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QuakeSmart Toolkit: Step 3: Take Action

How to Execute Your Earthquake Mitigation Project Plan

Now that you have identified your risks and developed a mitigation project plan, it's time to take action. Ensure that your plan is fully approved by the owner (landlord if leasing), facility engineers, emergency managers, investment planners, and other pertinent decision makers within your business organization to ensure that the risks are understood, the strategies for addressing them are accepted, and that resources (i.e. staff, time, funds, etc.) are secured to ensure the effective execution and implementation of the plan.

It is also recommended for the project lead to coordinate with the human capital and customer service department so employees and customers can be informed of future activities as well as use this as an opportunity to market the company's dedication to safety. If your company plans to hire a professional or a contractor be sure to check references and ensure the contractor is experienced to do the work.

File cabinet braced to wall

Mitigation braces hold the cabinet to wall in case of earthquake. (Photo by John Shea/FEMA news photos).

Whether you have 10 employees or 1,000, the recommendations can be scaled to your organization. Should a large earthquake occur in your area, it may prevent your employees from coming to work for days or even weeks. Your workforce is critical to sustaining your business. Even more daunting, the safety of your employees is greatly threatened due to nonstructural hazards such as falling objects and debris. While you cannot control or predict an earthquake, you can inform your staff about the simple steps they can take to mitigate hazards in their home. This fact sheet provides you with guidance on how to organize an employee awareness campaign on earthquake mitigation. Making your employees aware of their home hazards and how to "secure their stuff" may save their lives and ultimately your business, should an earthquake occur.

Employees at an awareness campaign
QuakeSmart employee awareness campaign held at ServiceMaster headquarters (Photo by Lindsey Athanitis, Outreach Process Partners).

How to Organize an Employee Awareness Campaign

1. Choose A Time for the Awareness Campaign

FEMA recommends a one-week campaign because earthquake mitigation is not a simple concept to understand and getting people to take action requires repetitive messaging to the audience. In fact, research shows that in order to change any habits of your audience, you must provide them with messaging multiple times. Repetition, effective frequency and a simple message influences the greatest behavioral changes. You may want to tie your campaign week around locally recognized events such as a historic earthquake anniversary, a State ShakeOut campaign and/or national events such as National Preparedness Month, Fire Safety Month or Building Safety Month.

Before you begin the campaign, contact and inform your local Emergency Manager about your events—he or she may offer you additional ideas or may want to participate. Visit the directory of State Offices and Agencies of Emergency Management.

The QuakeSmart Toolkit Poster showcases the 3-step mitigation process.
The QuakeSmart Toolkit Poster can be a useful reminder for businesses looking to educate their employees about earthquake mitigation.

2. Begin the Campaign on a Monday

  • Email or tell your employees that you are launching QuakeSmart Awareness Campaign that will give them the tools to Identify Their Risk, Make a Plan and Take Action (Template A).
  • Post QuakeSmart posters, banners, table tents, bulletin board signs and other FEMA literature around common work areas (artwork available on
  • On Monday, email your employees a "QuakeSmart Tip of the Day," which will inform them of mitigation activities they could do in their home.
  • Upload the QuakeSmart videos to your company's website, or share the link to the QuakeSmart Toolkit.

3. Engage With Your Employees

  • Survey Employees: Prior to the campaign, use an online survey tool to measure employee awareness about mitigation and ask what steps, if any, have they taken to reduce hazards in their home. After the campaign, survey them again and measure its effectiveness. Should the results be favorable, be sure to report this success back to your employees via email or company newsletter.
  • Identify a QuakeSmart Team or Champion: Find one or more people who can act as "cheerleaders" for earthquake mitigation and encourage others. This might be a good opportunity to boost morale or put certain employees in the spotlight.
  • Host a Lunch 'N Learn: Invite local authorities to speak about earthquake mitigation; present the QuakeSmart videos; purchase earthquake mitigation supplies and discuss them with your employees—raffle them off after the meeting; use FEMA's Earthquake Home Hazard Hunt Poster (FEMA 528) as a guide for discussion.

