Help clients minimize earthquake damage to commercial property

You are currently viewing Help clients minimize earthquake damage to commercial property

Share steps to protect business property from earthquake damage


Unlike hurricane or tornado seasons, earthquakes have no particular time of the year that they strike. When they strike, it’s seemingly random, even occurring outside of active earthquake zones along the West Coast. Whether your commercial clients are located along the West Coast, East Coast, or somewhere in between, you can provide these steps to protect your clients from earthquake damage to commercial property.

A quick look back at American history shows quakes in access of 5.0 magnitude in unusual spots. For instance, in the early 1800s, an earthquake in New Madrid, Missouri was felt as far away as New York City. Later, in 1886, Charleston, South Carolina was hit by a major quake. In this century, there have been quakes in West Salem, Illinois (2008), Fort Payne, Alabama (2003), Mineral, Virginia (2011) and of course multiple quakes in Oklahoma over the past few years. If your client’s business is in an area that has seen earthquakes before, share ways to minimize earthquake damage to commercial property.


How to protect buildings from earthquake damage

Buildings whose structures are designed to absorb earthquake energy and resist lateral movement are best able to withstand a major earthquake. This means the roof and floors are properly designed and connected to the structure frame or walls, which are anchored to a strong foundation, according to Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS). The expert advice of a structural engineer is invaluable here.

There are a number of non-structural retrofits that are less expensive to consider. They’re designed to reduce interior damage plus damage to power, gas and water systems. FEMA offers guidance through their QuakeSmart website plus a comprehensive nonstructural earthquake damage guide.


How to protect contents from temblor damage

  • Fasten bookcases and cabinets to nearby walls when possible or stabilize central bookcases by attaching them back-to-back to each other. Further reduce spillage by affixing self-locking latches to cabinet drawers or doors.
  • Secure electronic equipment to the floor or table surface with braces, hook and loop closures, or heavy glue to prevent overturning.
  • Secure picture frames, bulletin boards, and other wall mounted equipment to the wall using closed screw-eyes to prevent falling.
  • Brace storage shelves to withstand side-to-side movement and make sure they are well anchored to the floor. Place heavier objects on the bottom; secure them to nearby walls if possible.
  • Use a protective film on all glass windows, doors and walls to prevent shattering, which can cause serious injury.
  • Replace rigid plumbing supply lines and couplings with flexible braided lines and flexible couples to reduce the chance of rupture.
  • Ensure the hangers supporting your mechanical and plumbing systems are less than 12 inches long, where possible, to reduce the sway during a tremor.
  • Brace mechanical equipment such as boilers, furnaces, air conditioning equipment, and water heaters to the wall and/or floor to prevent overturning or shifting.
  • Use larger and thicker foot plates to provide greater floor anchorage.
  • Secure racks located along walls with wall ties.
  • Install wire decking to prevent items from falling through.
  • Add wire mesh or barriers on the face and rear of the racks to prevent items from falling from the front or back sides.
  • Store heavier items on the bottom to reduce the potential for overturning of the racks.
  • Segregate and store liquids on the bottom with a wire mesh or barrier on the face and rear of the rack to prevent from falling out of the rack. Combustible/flammable liquids in storage racks may also need additional fire protection.
Related: How to minimize risk by creating a business continuity plan

How to protect digital assets

Regardless of the size of the business, protecting data is crucial. Your clients’ data, along with their computer equipment, are at a high risk of destruction, should an earthquake strike.

IHBS warns that, due to the sensitive nature of the equipment, rigid bracing techniques may cause damage from earthquake shaking. They recommend using newer hardware protection solutions which isolate the most sensitive components and others that include specialty storage racks. These racks move gently in the opposite direction to the ground motion, providing a more stable surface for the equipment.

Following an earthquake, your clients may not be able to enter to their buildings to access computers. The data isn’t necessarily lost – they just can’t get to their equipment. It’s critical they backup data and records so that they can be retrieved safely from another location. Numerous options exist for storing a company’s vital data and records; encourage them to take steps now to investigate what best suits their company. IHBS offers three steps to follow, regardless of the solution chosen:

  • Minimize the risk of losing data at the primary location (i.e., limit who has data access and consider the security of the environment in the area where computers are located)
  • Backup the data frequently; ensure data is available offsite in case it is lost from the primary location
  • If data is corrupted or lost, know the steps to data recovery

Since power outages are common after an earthquake, they may also want to consider an uninterruptible power supply or battery backup. These can aid in saving data by keeping computer systems running when the power fails.

If your client operates a business in an earthquake zone, IBHS recommends they meet with their information technology specialist to determine the best solution for their company.

Related: Natural disaster aftermath: Employee safety tips

More ways to minimize earthquake damage to commercial property

Additional systems to consider bracing or securing include gas lines, water heaters and fire sprinkler systems. A commercial property’s earthquake preparedness should include earthquake strapping and bracing systems to protect water heaters and fire protection systems from being damaged by earthquakes.  A shut-off valve installed on natural gas lines or propane gas tanks can help prevent fires. Read more details on initiating these safety procedures, along with more safety tips here.

Producers, your commercial clients view you as a knowledgeable authority when it comes to earthquake coverages and risks. Provide this important safety information to them today.


This article originally appeared in Arrowhead’s Tribal blog. It is used with permission and has been expanded to incorporate earthquake preparation tips for all small-to-medium businesses.