.

In addition, create plans for communicating with your employees if a disaster strikes during or after work hours.

Protect vital records – This could mean storing them on the cloud or having an alternate location where you store backups.

Create a plan for how to stay open – This plan should be multi-pronged. Have plans in place for if:
• Your suppliers cannot deliver.
• Your markets are inaccessible.
• Basic needs (e.g., water, sewer, electricity, transportation) are unavailable.
• You cannot stay in or reach your place of business.

Work with the community – Work with your community, public officials and other businesses to promote disaster preparedness and community recovery.

Make sure you have coverage – Consult with us to make sure that your coverage is adequate to help you get back in business following a disaster. Most commercial property policies do not cover earthquake damage, so special insurance may be needed.

Test your plans

Finally, but very importantly, develop and test emergency evacuation plans.