On September 3rd, a 5.8 magnitude earthquake jolted Pawnee, Oklahoma, making it the state’s largest recorded earthquake. The shallow quake occurred approximately 55 miles WNW of Tulsa, yet could be felt across six neighboring states.
Although early detection systems are under development, it is difficult to target when an earthquake will occur or where the epicenter will be located. According to a March US Geological Survey report, “Seismic activity is on the rise in certain energy-intensive states after a relatively stable period of about 30 years.” The report showed that approximately 7 million people live and work in areas of the central and eastern U.S. with potential for damages caused by induced seismicity.
Response planning for unpredictable events is a core element of corporate preparedness. Without a robust early detection system in place, companies must rely on reinforced construction methods and structural mitigation opportunities to minimize potential infrastructure damage. However, earthquake preparedness and response planning can limit the effects of an earthquake.
The actual ground movement created by earthquake is seldom the direct cause of death or injury. However, earthquakes can severely damage sensitive infrastructure and generate vibrations that can shake, damage, or demolish buildings, each of which can cause great damage. As a result, most earthquake casualties result from falling objects and debris.
Upon immediately sensing seismic action or aftershocks, it is prudent to take protective measures. The following procedures should be implemented in the immediate aftermath of an earthquake:
Inside a building:
- Remain calm and clear-headed. Major earthquakes generally last less than 60 seconds.
- Move quickly away from windows, tall fire cabinets, and other things that could fall. Watch for falling plaster, light fixtures, and other objects.
- Shelter yourself by getting under a table or desk.
- Protect yourself, kneel down, or squat to protect your head.
- If you are able to shield yourself under a desk, do not try to relocate to a doorway. Heavy industrial doors can cause damage when they swing during an earthquake and trying to maneuver through falling debris can cause more injury.
- Do not attempt to leave the building. You are much safer to remain still inside the building until the shaking stops.
- If necessary or directed, exit the building after the shaking stops.
Outside a building:
- Seek protection away from buildings. Falling glass, power lines, and debris can be very hazardous.
- Once it is safe to do so, contact Supervisory personnel
Post-Quake Response Actions:
- If hazardous conditions are present, initiate or follow emergency response procedures.
- Be prepared for additional aftershocks. Although most aftershocks are smaller than the initial earthquake, some may be large enough to cause additional damage.
- Do not attempt to move seriously injured persons unless they are in immediate danger of further injury.
- Inform management of your location, damage and injuries.
- If safe to do so, inspect facilities for signs of damage.
- Check for fire or fire hazards from broken electrical lines or short circuits. Initiate fire response procedures if a fire is discovered or can reasonably be expected.
- Relocate company vehicles out of garages and structures, if applicable.
- Secure any shelving, and inspect on-site stock.
- If damage is found, report findings to management.
- If available, listen to media coverage to determine the earthquake location, strength and area infrastructure damage.