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Best Practices Related to Earthquakes

  • • Gather and analyze seismic data and data concerning the amount and type of destruction which has occurred previously in the area of concern for which information and planning is needed to mitigate the effects of future earthquakes.
  • • Gather and analyze data concerning the type of soil that various structures rest on in the area of concern.
  • • As in California, use the State Geologists’ Seismic Hazards Mapping Program which provides maps that identify areas of amplified shaking, liquefaction, and landside hazards to establish appropriate building, zoning, and other codes and plans to reduce future problems.
  • • Use custom mapping and analysis tools including custom hazard mapping and interactive hazard maps provided by the US Geological Service to refine any data related to earthquakes within the study area.
  • • Use the Hazard Risk Assessment Program (geographic information system (GIS)-based software) from the National Institute of Building Sciences to estimate potential building and infrastructure losses from earthquakes, floods, storm surges, and hurricane winds. (This program was developed for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).) (See endnote 13 and the “Resources” section.)
  • • Model building codes for new commercial or institutional structures after the International Building Code from the International Code Council, a non-profit organization whose objective is to protect the health, safety, and welfare of people by creating safe buildings and communities. All 50 states and numerous federal agencies use the applicable building codes for structures under their approval or supervision.
  • • Model local and/or state building codes for new residential areas after the International Residential Code.
  • • Model local and/or state building codes which apply to the alteration, repair, addition, or change in occupancy of existing structures to the International Existing Building Code. (See endnote 14.)
  • • Provide seismic code provisions for all building codes, with consensus-approved modifications by experts, written in user-friendly up-to-date designs and information from recommended sources such as the Building Seismic Safety Council. This helps ensure that the structures and the attachments can adequately resist the forces related to earthquakes to: avoid serious injury and loss of life; avoid loss of function of critical facilities; and minimize structural and non-structural repair costs. (See endnote 15.)
  • • Provide adequate budget and stringent enforcement policies to ensure that the appropriate code for the structure is utilized effectively to make sure that the buildings and occupants are protected from the effects of the earthquakes.
  • • Prioritize first retrofitting critical facilities for first responders, and then critical infrastructure providing electricity, water, communications, and heat to the community.
  • • Make older buildings safer by determining how best to prevent the effects of earthquakes and then retrofitting the buildings to protect the structure and the non-structural components such as suspended ceilings, non-load-bearing walls, utilities, etc.
  • • Strengthen the core infrastructure such as roads, bridges, railroad tracks, etc.
  • • Do not use liquefaction-susceptible soils for new construction of buildings or other facilities.
  • • Where liquefaction-susceptible soils are present but the areas around them are very stable, excavate the problem soils and replace with compact material.
  • • When grading for new construction, stabilize all slopes.
  • • Lower the groundwater level by installing a wellpoint system with suction pumps.
  • • Prepare the facilities and the occupational setting to become more earthquake damage and disruption resistant by utilizing appropriate experts to evaluate these structures and then use appropriate cost-effective retrofitting procedures.
  • • Anchor, brace, reinforce, and secure all non-structural items such as light fixtures, suspended ceilings, windows, furnishings, equipment, and supplies in all occupational settings.
  • • Develop a mandatory earthquake plan and use unanticipated drills on a periodic basis to test the knowledge and skills of the employees before, during, and after earthquakes or other disasters.
  • • Train employees in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) techniques, first-aid techniques, and use of fire extinguishers.
  • • Establish secure telecommunications systems and supply chains, store data away from the site, and set up a special command center to direct employees after a damaging earthquake.
  • • Establish emergency response and recovery plans for the workplace in conjunction with community plans.
  • • Evaluate school facilities and non-structural building components and prepare them for earthquakes including necessary retrofitting.
  • • Develop an earthquake safety program for the school and use practice drills frequently.
  • • Prepare the schools to become shelters for local citizens in the event an earthquake destroys their homes and other facilities.
  • • Assess the structure and contents of homes and reinforce or secure all areas and contents.
  • • Prepare an earthquake plan for the home and neighborhood by: determining which room in the house is most secure and then practice dropping to the floor, covering your body, and holding on during an earthquake; preparing a household emergency kit including a first aid kit, all necessary medicines, and 3 days’ worth of food and water; prepare a list of people to stay in contact with and test the plan periodically; being trained in first aid and CPR; preparing secure quarters for all pets; practicing emergency family drills; and sharing the plan with immediate neighbors.
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