There’s no telling when an earthquake will strike - or how damaging it will be. Post-tremor, some buildings stand tall and intact, while neighboring structures are reduced to rubble. Local, national and international building codes have been addressing seismicity since the 1950s in an effort to lessen the effect of quakes. But, our codes are a minimum standard and are intended to protect human life, not to prevent extensive damage in the event of a serious tremor. 

With earthquakes becoming more common outside of traditional earthquake prone areas such as California and the Pacific Northwest - the central and eastern U.S. regions saw 20 times more quakes in 2015 - building owners/operators across the country are starting to view seismic activity as a real threat. 

What can building owners/operators do now? 

Earthquakes can strike at any time. And when they do, even if the building is still standing and no one is hurt, there’s no guarantee that it will be fit to occupy. 

Building movement during an earthquake can crack concrete, pop windows out and do significant structural and non-structural damage – enough to require remediation before it can be occupied again. The more that’s done to prepare a building before an earthquake, the more resilient it will be to a seismic event.  

Take action today and prepare for an earthquake with these four tips: 

  1. Understand your seismic hazard. Assess your building. How might it respond to a seismic event? When was it built, and with what materials? Does the building meet current seismic code requirements? Regions with more seismic events have more stringent local building codes. Buildings most susceptible to damage are old masonry or those with brittle, unreinforced concrete construction. 
  2. Do a probabilistic evaluation. What is the probability that your building will survive a seismic event, or be significantly damaged? Make an earthquake business continuity plan, which includes effective and realistic incident response. Consider where you’ll move your operations if your building is no longer inhabitable.
  3. Retrofit your building. There are a number of building systems and materials that can be used to retrofit a building for quakes. Dampers and other large shock absorbers, or steel frames and cross-members can provide lateral stability and dampen the impact of seismic waves.  Retrofit components such as these will enhance the resiliency of a building. An ROI assessment can be calculated with the assistance of seismic or structural engineers. 
  4. Transfer the risk. Transfer as much of your risk of a damaging earthquake as possible by having effective insurance in place. Business Interruption coverage will provide you with the necessary financial backing to relocate your offices, while a General Liability policy will cover damages inflicted upon others during an earthquake affecting your property. When transferring your risk, note these important points: 
    Deductible impact. Earthquake insurance often carries a deductible before the insurance kicks in.  The deductible is expressed as a percentage of the loss. Check your deductible today. When the deductible is too costly, consider Deductible Buy Down coverage, or a secondary policy commonly purchased in earthquake zones to reduce the deductible.
    • Coverage nuances. Understand that what your building is worth may not be the actual cost of replacing it. Find out what is covered when retrofitting or renovating. For example, is water and fire damage caused by an earthquake covered? Work with your HUB risk services specialist to make sure you’ve got the coverage you need. 

Contact HUB risk services today to learn how you can prepare for an earthquake, and transfer your risk reliably.