All posts tagged Earthquake

Have Plans in Place as Mega-quake Threat Level Is Raised


The risk for a massive earthquake of magnitude 8.0 or greater has increased, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The risk of that kind of mega-quake occurring in the next three decades is now 7%, according to the survey, which just last year released a report that increased the threat level from 4.7%.

It has raised the threat level again due to a better understanding that quakes are not limited to separate faults and that one can start on one fault and jump to others, resulting in a multiple faults snapping at once in a giant mega-quake.

The report says that past models generally assumed that earthquakes were confined to separate faults, or that long faults like the San Andreas ruptured in separate segments.

This newly discovered phenomenon has significantly increased the likelihood of a massive quake. Quakes dating back in the last 30 years reflect the new discovery.

  • 1987 The Whittier Narrows earthquake

Magnitude 5.9

Fallout: Three days later a 5.6 magnitude aftershock hit on a different fault. Damage reported in Whittier, Pico Rivera, Los Angeles and Alhambra.

  • 2010 California-Mexico border quake

Magnitude 7.2

Fallout: Scientists said the border quake directed tectonic stress toward and its aftershocks triggered movement on at least six faults, including the Elsinore and San Jacinto faults, which run close to heavily populated areas in eastern Los Angeles County and the Inland Empire.

  • 2011 Tohoku Japan earthquake

Magnitude 9.0

Fallout: The initial quake spread through multiple faults, resulting in two tectonic plates sliding against each other and moving the sea floor an astounding 165 feet westward, creating a massive tsunami that killed 15,000 people.


Another study released by a California State University at Northridge professional of geophysics, Julian Lozos, predicts the high likelihood that a major quake could start on the San Jacinto fault and continue on the San Andreas fault, California’s longest and most dangerous fault line.


Earthquakes and your business

Business owners must consider the potential impact of earthquakes and related hazards on buildings, employees and operations.

Planning for how you will respond during and after an earthquake, and taking steps now to reduce potential damage, is crucial to a successful and speedy recovery.

Here are some tips:

  • Develop a business continuity plan.
  • Conduct an audit of general earthquake vulnerability and a hazards risk assessment.
  • Establish an operations contingency plan.
  • Conduct a non-structural assessment of your business, including inventory.
  • Hold regular drop, cover and hold on drills for employee safety.
  • Encourage employees to have family plans and emergency kits.
  • Seismically retrofit buildings or occupy/rent buildings that are built to earthquake code.
  • When looking for a new site for your business, consider risks of liquefaction and proximity to faults, transportation, power and water.



If your business is operating in an area that is at risk of a quake, you should seriously consider earthquake insurance. Currently, premiums for coverage are the lowest they’ve been in years, while the risk of earthquakes has increased.

Earthquake coverage is purchased as an endorsement to the standard business owner’s policy. The endorsement covers damage caused by shaking during an earthquake, including structural damage and the damage to property.

Depending on the policy, lost business income caused by an earthquake may also be covered.

Coverage only begins when damage has exceeded your policy’s deductible – the amount you pay out of pocket before your insurance kicks in.

Earthquake insurance policies often have high deductibles – ranging from 2% to as high as 20% of the value of your building, depending on its location, age and condition.





Sprinkler Damage from a Quake Can Prove a Costly Business: Protect Your Assets


While you might expect cracks to the foundation of your business building during an earthquake, that is not the most common damage resulting from temblors in California.

More typically, businesses may suffer property damage after a quake shakes a building enough to activate or damage indoor sprinklers, which in turn spray water, wreaking havoc on office fixtures, machinery and inventory. The resulting damage from water sprinkler damage can often far exceed the damage to the structure itself.


Napa quake case study

After the Napa earthquake in 2014, the Federal Emergency Management Agency studied 32 buildings with fire sprinkler systems and found five that had sustained sprinkler system damage during the quake. The damaged systems had sprinkler breakage resulting in water damage, short hanger failures, and impact with adjacent components.

Interaction between sprinkler systems and something else was the main cause of damage.

The five systems that were damaged resulted in significant water damage because the quake happened early in the morning in a business district, meaning no employees were on site to shut off water valves.

