Being prepared in the event of an earthquake

Spring will be here soon and there will be many articles published to prepare you for severe weather season. There is a debate between those who live in the path of storms and those who live in earthquake prone areas- which is worse? Do you want to have some potential warning or none, other than when the ground starts shaking?

What we do know is there is no such thing as earthquake weather or an earthquake season.  Over time, stress accumulates in the Earth’s crust at the plate boundaries (earthquake faults). The friction across the surface of a fault locks the fault and prevents movement as the stress accumulates. The process that causes an earthquake can be described much like that of snapping of fingers. Before the snap, the fingers are pushed together and sideways; because the fingers are being pushed together, friction keeps them from moving apart. If you push the fingers sideways hard enough to overcome this friction, the fingers move suddenly, releasing energy in the form of sound waves that set the air vibrating and travel from the hand to the ear, and the snap can then be heard. 

A similar process occurs in an earthquake. Eventually, enough stress builds up to overcome the friction and the rock along the fault slips suddenly, releasing the stored energy. The energy is released in the form of seismic waves that radiate away from the fault rupture and travel through the earth’s crust at very high speeds. When these seismic waves reach the ground surface, the result is the shaking of the particles on the ground surface. This shaking is what we perceive as an earthquake.

In our role, we train our teams to help with property loss in all situations. Earthquakes are no exception and the advice below will allow our teams to better assist you.

What to do when an earthquake strikes: 

  • Every first-grade student in California knows that if you feel an earthquake, you Duck, Cover and Hold on. Teach your family and your co-workers to get under a table. 
  • Do not run out of a building, especially in older buildings with a parapet over the front door or a high rise with glass panels on the exterior. People have been killed by falling debris when running out of a building. Duck, cover and hold on, then get out after the shaking stops.

After a large earthquake, the local authorities will do a safety inspection of your building and a green tag, yellow tag, or red tag will be placed on your building. The criteria are safe, sanitary and secure. A red tag means you are out of business and now dealing with a business interruption claim until you can fix the deficiency. The key to tags is to read what is on the tag and take appropriate action. 

After a presidential emergency declaration, a local assistance center will be set up. If you have earthquake insurance, turn your claim in right away. Your earthquake deductible, or even if you don’t have earthquake insurance, makes you illegible to apply for assistance to help with any uninsured losses you have. If you don’t have earthquake insurance, turn a claim in to get the paperwork that will help you start applying for assistance. After the dust settles, talk to your accountant about any unreimbursed loss to see if you can claim a “casualty loss” on your income taxes. 

We advise keeping this information in mind in order to keep you and your family prepared and safe in lieu of an earthquake.

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