Key points Earthquake preparation is especially important for workers traveling and in facilities located in earthquake-prone areas. The most popular exercises are the annual Great ShakeOut earthquake workouts. Organizers encourage everyone to “fall, cover and hold” during an earthquake to protect themselves. According to FEMA, 40% of small businesses will not reopen immediately after a natural disaster like an earthquake.
Earthquakes weren’t a real concern for Jennifer Cern while growing up in Louisiana. She said, “They are not number 1 on our list.” “Obviously we have something (hurricanes and tropical storms) that comes out much higher than that.”
In 2001, it was hit by a magnitude 6.8 earthquake. The epicenter was northeast of Olympia, Washington. “I’ll never forget her,” said Cern, who was in college at the time. “I heard about them, but I haven’t experienced anything like that. It’s a very amazing effect to feel that the earth is moving underneath like this.”
Now, encouraging workers and safety professionals – regardless of where they live or work – to prepare for earthquakes is part of her role as an assistant professor in the Safety and Health Administration Program at Central Washington University.
According to the US Geological Survey, from 2010 to 2015, Alaska and California experienced the largest number of earthquakes of any state, with earthquakes reaching 9,020 and 1,545 respectively. In addition, 40 states have experienced at least one earthquake with a magnitude of 3.0 or more.
These events are unpredictable, so OSH experts say the best defense is planning and preparing.
“Fall, cover and grab”
The town of Magna, Utah is less than 10 miles from the Closure Systems International bottle cap manufacturing plant in Salt Lake City – the epicenter of the magnitude 5.7 earthquake that occurred on March 18, 2020.
“It’s a lot of people really scared,” said Marshall Greer, the facility’s director of environment, health and safety. “The initial 5.7 took about 15 seconds. Everyone slipped and covered.”
Greer said workers at the facility participate in the annual Great ShakeOut earthquake drills, a national initiative sponsored by FEMA, USGS, and others. As part of this initiative, various state and federal agencies, as well as preparedness organizations, are promoting a “drop, cover, stick” strategy for personal safety during an earthquake.
(The Great Shakeout Festival 2021 is scheduled to take place on October 21. For more information, go to shakeout.org.)
“The goal is to go down to the ground, or keep yourself as low as possible, covering your head and neck to avoid potential injury,” said Brian Blake, associate director of the US Central Earthquake Association.
“It is important for people to know what to do when the ground starts to vibrate,” he added. “You want to stay where you are. If you’re outside, you’ll never want to go inside a building when it’s shaking. If you fall, cover and hold when you’re outside, you’re still less likely to be injured.”
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