Are We Ready for a Major North American Earthquake?

May 25, 2011

By Jim Streeter, Director, Professional Services, VFA, Inc.

The Great Central U.S. Shakeout took place on April 28, 2011. Over three million people took part in this first multistate public earthquake drill, and the first drill in the central U.S., where many states would be impacted if a major earthquake hit the New Madrid Seismic Zone.

In his April 25th report on the effectiveness of the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP), Chris Poland, Chair, Advisory Committee on Earthquake Hazards Reduction, commented that, “Earthquakes over the past 16 months in Haiti, Chile, New Zealand, and Japan graphically remind us of the devastating impact earthquakes can have on the lives and economic stability of millions of people worldwide.”

One of the many challenges facility professionals have is identifying and addressing the vulnerabilities and consequences of seismic activity. The structural integrity of a building is usually the first consideration when preparing for earthquakes, but surprisingly, it is often the non-structural components – basically, everything except columns, floors and beams – that render facilities unusable and are associated with the greatest level of damage. As outlined by the US Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) and the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), the risk associated with earthquake damage to nonstructural components includes life safety, property loss, and interruption or loss of essential functions.

From saving lives to minimizing the interruption of business to reconstruction dollars saved, understanding the seismic risk in a facility portfolio is the first major step towards being prepared. What are you doing to address seismic risk?

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