Visuals and descriptions to fix at-risk areas of homes
The Earthquake Home Hazard Hunt Poster (FEMA 528) provides visuals and descriptions so that homeowners can identify and fix at-risk areas of their homes to reduce future earthquake damage and disruption (Source: FEMA 528).

As part of your employee awareness campaign, you may want to offer employees a "Tip of the Day" or guidance for what they should be doing at home to ensure their safety from an earthquake event. After all, you would want to make sure that your employees are able to return to work after an earthquake event so you can stay in business and continue your essential functions. Below are some suggestions that you could help share with your employees:

  • Move heavy items, such as pictures, mirrors or tall dressers, away from beds, couches and anywhere people sit.
  • Secure tall furniture and bookcases with lag bolts to wall studs. Add lips to shelves to prevent costly items from sliding off their supports.
  • Put latches on cabinet doors, especially in your kitchen.
  • Fasten heavy or valuable items to shelves or tables.
  • Secure file cabinets, computers, televisions and machinery that may move during an earthquake.
  • Use easy museum/tack putty to secure fragile objects on tables and shelves.
  • Store potentially hazardous materials such as cleaners, fertilizers, chemicals and petroleum products in appropriate containers and in sturdy cabinets fastened to the wall or floor.
  • Place large or heavy objects on lower shelves and store breakable items in lower cabinets.
  • Ask a carpenter or an electrician to determine whether light fixtures and modular ceiling systems are securely fastened.
  • Be sure your water heater is fastened to the studs or masonry of the wall. If you use propane gas, be sure the storage tank is secured. Unsecured water heaters often fall over during earthquakes, which could rupture rigid water and gas connections as well as deplete a source of clean water.
  • Fasten heavy objects to the building structure.
  • Make sure all gas heaters and appliances are connected to the gas pipe through flexible tubing.
  • Relocate objects to avoid blocking exits.
  • Secure your wood stove to wall or floor studs. Make sure you have a fire extinguisher close at hand.

Graphic of securing a computer to a desk
Computers can easily be secured to prevent any damage or injury in the event of an earthquake (Image courtesy of the Institute for Business and Home Safety).

How to apply museum/tack putty to secure fragile objects on tables and shelves
Use easy museum/tack putty to secure fragile objects on tables and shelves (Photo by Lindsey Athanitis, Outreach Process Partners).

Water heater strapped to walls
Securing water heaters is a easy-to-do yet essential step to mitigating your earthquake risks (Illustration by Mike Griffin).

Other potential hazards around the home could include bookshelves, windows, lights, dishes, breakables, paintings, tabletop items, file cabinets and ventilation ducts. For securing a wide range of objects, most local hardware stores carry a wide range of straps, latches, brackets, bracing kits, Velcro™ products, earthquake wax, earthquake putty, wire and bolts. In some cases, objects could be replaced with a more secure or safer substitute, reducing or eliminating a hazard all together. For example, new light fixtures might be considered in place of securing old heavier ones.

  • Host an Information Fair: If you are a small business, team up with neighboring businesses or your Chamber of Commerce to have an information fair on earthquake mitigation. If you are a large business, consider inviting outside organizations to showcase information on mitigation and preparedness such as the American Red Cross, local police and fire departments, mitigation supply companies, hospitals, etc.
  • Create a Contest: Once employees are aware of earthquake mitigation, create a contest where employees can take QuakeSmart action at home. Have them take pictures of their efforts and share them with your QuakeSmart Champion. The employee with the most efforts could be given non-financial incentives such as certificates of achievements, public recognition or an award for outstanding QuakeSmart achievement. These pictures could be shared on your company website, newsletter, emailed to clients or stakeholders and shared with local media.
  • Review and Reward Progress: Following the campaign, consider quarterly reminders or having your QuakeSmart Champion follow-up with employees about their mitigation efforts. Consistency and repetition will encourage continued action.
  • Make it a Tradition: Use the results of the campaign to revise it for the following year. Consider the following questions for a follow-up campaign - What communication tools worked well? How can you keep the message fresh? Are there new avenues to QuakeSmart? Have your Champion check for updated materials.

