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Resilience During Earthquakes Begins With Being QuakeSmart

A community resilience program for businesses and organizations that can help you prepare for earthquakes.

LIVING IN THE SEATTLE AREA you may hear about the next "big one" we're due for. Whether it happens in the next year or 30 years from now, I want to make sure I'm prepared. And I want to help the businesses and the people around me be prepared as well.

title of image hereI recently attended the QuakeSmart Earthquake Business Preparedness Summit hosted by Simpson Strong-Tie in Kent, WA. The program is put on by FEMA and the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH)®. Experts from around the area spoke on the importance of business preparedness, precautionary steps that can be taken, and the actual science behind earthquake activity.

Jon Mitchell (Christchurch Incident Commander, Massey University) gave his account of the Christchurch earthquakes in September 2010 and February 2011. The February 2011 earthquake accounted for 182 deaths, 6,659 injuries, 7,500 displaced students and at least 60,000 people displaced from their homes or businesses. The city is working on rebuilding with a five year recovery strategy that started in 2012. Paul Bodin, a Research Professor at the University of Washington stated it will cost Christchurch around 15 billion dollars to rebuild - 10% of New Zealand's GDP.

If an earthquake happens and your business is "yellow tagged" you, and your neighboring businesses, can't reopen right away. Communities need revenue to recover after a disaster and the impacts an earthquake could have on your business can be potentially devastating.

2014 data from FEMA and the US Department of Labor shows the impact of a natural disasters on small businesses is catastrophic. Immediately following a natural disaster, 40% of small businesses won't reopen. One year later, 25% more small businesses will close. The average monetary loss of a business that closes due to a disaster is $3,000/day for a small business and $23,000/day for a medium sized business.

"[Building] Code is designed to keep you alive, not to keep your business open," says Glen Granholm of SAFE-T-PROOF who spoke on the importance of securing non-structural items. 

According to a study from the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA), 55% of the injuries that occurred during the 1994 Northridge earthquake were a result of unsecured items falling on people. Homeowners can learn from this as well by taking a look at items in their own homes that could be secured.

Whether you're a large business, a small business, or a homeowner, assessing where you're at in terms of earthquake preparedness is important. Your family, employees and community will thank you for it.

Additional information, toolkits, educational videos and more can be found on the Quakesmart website.