Is your organization prepared for what to do if an earthquake occurs?
Earthquakes can happen at any place and at any time. While North America’s West Coast is commonly considered earthquake country, over 200 small quakes rock the Midwest each year, and the East Coast had a major earthquake in 2011.
These steps will help prepare your workplace for an earthquake:
- Secure the work environment. Heavy items like bookcases, refrigerators, and televisions should be anchored to the wall so they will not fall.
- Create an earthquake plan. Develop a safety plan that outlines what managers and employees should do if an earthquake strikes. Consult with key teams, such as security, IT, and medical before finalizing this plan. Encourage managers and employees to familiarize themselves with what steps to take in an emergency.
If an earthquake should occur:
- Protect yourself. Get down on the floor, cover your head, and hold on to a sturdy piece of furniture or shelter under a table. Stay away from windows and other glass objects.
- Lock, cover, and hold. Anyone in a walker or wheelchair should lock their mobility assistance device, cover their head with their arms, and hold on to a large piece of furniture (if available). Provide assistance to those who may need more help with securing their safety.
- Protect people in healthcare settings. Experts recommend that people in a recliner or bed cover their head and neck with their arms or a pillow. Healthcare workers should always follow their organization’s safety plan or protocol.
After an earthquake occurs:
- Avoid downed power lines and broken gas lines. Your organization’s earthquake plan should assign responsibility for shutting down gas lines to the appropriate personnel.
- Communicate by text. Phone circuits are often overloaded following an earthquake. Save cell phone batteries by only using these devices in urgent situations, especially if the power is out.
- Monitor local news and official updates. Your city and county’s social media accounts are a good resource for helpful information.
- Put safety first. Follow the company’s safety plan when cleaning up the workplace. If you participate in the clean-up effort, wear protective clothing. Do not lift anything that is beyond your ability.
Remember that aftershocks are common. These may occur for several days following the initial quake.