Earthquake risk map being presented during a meeting
Presentations of earthquake risk information can be made more effective through the use of maps and other visual aids designed to address the specific needs and interests of individual decision-makers (Source: FEMA 479).

Breakout meeting groups
It may be helpful to arrange formal meetings with your experts to ensure that their knowledge, communications skills and enthusiasm are adequate to help you obtain the support of key professional groups (Source: FEMA 479).

4. Alert the Media

Informing the media about your awareness campaign can boost your business' reputation as well as encourage the rest of community to take QuakeSmart action. If you host an information fair, consider inviting a local TV, radio, or newspaper reporters to cover the event. Use Template B as a guide for press release format.

Sample press release to local media
Take Action Template B: Sample Press Release to Local Media is available in the QuakeSmart Toolkit for businesses to modify and distribute their own press releases.

5. Utilize Social Media Outlets

If your company uses Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or other social media to communicate, showcasing your QuakeSmart campaign can deliver fresh and interesting content. Provide continual updates highlighting any of the actions mentioned above in Section 3. Recognize an employee or even provide updates about your company's mitigation efforts. Perhaps assign the social media role to your QuakeSmart Champion during the week-long campaign.

How to Build Partnerships within Your Community

Local businesses and communities depend on each other to prepare for disasters and reduce potential losses of life and property. Hazard mitigation partnerships generate knowledge, solve problems and aid in planning. Examples of collaboration through partnerships include:
  • Developing mitigation project plans;
  • Sharing expertise and access to specialized tools, such as geographic information systems (GIS);
  • Conducting risk assessments of exposures and vulnerabilities;
  • Providing architectural and engineering assistance;
  • Streamlining the permit and approval processes;
  • Conducting community surveys;
  • Hosting mitigation symposiums, business preparedness meetings and professional retrofit seminars;
  • Conducting marketing activities, cooperative extension activities and awareness seminars.

Ideas for Partnerships

Please refer to How to Organize an Employee Awareness Campaign in the QuakeSmart Toolkit. The awareness campaign can be applied to any of your audience groups below.

Internal Partnerships

  • Franchises
  • Subsidiaries
  • Suppliers
  • Subcontractors
  • Employees

External Partnerships

Choose or consider the kind of partnership mentioned above and then apply any of the ideas below:

  • Host a QuakeSmart Lunch 'n Learn or workshop on business mitigation. Use the QuakeSmart Business Toolkit for guidance and present the available QuakeSmart videos to your audience.
  • Create an Earthquake Alliance, either within your company or with other key businesses that may include a hospital, bank, local government officials, fire/police departments, retailers including hardware, grocery and clothing, etc. Together, discuss how an earthquake can impact an entire community and how business mitigation can reduce their risks. (For a successful alliance case study, refer to the Earthquake Country Alliance, based in California.)
  • Use locally recognized events such as an earthquake preparedness month, State ShakeOut campaign and/or national events such as National Preparedness Month, Fire Safety Month or Building Safety Month to kick off your events. The media is more likely to cover your event due to the heightened awareness during these months, which may help boost attendance.
  • Depending on your location, you may work with state or regional earthquake program managers, regional earthquake consortia, seismic safety commissions, committees and councils and other FEMA earthquake partners. For contact information of more than 300 organizations and individuals involved in earthquake mitigation at the federal and state levels and in the non-governmental sector, visit the Directory of FEMA Earthquake Partners.
  • Work with local Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts or your local school district to encourage children to spread the word. Children are some of the best messengers when it comes to mitigation, safety and preparedness.
  • Use free communication networks: newsletters, website headers and public service announcements.
  • Survey area businesses and assess the costs associated with earthquake mitigation versus potential damage. Present the information gathered to partner stakeholders.
  • Ask partners to designate a Business Mitigation and Earthquake Awareness Day.
  • Post your accomplishments and initiatives on your company's website so others, including prospective community investors, know what your partnership is doing to protect their business investments and build a sustainable community. Also consider social media as an outreach channel.
  • Work with community officials to encourage strong mitigation and emergency response planning at local and state levels and advocate for improvements to public infrastructure including communications, transportation and utilities.

