Identifying earthquake hazards and vulnerabilities

Reduce damage, loss, and disruption to a business by taking the appropriate steps before an earthquake occurs. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends identifying workplace hazard levels and vulnerabilities. Once this is accomplished, businesses can make plans to address those risks.

Below are tips from FEMA to help workplaces recognize hazards, pinpoint vulnerabilities, and prepare for earthquakes. If renting or leasing a building, consult the owner before addressing risks:

1.    Determine your location’s earthquake hazard. While all workplaces should prepare for emergencies, it is important for businesses to know if they are in an area where there is an increased risk of an earthquake. To determine whether a business is located in an earthquake hazard area, consult a United States Geological Survey (USGS) earthquake hazard map. This map categorizes areas according to earthquake probability.

2.    Evaluate the risk for key partners. A business might also be affected if its vendors, distribution partners, or customers are located in a hazard area, so it is important to evaluate their risk, too.

3.    Ask about building codes. Consult the local agency in charge of construction regulation to find out if your area is subject to any seismic design laws and, if so, when these requirements were created. If your facility was built before that date, it may have some weaknesses that could affect its ability to withstand an earthquake.

4.    Identify structural vulnerabilities. The goal of reducing structural risks is to make your building more earthquake-resistant. Examine your building carefully for structural vulnerabilities such as masonry that has not been reinforced or anchored, soft story construction, old concrete, cripple walls that are not bolted to the foundation, or irregularities.

5.    Evaluate utility systems. Inspect building utility systems for any equipment that should be bolted to floors, walls, or ceilings. Some examples include pipes, tanks, water heaters, space heaters, compressors, furnaces, air conditioners, heat pumps, ducts, and fire sprinklers.

6.    Assess nonstructural architectural features. Locate any elements that could fall or break, such as stairways, windows, parapets, veneer, signs, fences, walls, built-in partitions, hanging lights, and drop ceilings.

7.    Check other nonstructural items. Identify any furniture or objects that have not been anchored, like computers, file cabinets, cylinders, art, containers holding hazardous substances, shelving, wall units, desks, chairs, and partitions. During an earthquake, unsecured items could become damaged or cause injuries.

Reduce injuries in workers reinforcing structural and nonstructural elements by providing safety products like hard hats, work boots, and safety glasses.

Earthquake preparedness is intended to help reduce hazards during an earthquake. Prepare for unexpected damage and accidents with protective work gloves and a first aid kit in case of emergencies.

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