Earthquake Preparedness Checklist

This checklist will help you prepare for an earthquake's effect on your organization, employees and community by highlighting activities you should undertake before, during, and following the event.

Most people would associate the risk of earthquakes with well-publicized and seismically active areas like California, parts of Washington State (especially in and around Yellowstone National Park) and some areas of Nevada and Utah.  However the risk of earthquakes covers a much larger area of the United States and Canada.

The following checklist covers some basic points to consider in preparing for an earthquake which will help you recover more effectively in the aftermath. In the aftermath of an earthquake, these contingencies will prove vital activities ensuring that any damage to your business and resources are minimized.

Before the Earthquake

Be aware of your risk level.  Add a map to your DR plan and make sure everyone is aware of the earthquake risk level in your specified region.
Think about communications, since the chances are the phone company and possibly cell towers will be down.  Your disaster recovery/response team will need to be in immediate contact with one another to ensure that your plan is activated and moving forward as quickly as possible.  Think about two-way radios or text messages.  An Alert Notification System is also an invaluable communication resource.
Develop a plan around communication, and deliver this to your team.  Be sure to clearly identify each individual’s roles and responsibility prior to the earthquake. 
Implement structural and non-structural hazard mitigation actions: bolting furniture to walls, ensure hardware and technology are secure, safety latches for cabinet doors, install fire sprinklers, use hook and loop fasteners to keep computers and other equipment from falling.
Discuss coverage with your insurance provider.  Understand your extra expense, and business interruption policies, before the interruption occurs.
Contact your property owner or facilities manager and ask about having a laminate or plastic film placed on the inside of the windows to prevent glass shattering and endangering employees.
Assemble and store emergency supply kit - for 3 days minimum (see checklist for emergency supply kit).
Assemble building site maps and floor plans identifying exits, fire escapes, stairways, utility valves and shutoffs, fire extinguishers, hydrants, and standpipes, hazardous materials, and locked or restricted areas.  Include these in your plan.
Prepare your building for an extensive power outage and look at power options, particularly generator requirements. Contact a local electrician for assistance with this.
Review your current data back-up procedures and consider contracting with a datacenter or collocation facility that is in a different part of the country (one not prone to earthquakes, hurricanes or any other kind of aggressive natural events).  Back up all your data to them on a daily (or at least every other day) basis, so that in the event you lose your networks and servers you can be back up and running and restoring your saved data to replacement equipment.


During the Earthquake


If you are indoors, duck or drop down to the floor. Take cover under a sturdy desk, table or other furniture. Hold on to it and be prepared to move with it. Hold the position until the ground stops shaking and it is safe to move. Stay clear of windows, fireplaces, woodstoves, and heavy furniture or appliances that may fall over. Stay inside to avoid being injured by falling glass or building parts. If you are in a crowded area, take cover where you are. Stay calm and encourage others to do likewise.
If you are outside, get into the open, away from buildings and power lines.
If you are driving, stop if it is safe, but stay inside your car. Stay away from bridges, overpasses and tunnels. Move your car as far out of the normal traffic pattern as possible. If possible, avoid stopping under trees, light posts, power lines, or signs.
If you are in a mountainous area, or near unstable slopes or cliffs, be alert for falling rock and other debris that could be loosened by the earthquake.
If you are near the coast, move quickly to higher ground or several hundred yards inland.


After the Earthquake


Employees should immediately check for injuries among fellow workers and render first aid.  Seriously injured persons should not be moved unless they are in danger of further injury.
Check for fire hazards, gas leaks, or damaged electrical wiring.  Make sure main valves are turned off.
Use flashlights (in emergency supply kit) vs. matches/lighters, due to potential gas leaks.
Be prepared for aftershocks – these can come for several days after the main quake and can frequently topple already weakened structures.
Consider relocation to an alternate site during recovery, depending upon damage to structure.
Bring all vital records with you to your recovery site: data, employee lists, vendor lists, etc.  Ensure you have access to passwords, application keys and contact phone numbers/email addresses.


Your People


Ensure you have an emergency communication plan in place prior to the event, evacuation, or threat.
Determine who is certified in CERT, CPR, etc. and what their responsibilities will be in the event of an earthquake.
Use an Alert Notification System or internal employee hotline to keep all employees and other stakeholders posted on status and next steps.
During evacuation have a central point of contact for all employees, and ensure you know where your people are located.
During evacuation consider your phone lines - redirection to cell phones, answering service, Google Voice, or alternate locations could be critical.
Following the earthquake, notify all critical people of next steps, based on damage.


About the Author

Agility Recovery, a former division of GE, has over 20 years of disaster recovery and business continuity experience dedicated to delivering innovative business continuity solutions that challenge the traditional industry barriers of scale, cost and complexity. Agility provides comprehensive, packaged recovery solutions, consulting services and testing options to businesses across North America. Since 2008, Agility has responded to over 560 disaster events and conducted over 700 recovery tests. For more information, visit