If you live, work, or spend a significant amount of time in a region that’s on top of or near a fault line, you’ve probably witnessed firsthand the kind of damage that earthquakes can do.
Just last month, a 6.0 quake hit Napa, California, injuring hundreds and causing millions of dollars in damage to homes and businesses. The region’s famous wineries were hit particularly hard, with estimated damages jumping up to over $80 million.
For businesses with warehouses in quake-susceptible regions, preparing for an earthquake isn’t just a good way to prevent losses; it can also save the lives of your employees or customers.
Why should you prepare?
When you think of the safest place to be during an earthquake, a warehouse is probably pretty far down the list, and for good reason.
There’s a lot of heavy equipment, possibly hazardous chemicals, and plenty of tall shelves that are fully stocked with merchandise.
This is why it’s so critical for a warehouse to be prepared. Not only will it reduce your risk of serious injuries (which is always the first priority), it will also help avoid substantial losses to inventory.
How do you prepare?
There are a lot of different steps you can take to prepare your warehouse for an earthquake, and some of them are a bit more extensive than others. Deciding which steps to take is a matter of determining about how high your quake risk actually is.
Obviously, this isn’t an exact science, but looking at historical earthquake data and your proximity to fault lines is a good place to start.
Be sure to check that your building itself is up to the earthquake standards set by your local building codes. This is especially true for older buildings that were built before those codes were in place.
When it comes to all things non-structural, take a look around your warehouse at all of the things that have the potential to do a lot of damage. This includes shelves, light fixtures, and basically anything else that could do considerable damage if they fell.
Anything you determine to be a risk should be properly secured. How you should go about doing this could vary based on local codes or what you’re securing, so be sure to do your research first. When it doubt, it might not be a bad idea to call in an expert.
One of the most critical stages of earthquake preparation, however, is ensuring that your team knows how to respond. Have regular safety meetings where you refresh your team on proper procedures (more on that in a moment) and basic first aid.
It’s also to a good idea to have earthquake drills at least annually.
Speaking of proper procedure:
During an earthquake
Rule number one in the event of an earthquake: DON’T PANIC. This is where all of your safety meetings and earthquake drills pay off.
During an earthquake, your biggest risk is being hit by a falling object. With that in mind, your team’s first move when the ground starts shaking should be to get to your designated safe zone.
Ideally, this would be an open area with a strong ceiling and nothing large overhead. It’s even better if there’s a sturdy desk or table that can provide extra cover.
Speaking of sturdy desks or tables, if you happen to find yourself near one when an earthquake hits, get under it.
It’s very important that you and your team stay in your safe zone until the shaking has stopped completely. The more you move around during an earthquake, the more likely you are to get hurt.
After an earthquake
Once the quake has passed, there are a few different things that need to be attended to before anything else.
First, check your team. Get a headcount to determine if anyone is missing or unaccounted for, and see if anyone is injured or in need of immediate attention.
Next, check for any other issues that require immediate attention, particularly hazardous chemical spills or fires. Follow your pre-existing safety procedures when dealing with these situations.
REMEMBER! Large earthquakes are often followed by aftershocks, so act quickly and calmly. If possible, move yourself and your team outside away from buildings, power lines, street lights, or anything else that could fall (but you probably figured that out already, right?).
Finally, if in the event of an earthquake you find that your safety procedures leave a bit to be desired, make some changes! Learn from your mistakes and start your preparations for the next quake.