“Pressurized piping system failures, especially fire sprinkler systems, caused significant damage even though the actual number of piping failures was comparatively small,” according to the FEMA report.

When an earthquake occurs, the majority of sprinkler system damage is from the building shaking and swaying. This movement can cause a sprinkler system that has not been properly braced to come into contact with other building systems or structural members that can damage the sprinklers and fittings. This damage can lead to leaking throughout the piping network, and can impair the system.

If you have a sprinkler system in place, it should comply with the National Fire Protection Association Standard, Section 9.3 of which is designed to limit the impact of this differential movement so that the sprinkler system can function as intended after, and potentially during, the seismic event.

To help maintain the alignment of system components and prevent the development of damage-inducing momentum, the standard requires sway bracing and restraint for system piping.

It is critical to have fire protection systems in place after an earthquake, because it is not uncommon to see a higher volume of fires due to ignition sources that become exposed during the seismic activity.

These ignition sources include electrical hazards such as disconnected or exposed wires and panels, along with fuel sources that may have spilled due to ruptured tanks or broken piping connections. Leaks involving natural gas and propane are also a source of fire once the gas is ignited.


Have the right insurance

If you own a commercial building or are a tenant in a commercial building that is equipped with a sprinkler system for fire suppression, you may not have coverage if there is damage done to your building or the contents inside the building for water damage caused by either a leak in the system or damage to a sprinkler pipe.

Standard commercial property insurance will not cover this type of damage, leaving many affected businesses out of luck should they suffer sprinkler damage after an earthquake.

Coverage for this type of loss can be added to your policy. Earthquake sprinkler leakage (EQSL) or sprinkler leakage coverage can be added to your existing policy by endorsement, usually for an additional premium depending on the insurance company.

An EQSL or sprinkler leakage endorsement would provide coverage for the building and/or contents inside the building should the sprinkler system leak due to an earthquake or accident. It would also provide coverage should the sprinklers become damaged.






Quake Preparedness: Avoiding Injuries from Falling Items, Debris

While earthquake safety training should be a part of any California employer’s safety program, it’s important from a workplace safety perspective to understand how your employees could be injured during a temblor.

While ducking and taking cover are good skills for your employees to reduce the likelihood of injury, one area that many employers overlook is the dangers of the workplace itself to employees during a quake.

Most earthquake-related injuries result from collapsing walls, flying glass and falling objects as a result of the ground shaking, or people trying to move more than a few feet during the shaking. Much of the damage in earthquakes is predictable and preventable.

Cal/OSHA many years ago actually contemplated creating new regulations that would have required employers to evaluate the hazard of objects falling or toppling during an earthquake, secure racks and protect workers with physical barriers.

In the end though, it opted against engaging in new rulemaking after concluding that existing regulations were enough, since they and the Injury and Illness Prevention Standard require employers to evaluate and mitigate workplace hazards.

Since those broad regulations could theoretically be construed as requiring certain earthquake preparedness procedures if you are located in a quake-prone area, you may want to consider these tips that were created by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Cal/OSHA:

  • Check with your local building-regulatory agency to determine the seismic design provisions for your building, and whether it needs retrofitting.
  • Evaluate your workplace for non-structural weaknesses, which FEMA says can be more dangerous and costly than structural vulnerabilities. “Any non-structural items that are not effectively anchored, braced, reinforced, or otherwise secured could become safety hazards or property losses in an earthquake,” the federal agency warns.


Hazardous items can include items located six feet or more above the floor. Cal/OSHA recommends:

  • Locating employee work stations and exits away from such areas.
  • Anchoring, bracing, containing or restraining objects by using brackets, clips, latches, bolts, screws, tie-downs, braces and hook-and-loop material.
  • Using physical barriers, such as fencing, netting or barricades.
  • Restraining objects by methods designed by a California-licensed structural engineer.


Cal/OSHA requires employers to report all serious workplace injuries, including those that are the result of an earthquake.

And the main regulations governing workplace safety as it pertains to the risk of falling objects or debris during an earthquake are in Section 3241 of the California Code, which requires employers to store material in a manner that prevents it from tipping, falling, collapsing, rolling or spreading.

It also requires employers to secure merchandise on shelves higher than 12 feet in “working warehouses.”