CUSEC website screenshot
Regional Earthquake Consortia, such as the Central United States Earthquake Consortium (CUSEC), can offer additional information and resources for mitigation partnerships or programs. The QuakeSmart Toolkit also offers a list of Valuable Websites and Other Resources (Source:

Earthquake Safety Program description from BART website
San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) System posts updates on their website about the "Earthquake Safety Program" and current construction in progress (Source:

How to Celebrate Success

If you have taken the proper steps of being QuakeSmart by identifying your risk, making a plan, and taking action, then now is the time to celebrate your mitigation success story. By informing your community on how you have mitigated, you can encourage others to do the same. Creating a resilient business ultimately creates a resilient community. Sharing your success story not only informs the public on how to reduce their hazards, but it also can simultaneously promote your business and its services.

Here are some recommended outlets to share your story:

  • State, local and Tribal governments
  • News Media: Local newspapers, blogs, radio programs, television news programs, and industry trade magazines (See Pitching Your Story to the News Media)
  • Business groups: Chambers of Commerce, business groups, tourism committees and economic development councils
  • Social Media sites: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, Flickr, LinkedIn, Reddit, Digg, StumbleUpon and others
  • Service organizations: American Red Cross, Salvation Army, Rotary, Kiwanis, Masons and scouting organizations
  • Social organizations: Church organizations, neighborhood associations and fire/police department auxiliaries
  • Professional associations: Emergency managers, bankers, realtors, insurance professionals, floodplain managers,contractors, engineers, firefighters and peace officers
  • Trade shows/Business fairs
  • Local or special events

Barry Pascal speaking to an audience
Barry Pascal, retired owner of Northridge Pharmacy, encourages members of the Encino Chamber of Commerce to mitigate their businesses (Photo by Justin Malko).

Before releasing your mitigation success story, it's important to organize your outreach plan and consider the following:

1. Your Audience

  • Employees
  • Customers
  • Other Businesses/Business Groups
  • Surrounding Communities
  • Tribal Communities/Governments
  • Community/Government Officials
  • Chambers of Commerce
  • Local Media

Evansville Chamber of Commerce QuakeSmart announcement on their website
In 2008, the Evansville Chamber of Commerce held a QuakeSmart forum for its members. The event resulted in over 100 members in attendance and received exceptional media coverage in television and print.

2. Key Messages

  • "We are all in this together!"
  • "Mitigation makes communities more resilient to disasters."
  • "The costs of mitigation are more than worth it. On average, every dollar spent on hazard mitigation provides $4 in future benefits."
  • "A business toolkit on earthquake mitigation is now available on"

3. Partnerships

  • The more parties involved in mitigating risks in the community, the more media friendly your story becomes.
  • Partnering with your FEMA Regional Office, local or State emergency management agencies and other disaster related government officials would be a good first step to getting the message out

4. Become a Leader

If no one else in the community is taking charge, think of being the mitigation mentor and champion in your community.

5. Document Your Mitigation

Pictures are worth a thousand words. Video and/or photography of your mitigation will encourage television news programs, blogs and social media sites to cover your story.

Man drilling into two by fours
Documenting your mitigation actions will encourage media coverage

6. Draft Talking Points

Talking points are one or two-sentence statements that highlight your key messages, which summarize your story and guide public speakers. Talking points are often used as sound bites (especially with radio or television). See Template C for an example.

7. Write Press Materials

  • Press releases are used to pitch news media on covering your story. They are generally summaries written in a journalist-friendly format. See Template D for an example.
  • Media Alerts or Media Advisories are created to announce an event to the broadcast media (radio or television). See Template E for an example.

