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QuakeSmart Toolkit: How QuakeSmart Can Help



Did You Know?
Mitigating your earthquake risk mean getting back to business and resuming your operations faster after an earthquake, which allows you to: Lower the risk of employee and customer injury; Gain a competitive advantage; Protect your inventory; Potentially reduce insurance premiums; Reap the goodwill of your customers, suppliers, employees, and grateful community.
Congress established the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) in 1977, which brings together four agencies: Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), National Science Foundation (NSF), and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in order to coordinate their earthquake-related activities. Under the program, it is FEMA's responsibility to implement earthquake awareness and outreach programs that ultimately reduces seismic risks and improves community resilience from earthquake events. Over the years, FEMA has accomplished numerous initiatives particularly in disaster resilient building codes, training, guidance development, planning support, and others. To further advance this partnership with the private sector, FEMA NEHRP introduced QuakeSmart in 2008 to collaborate with businesses on earthquake awareness and mitigation implementation.


What is Earthquake Mitigation

Earthquake Mitigation is any action taken to reduce damages or losses to your business, employees, building and its contents should an earthquake occur. In addition to basic preparedness activities such as creating and exercising disaster plans, preparing disaster supply kits, and knowing how to Drop, Cover, and Hold On (, the private sector must complement these by implementing mitigation actions to reduce earthquake risks and further minimize disruptions, damages, and losses. According to USGS, earthquakes are one of the costliest natural hazards faced by the nation, posing a significant risk to 75 million Americans in 39 states.


Did You Know?
Typically, 80 percent of a building's value lies in its nonstructural elements, components and contents. Therefore, if you are a building owner, why not spend your mitigation resources on your biggest investment?

According to HAZUS-MH Estimated Annualized Earthquake Losses for the United States (FEMA 366), estimating the varying degree of earthquake risk throughout the United States is useful for informed decision- making on mitigation policies, priorities, strategies, and funding levels in the public and private sectors. For example, potential losses to new buildings may be reduced by applying seismic building codes and using specialized construction techniques. While there is a good understanding of earthquakes and what they can do in high risk areas such as Los Angeles, there is also growing recognition that while other regions may have a moderate earthquake hazard risk, they are still at high risk of significant damage and loss. This high-risk level reflects the dense concentrations of buildings and infrastructure in these areas constructed without the benefit of modern seismic design provisions.

In addition to potential structural damages, non-structural components (such as contents, furnishings, architectural elements, etc.) significantly contribute to earthquake costs and damages and could impact safe evacuation, continued operations, and rapid recovery for many businesses. If businesses cannot operate immediately after an earthquake due to damages or employee loss, this greatly affects the community, its economy, and its ability to recover after an earthquake. When businesses mitigate their earthquake risks, communities can recover and rebuild faster and stronger.

Ultimately, mitigation is what would ensure that your staff, facility and contents could withstand the earthquake and enable you to continue operations or rapidly recover. If you want to stay in business and save your investment during an earthquake, mitigation is right for you. Working together with other local businesses to mitigate is also essential for a quick recovery for your business as well as the community.

Broken merchandise in store
Calexico, CA, April 7, 2010—A magnitude 7.2 earthquake struck this market leaving a trail of broken merchandise and products throughout the store. Had the store taken proper mitigation steps such as using straps to keep products in place, damages would have been minimized (Photo by Adam DuBrowa/FEMA).

What is QuakeSmart?


Did You Know?
There is a difference between preparedness and mitigation.

Preparedness is getting you ready1 should the disaster occur. Preparedness efforts include (but are not limited to):

Creating and exercising a disaster plan – emergency contacts, location of First Aid/ CPR kits, shelter, etc.

Preparing disaster supply kits – food, water, lighting, tools, protective gear, etc.

Knowing how to protect yourself during the earthquake (i.e. Drop, Cover, and Hold On)

1For earthquake preparedness resources such as continuity plan guidance and disaster kit checklists, please visit Business, 7 Steps to an Earthquake Resilient Business (PDF 1.2MB),, Disaster Resistant Business Toolkit, and IBHS Open for Business® Toolkit.

QuakeSmart is a FEMA NEHRP initiative to help businesses in at-risk earthquake communities implement earthquake mitigation actions.

The QuakeSmart Toolkit Poster showcases the 3-step mitigation process.

QuakeSmart is a 3-step mitigation process that businesses can easily integrate in their existing or future disaster plans and business decisions:

Step 1: Identify Your Risk

When identifying your risks, the initial step is to determine if your business is at risk for earthquakes. This includes identifying if your facility is in an earthquake hazard area. Then you identify your potential vulnerabilities: structure, non- structural components, and contents (hazard + vulnerability = risks).

Structural risks include collapse-prone structure types such as non-ductile (brittle) concrete buildings; unreinforced masonry (brick, block, or adobe); plan irregularity (non-rectangular buildings); and soft story configuration (weak first story). Nonstructural risk sources include unreinforced brick parapets, brick chimneys, and ornamental siding, suspended ceilings, light fixtures, and gas- fired equipment and the presence of hazardous materials. At-risk contents may include tall or heavy furniture, storage racks, other furnishings and equipment prone to fall over, and items that may fall or slide and block exits. Actions taken under this step will help you and your organization comprehensively identify and prioritize your overall level of earthquake risks.

Step 2: Make a Plan

Based on your earthquake risks, this step allows you to start planning your mitigation projects to address those risks. Making a mitigation project plan means defining a scope of work, budgeting funds to pay for it, and then scheduling the time to get it done. Depending on your earthquake risks and funding, sometimes the budget or schedule will prompt you to reduce or increase the scope. It is part of the planning process to think about your options and make sure you're spending your resources effectively. Your plan doesn't have to be complicated. Its sole purpose is to help you go from thinking about your risk to mitigating it.

Step 3: Take Action

Finally, implement your mitigation project plan and solutions. Nonstructural solutions might be taking the simple step of anchoring a bookshelf or file cabinet to the wall, as well as adding removable straps to secure the shelf's contents, and a safety latch to prevent the cabinets from opening during shaking. Other solutions include securing ceiling fans with cable supports, storing heavy items on floors, installing flexible gas lines to space heaters or propane tanks, installing hook and loop straps to desk-mounted computers, and securing table lamps or fragile collectibles on shelves with museum wax or putty. Structural solutions could include retrofitting unreinforced masonry, installing shear walls, and strengthening the structural frame of your building by creating a continuous load path.

Without taking these actions, an earthquake may shut down your operations, resulting in lost revenue or worse, the closing of your business. This QuakeSmart Toolkit will provide you with actionable and scalable processes, basic guidelines and easy to use tools to help you easily start each of these steps.

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Last Updated: 
03/20/2015 - 14:22