In 2015, Alaska experienced 1,575 earthquakes, California 130 and Oklahoma 8881. It’s hard to believe, the West Coast is no longer the sole address for seismic activity.
The central and eastern United States (CEUS) saw 20 times as many earthquakes in 2015 as they did in 2010, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS)1. Mostly concentrated in Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Kansas, Colorado and Arkansas, this increase has not been triggered by Mother Nature, but instead, caused by human activities, including wastewater disposal and oil fracking.
In the CEUS, waste water from oil and gas production operations are routinely disposed of by injection into deep underground wells, below aquifers that provide drinking water. Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, loosens hydrocarbons from shale by blasting water, sand and chemicals underground.
Authorities have found a direct link between these practices and the increase in CEUS earthquakes. Since December 2016, Oklahoma officials counted 74 earthquakes of at least 2.5 magnitude that believe are directly linked to fracking2.
Businesses in the CEUS that have traditionally been on alert only during tornado season need to now prepare for earthquakes that could potentially damage their buildings and other structures - at any time. Unlike a hurricane or tornado, an earthquake provides no prior warning, and does its damage in under 30 seconds. Being prepared is essential to your business’ survival. If your business, satellite office or distribution center, is located in at-risk areas in the CEUS, consider the following in your earthquake response plan :
Plan #1: Emergency Action: An earthquake emergency action plan should detail specific guidelines and steps employees must take should there suddenly be seismic activity. Take cover, get under heavy furniture, equipment. Stay away from glass and windows, any objects that can potentially fall, light fixtures. Communicate this plan to your staff using the same method of mass notification the business uses for any other crisis scenario so recipients are familiar with it. This should be just one section of the business’ broader emergency action plan that covers different disaster types and scenarios. Additionally, make sure your business has adequate general liability policy limits, as your GL policy will cover any and all facility damage.
Plan #2: Business Recovery: If an earthquake damages or destroys your facility, do you have policies and procedures in place to potentially operate or continue to operate? Find an alternate site for use if needed. Consider how you’ll move or potentially relocate staff to this site, if need be. Set a work from home policy in case your site is inoperable. Spelling these details out now and communicating them to your staff will ensure a smooth transition and continued business operations in the event of an earthquake. Your business recovery plan should include comprehensive Business Interruption policy that will cover expenses related to a business disruption, including relocation.
Plan #3: Contingent Business: What is your threshold for being able to withstand lack of access to your suppliers? Ask your vendors what their earthquake response plan is for product delivery. If you are overly reliant on a particular vendor, you’ll want to scope this out in your contract with them so they can continue to deliver you the product you need in the event of an earthquake on their end, or yours. As part of your earthquake response plan, consider a Contingent Business Interruption policy, which covers businesses for losses related to supply chain risk.
Reach out to your HUB risk services specialist today for help with earthquake response plan implementation, and to make sure your business is adequately covered for your region’s earthquake risk.