Great ShakeOut Brings Awareness to Earthquake Dangers

New research into earthquake activity in the United States has revealed that nearly half of all Americans are at risk of potential ground shaking from earthquakes. This is almost twice the previous estimate of 75 million, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

“The new exposure estimate is nearly double the previous 2006 estimate of 75 million Americans in 39 states, and is attributed to both population growth and advances in science,” William Leith, USGS senior science advisor for earthquake and geologic hazards and co-author of the study said in a statement. “Populations have grown significantly in areas prone to earthquakes, and USGS scientists have improved data and methodologies that allow for more accurate estimates of earthquake hazards and ground shaking.”


To bring awareness to this potential danger, a number of organizations worldwide are participating today in the Great ShakeOut, which encourages individuals and organizations to develop contingency plans and practice earthquake drills.

During the drill, participants practice “drop, cover, and hold on,” the recommended safety action to take during an earthquake.

ShakeOut 1

Take cover under a sturdy desk or table, and hold on to it securely. If there is not a desk or table nearby, drop to the floor against an interior wall, then protect your head and neck with your arms. Avoid exterior walls, windows, hanging objects, mirrors, tall furniture, large appliances, and kitchen cabinets filled with heavy objects or glass.

While on the ground, look around and see what objects could fall during a potential earthquake, and make sure to secure or move those items after the drill.

The Great ShakeOut recommends that organizations:

Meet with department heads to review plan and obtain their buy-in, if necessary, and determine what level of drill your organization will conduct and who will participate. Consider drilling at a higher level to engage staff to be more effective during a disaster. (Drill manuals are available in ShakeOut regional website in the Resources section)

  • Level 1 – Simple: Drop, Cover and Hold On
  • Level 2 – Basic: Life Safety Drill
  • Level 3 – Intermediate: Decision-Making Drill
  • Level 4 – Advanced: Business Operations Drill

Create a drill/exercise plan that includes an overview of what your drill will consist of (even if just drop, cover and hold on), what you expect to happen during the drill, and a feedback session after the drill to identify strengths and weaknesses

  • Inform employees/staff participants of date and time of drill, your expectations for their participation, and the benefits of the drill
  • Encourage suppliers, vendors, contractors, partnering organizations, and others in your network to participate – as a means of protecting your organization – and share ShakeOut resources with them. (Consider other tasks that can protect your organization and supply chain, such as having service agreements in place to ensure that the services or products you rely on will be available after disaster)

Create an employee awareness campaign:

  • Post ShakeOut banners and signs throughout your organization to encourage and remind employees, vendors, and customer to participate
  • Initiate an email campaign to employees, staff, and customers with information and tips on how to prepare at home and work
  • Encourage employees to post a ShakeOut-related safety message on their outgoing email messages.

Review and use materials in the Resources section of your regional ShakeOut website:

• Drill broadcast audio/video recordings

• Earthquake safety recommendations for people with disabilities, for people in stores, etc.

• Custom flyers for many organization types

Hold a drill on ShakeOut day (or an alternative date)

  • Have post-drill discussions to hear what people learned and plan next steps.

New Year, New Natural Disaster Emergency Plans

Along with January renewals and analyzing whether existing policies offer sufficient coverage, the new year is a perfect reminder to review company-wide emergency plans. While 2013 may have been a relatively light year for catastrophe losses, there’s no reason to assume 2014 will be, too.

Check out this infographic from Boston University’s Masters in Specialty Management program for a jump-start on identifying the risks of natural disaster and updating plans for how to handle any emergency:

Survive a Natural Disaster


When Your Commute Becomes Derailed

Just yesterday I remarked to my husband that my train, the Hudson line, has been amazingly stable and almost always on time. Especially when you consider that there have been major derailments of the Connecticut (May 17) and the Long Island (June 17) lines of the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA).

I should have known better. Just when you think you can take a breather, something is bound to happen, as it did this morning. Normally I would have been listening to the news and traffic report, but I was spending some time with my puppy before rushing to the ferry station. Once there I waited, but no ferry, and the few people who were there didn’t seem to know why. Annoying.