8. Utilize Social Media Outlets

If your company uses Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or other social media channels to communicate, showcasing your QuakeSmart efforts can deliver fresh and interesting content. Provide continual updates highlighting any of your mitigation actions, or recognize an employee who may have done the same at home. Perhaps assign the social media role to a QuakeSmart Champion during the one-week campaign.

Examples of social media platforms include:

facebook, twitter, and Linkedin logos

9. Publicize Your Employee Awareness Campaign

See How to Organize an Employee Awareness Campaign.

10. Determine the Best Outlets for Your Mitigation Story

An effective place to share your mitigation story is on the FEMA Mitigation Best Practices Portfolio. The portfolio hosts a catalog of mitigation best practices and case studies from FEMA representatives and businesses across the country. With a sample best practice and an easy-to-use online submission form, the FEMA Mitigation Best Practices Portfolio is the most effective way to share your story with other businesses and communities looking to reduce their disaster risk.

11. Pitching Your Story to the News Media

No matter what size project you've undertaken, you may want to contact the media.

Camera crew conducting an interview
Be prepared to take advantage of opportunities afforded by the media, especially in post-event situations, to present earthquake hazard information and promote seismic safety programs and risk reduction activities that will lessen the affects of future earthquakes (Source: FEMA 479).

Here are some tips to consider when contacting the media:

  • Make sure you're contacting the appropriate journalist by researching their previous stories. A Google search can provide very useful information on the media contact's previous stories and sometimes offers their direct contact information.
  • Figure out your "hook"—what you're going to say to get them interested in the story.
  • When speaking with the media use your hook to quickly tell the story. Feel free to engage in conversation and make suggestions, but leave them to decide how they want to use your information. Be able to provide information that can help them write the story—press materials, contact names and phone numbers, etc.
  • It is also essential to ask a media contact some or all of these questions:
    • Are you currently on deadline? If so, ask when would be a better time to contact them.
    • Is "our story" something you would generally cover? If not, could you suggest another contact within your organization who might be interested?
    • Do you have any related story deadlines coming up?
    • Who makes the final decision to cover a story?
    • Do you have an editorial calendar?
    • When would be a good time to follow up with you again?
  • If you haven't received a response after a few days, following up via email or phone is recommended.

Man talking on the phone
Following up with the media via phone or email after the initial contact improves your chances of getting coverage (Source:

12. Other Events to Celebrate Your Success

  • Press events at the site of an earthquake mitigation project.
  • Sponsoring a booth at a county or state fair. Hand out copies of your story and other earthquake mitigation materials.
  • Adapt your story to a school-age audience—then tell the tale to a classroom of children.
  • Partner with hardware or home improvement stores on a how-to workshop of earthquake mitigation ideas.
  • Get an earthquake mitigation proclamation from local or state officials—use your story with the proclamation to convey the message.
  • Launch a "Safe Business" campaign to encourage earthquake mitigation action within business communities.
  • Encourage fire service agencies to incorporate earthquake mitigation into their public-education campaigns.
  • Launch a community effort to preserve historical properties by using earthquake mitigation measures.
  • Use your stories in conjunction with special campaigns or events—e.g., "Severe Weather Awareness Week," "Fire Prevention Week," "Safe Kids Week," etc.

Fire Department members talking
The Los Angeles Fire Department attending a QuakeSmart event in Encino, CA (Photo by Justin Malko).

For additional resources to help communicate your story and develop mitigation best practices, visit Telling the Tale of Disaster Resistance: A Guide to Capturing and Communicating the Story and Developing and Promoting Mitigation Best Practices and Case Studies: Communication Strategy Toolkit (FEMA 479).

Cover image
Telling the Tale of Disaster Resistance: A Guide to Capturing and Communicating the Story provides some of the "best practices" of those who have promoted disaster-resistance efforts throughout the country.

Cover image
Developing and Promoting Mitigation Best Practices and Case Studies: Communication Strategy Toolkit (FEMA 479) shows how to communicate mitigation ideas, expertise and resources to lessen the impact of disasters, and show that mitigation is both effective and affordable.

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Last Updated: 
03/23/2015 - 12:12