Rare East Coast Earthquake Reminds Us of the Importance of Seismic Preparedness


Recently, a rare earthquake shook the East Coast, measuring 5.8 on the Richter scale. The quake was centered in Virginia, but was felt in 25 states and Ontario. It has caused many to begin thinking about the importance of earthquake preparation, especially in regards to facilities. Facilities managers face a significant challenge, particularly in addressing the risk posed by non-structural components.

In general, the structural components of a commercial building account for approximately 15-25% of the original construction cost, while the nonstructural (mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and architectural) components account for the remaining 75-85% of the cost (source: FEMA). Contents belonging to the building occupants, such as movable partitions, furniture, and office or medical equipment, represent a significant additional value at risk. When these costs are compared, it becomes clear that the largest capital investment in most commercial buildings is in the nonstructural systems and contents.

The Red Cross offers a helpful checklist for earthquake safety, which may be especially useful in areas where people are not used to this type of natural disaster. As they mention, bookcases, cabinets, light fixtures are among the items that can fall and cause serious injury and damage. Understanding these risks and assessing facilities for non-structural components is an important first step for facility managers.

VFA provides a Seismic Assessment Service that helps organizations in the U.S. and Canada identify these nonstructural components by using a standardized methodology to collect, centralize, and prioritize this seismic-related data. When provided in conjunction with a facility condition assessment, a Seismic Assessment is a cost-effective approach to identifying seismic vulnerabilities. With this critical data captured in VFA.facility, organizations are empowered to make the best strategic decisions to improve the overall seismic performance of their buildings.