I called my husband and asked him to drop me off at the train station across the Hudson (parking is impossible there). On the train platform, however, I quickly learned that there was a big problem—the derailment of 10 CSX garbage train cars on a narrow portion of track used by the Hudson line. There were no injuries, but that is a whole lot of cleanup, not to mention the two tracks that need to be replaced, according to the conductor I talked to. He estimated it would take at least the weekend to repair the damage.

I have to say that I was impressed with the MTA’s contingency planning. The MTA gets a lot of flack, but it’s worth mentioning that they did get it right this time. What I expected to be a nightmare of delays and standing around waiting—on one of the hottest days of the year—wasn’t bad at all. The MTA train took us to Yonkers, just north of the derailment area, where we were quickly led to waiting busses. The busses transported the train’s passengers to a large subway station where we were ushered through a special turnstile, and our train passes were honored. The subway ride took a while, since it was a local covering more than 200 blocks. But a fellow passenger gave me an idea of the subway route and at what stop I should get off. Happily, I had only a block to walk to work.

Research shows that the MTA has an enterprise risk management plan in place. I found a 93-page document online that outlines significant business processes for the MTA bus company, bridges and tunnels, individual train lines and much more. It also notes which business processes have been reviewed. Under the listing of Maintenance of Equipment for the Long Island Railroad, for example, items that have been reviewed include locomotive daily inspection and diesel locomotive periodic inspection, rolling stock inspections and equipment surveys.

From what I have read, however, some passengers last night weren’t as lucky. They were told to wait for busses which didn’t arrive. That was right after the derailment, however, and it takes some time to put a major plan into action.

So, lessons learned:

• Listen to the traffic announcements on the radio every morning

• Don’t be too complacent when things go well

• Roll with the punches, occasionally things do work out

• Take time to play with the puppy, no matter what, even if you’re a little late for work

Disaster Planning for Magical Rabbits

I have a pet rabbit at home. His name is Boba Fett, named after the popular bounty hunter character in the Star Wars movies, and he’s a pretty laid-back little guy, as far as pets go. He’s not the type of animal that requires a ton of maintenance and he definitely doesn’t need a formal risk management plan. But according to a recent article in the Washington Post, not all rabbits get off so easily. Evidently not only does the U.S. Department of Agriculture require certain rabbits to be licensed, but their owners must also have a written disaster plan for what they will do with their rabbit in case of emergency. It sounds crazy, but bureaucracy often does, I guess.

According to the article, some years back Marty Hahne, otherwise known as Marty the Magician, got a notice from the USDA that based on a law that requires licenses for “animal exhibitors,” the rabbit Marty used in his magic act needed to be licensed. Marty complied. And then, this summer, the USDA informed him of a new rule from the agency’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS):

APHIS published a final rule requiring all dealers, exhibitors, intermediate handlers, carriers, research facilities and other entities regulated by the Agency under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) to take additional steps to be better prepared for potential disaster situations.  They are required to develop a plan for how they are going to respond to and recover from emergencies most likely to happen to their facility, as well as train their employees on those plans.

Basically, Marty the Magician had to come up with a disaster plan for his rabbit. The letter outlined the areas the plan had to cover, including a list of 21 potential disaster scenarios, training requirements for any of Marty’s employees and how to prepare for an evacuation. According to the law, all plans had to be completed by July 29.

Now, a lot of people, would have rolled their eyes at such absurdity and did nothing. One magician quoted in the article joked that his plan would be a piece of paper that read, “Note: Take rabbit with you when you leave.” But Marty seems to be an agreeable sort of person and actually got a disaster planning expert named Kim Morgan to put together what ended up being a thorough, 34-page emergency management document for his rabbit that addressed all of the USDA’s applicable concerns. Overkill? Maybe, but at least Morgan wrote the plan for free.

In time, hopefully common sense will prevail. The USDA has said that it plans to review the rule as it applies to small operations like Marty’s, but for now the rule stands. And Marty Hahne probably has the safest rabbit in the country. So at least there’s that.