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What everyone should know about earthquake preparedness

Recent earthquakes have served as a reminder that earthquakes pose a security danger in many parts of the world. The Global Earthquake Hazard Map, an open source project that models earthquakes and their consequences, depicts how much of the world could be affected.

Global Earthquake model showing areas of the world at heightened security risk for earthquake based on predicted severity

While the impact, damage, injury, and loss of life from earthquakes varies, each event serves as a timely reminder that we must be prepared when they strike. This blog serves as a reminder of the dangers that earthquakes provide, as well as what security and risk managers can do to prepare, train, and respond to them.

Prevention and Early Warning

Earthquakes are impossible to prevent or anticipate. The only thing we can do is keep a close eye on when and where earthquakes strike, and prepare our buildings and personnel to minimise the impact and damage. Earthquakes are most likely to happen on or near fault lines, which can be found all around the world. Fault lines are areas on the earth's surface where two tectonic plates are colliding or separating. As a result, seismic activity, including earthquakes, becomes more common. Earthquakes are a threat to any location that lies on a major fault line where the tectonic plates collide. Earthquakes are common all throughout the world. The United States Geological Survey monitors and reports earthquakes with a Richter rating of 2.5 or higher in real time. On a daily basis, there are 25 or more. These are mostly concentrated along the Pacific Ocean's 'Ring of Fire,' a loop that runs from South America around the ocean to New Zealand.

Earthquake Preparedness

Many individuals who have never experienced an earthquake are unaware of the extent of devastation that even a mild earthquake may cause. This is why personnel must be educated on what can go wrong and how they can be hurt. Even in earthquake-prepared countries or companies, significant damage can occur as furniture shifts, windows crack, and everyday goods shift. All of this might easily injure someone who is working in the building at the time if they do not take the necessary precautions.

An organisation can take a number of safeguards in the event of an earthquake. Here are a few examples:

1. Take earthquakes into account while choosing a location for offices, lodging, or hotel reviews. Is there any evident deterioration to the structure (e.g., cracks, uneven ceilings, walls, or entryways)? Would employees who were working in the building during an earthquake be able to quickly take cover and then flee?

2. Make sure that heavy things, such as televisions, shelves, light fixtures, and paintings/photos, are firmly anchored to the walls. Mirrors and large paintings should not be hung above areas where people sit or sleep on a regular basis.

3. Make sure that heavy goods are not stored on high shelves where they could fall and injure someone in the event of an earthquake. Breakable objects should be kept on the lower/bottom shelves.

4. Secure bookshelves and heavy cabinets, such as filing cabinets, to the walls or the floor.

5. Conduct an earthquake drill as directed in the earthquake response section below to ensure that everyone knows what to do and where to go in the event of an earthquake. Make sure there are safe areas in each room of your office and home so that the number of persons seeking shelter is not exceeded. Include all workers, including consultants, visitors, cleaners, drivers, and guards, in the drills.

6. If there is a major earthquake, you will most likely need to leave the building you are in. Ensure that people are aware of how to evacuate a building and where they should congregate after exiting. Consider how persons with varying capacities could find evacuating difficult.

7. If you live in an earthquake-prone area, pack an emergency kit with a first-aid kit, radio, and three days' worth of food and water per person. Include a phone list with all personnel's phone numbers for a phone tree, as well as the landlord's phone number, in this kit.

8. Make sure you know where the water, gas, and power shutoff switches are located. Establish an outside meeting location in a clearing away from any downed trees and electricity wires.

9. Store critical programme documentation in a secure location, such as a safe. Consider saving your most essential papers to a single hard drive or using 'cloud storage' (e.g. offsite). Recent inventories and an asset register should be included.

10. Because broken window glass causes the majority of injuries during earthquakes, blast resistance film on all internal and external glass in the building is recommended.

Some security solutions that are meant to safeguard employees from one threat may unintentionally expose them to another. Multiple locks on doors and bars on windows, for example, can prevent armed theft but can also confine employees within a building in the event of a danger such as an earthquake. When installing security mitigation measures, security managers evaluate if they create, as well as mitigate, a security risk.

Earthquake Response

The majority of earthquakes last 10 to 30 seconds. While this may not seem like a long time, it is long enough to cause a building to collapse or significantly undermine its structural integrity if it is sufficiently strong.

Most people are scared that the building would collapse around them, trapping or crushing them. However, the majority of people killed or injured in an earthquake are not crushed in a building collapse. Rather, they are hurt as they attempt to exit a structure, and are struck by flying materials, debris and fall. If someone is inside a building, the best advice is to stay inside, get down under a strong table or near a robust piece of furniture, and hang on.

