Safety Tips

Earthquakes: Are your workers prepared?

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Photo: Southern California Earthquake Center

The ground shakes and the power flickers. Shelving sways precariously and items start tumbling to the ground. You’re in the midst of an earthquake. Do your workers know what to do?

Although an earthquake can occur anywhere, certain areas of the United States are more prone to them than others. If your workplace is in an earthquake-active area, it’s imperative that your workers know how to stay safe in the event of an emergency. However, workers throughout the country should know how to respond.

FEMA recommends checking with your local building regulatory agency to find out if your building may have structural vulnerabilities. Additionally, look at your building’s non-structural items, including light fixtures, windows, partitions and suspended ceilings. FEMA notes that “any non-structural items that are not effectively anchored, braced, reinforced, or otherwise secured could become safety hazards or property losses in an earthquake.” Remediate these issues by consulting with a construction professional to properly secure these items, or assign such tasks to your workplace’s maintenance staff. Visit www.fema.gov/quakesmart for more detailed information on how to determine your building’s risks.

Earthquakes occur suddenly and without warning. Ensuring your workers know how to respond – and respond quickly – is critical. Ready.gov recommends following these tips:

  • Stay put until the shaking subsides. Don’t run outside or stand in a doorway.
  • Get onto your hands and knees so the shaking doesn’t knock you over. Cover your head and neck with your arms to protect yourself from debris. This is commonly referred to as the “drop, cover and hold on!” response.
  • If you believe you’re at imminent risk of being struck by falling debris and that you can safely move away, crawl somewhere that provides additional protection, such as under a desk or table.
  • Keep clear of glass, windows, outside walls and doors, and items that may fall, such as light fixtures.

The earthquake ends. Now what? Ready.gov recommends going to an open place away from the building. If you’re trapped, remain calm and call or text for help if you have a phone with you.

Additionally, FEMA suggests that workplaces implement earthquake-specific emergency response and recovery plans, and train employees on these plans.