Taking cover in a doorway was once recommended, however this is no longer recommended. Doorways are no more robust than the rest of the building structure and will not protect people from flying glass or other projectiles. Never try to catch or move things that could fall (e.g. vases, bookcases, china cabinets, light fixtures). Do not try to recover computers, phones, or other personal items. There are only a few moments between the start of an earthquake, the realisation that people should seek shelter and the quake becoming severe. Instead of collecting personal items, these seconds should be spent rushing to safety.

When an earthquake is sensed, as shown in the diagram above, individuals should immediately:

1. Get down on their hands and knees on the floor. This prevents someone from being knocked down while still allowing them to move if necessary.

2. Crawl beneath a sturdy desk or table for protection. If no one is nearby, they should lie down near an external wall or low-lying furniture (like a couch) and cover their head and neck with their hands and arms.

3. Hold on to the shelter - if the shaking is intense, it may shift, and the person will be forced to move with it.

• If in a multi-story building, don't try to exit; instead, move away from the outer walls/windows. Do not use elevators.

• If in a kitchen or room with a gas stove, turn it off as soon as possible and take cover.

• If in a bed, stay there and use a pillow to shield your head.

• If outside, stay away from buildings, utility wires, sewers, and gas stations if you're outside. Avoid being knocked over by getting low and staying there until the shaking stops.

• If in a car, pull over to the side of the road as swiftly and safely as possible, keeping an eye out for electrical poles/wires and under/overpasses. Set the emergency brake once the car has come to a complete stop.

• Do not hurry for the exit if you are in a crowded indoor location, such as a shopping mall, store, stadium or theatre. Keep a safe distance from anything that might fall on you. To protect your head and face from falling debris and glass, use anything solid you have on hand. If stead, stay in your seat or crawl under it. When the tremors have subsided, slowly approach the door.

After an Earthquake

Staff should wait a few seconds after the shaking stops before emerging from under a desk or another safe location. Everyone in a building, whether it's an office or a residence, should then quickly make their way to an outdoor area where a roll call can be held. If the stairwell in a multi-story structure is destroyed, employees should not attempt to descend. Staff should not attempt to negotiate through dangerous blockades such as rubble, sharp metal or glass, or live electric line if exits are blocked. Instead, they should remain where they are and cover their mouth and nose with a wet cloth.

If employees are trapped, they should be told not to light a match since gas lines may have broken, causing a fire. They should cover their mouth and nose with a piece of clothing and avoid kicking up dust. People who are trapped should tap on a pipe or a wall so that rescuers can locate them. Whistling and tapping are more effective than shouting since shouting consumes too much energy over time and can result in harmful dust inhalation.

Aftershocks should be expected if the earthquake is strong, and employees should follow the same protocols in aftershocks as described above keeping in mind that structures may have been compromised by the first quake.

To determine if somebody is absent or trapped, a designated individual should do a roll call. Use a phone tree to try to contact employees in other areas, but expect the mobile phone infrastructure to be disrupted and the lines to be clogged due to the huge volume of calls. Check with personnel to see if anyone has been hurt. Cuts, bruises, contusions, broken bones, and dust-related problems to the eyes, throats, and lungs are the most likely injuries. Another authorised person should cut off all building utilities, including water, gas, and electricity, as long as doing so does not require them to enter a damaged building. If the earthquake was minor, one person should return to the building to assess the damage and turn off the utilities, if necessary. Cracks in the walls, the smell of gas or smoke, and broken windows or light fixtures should all be looked for by this person. If there are dangers, employees should leave the facility and wait for structural repair. If they can return, staff should be cautious when opening cupboards and checking objects on shelves as even a minor tremor can cause them to shift and possibly fall.

If an earthquake is sufficiently strong or damaging, people should not anticipate emergency services or other basic services to function for at least three days. Many people were without water for five days and electricity for several weeks after the 1994 Los Angeles earthquake, which had a magnitude of 6.7 and lasted between 10 and 20 seconds. If office or home structures have been severely damaged, staff should be prepared to live and sleep outside for several days.

Landslides are very likely during and immediately after an earthquake in mountainous places. These landslides can destroy infrastructure such as roads and bridges, as well as buildings on top of or along the sides of hills, and any other structure in the landslide's path.

Earthquake Monitoring

In areas where earthquakes are possible, organisations should monitor credible earthquake sites to monitor where the earthquake was, its severity and not to pass unverified information. Credible sites include:

These sites normally have both the site and severity of an earthquake on their website within 30 minutes to an hour of the earthquake, depending on the severity.

Want to train staff on responding to earthquakes and other natural hazards? Our Hostile Environment Awareness Training (HEAT) e-learning course provides staff with comprehensive, online, on-demand training at affordable prices. Check it out:!


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