If you manage property, you may have encountered building codes related to earthquake preparation. Each ordinance has its own purpose, and complying makes all of your tenants safer. To achieve this, your company may need to take on several projects, some of which could require several steps. However, after you finish, you will enjoy peace of mind knowing that you’re safe from most moderate-sized quakes. Consider this checklist as your starting point for keeping your property and its residents safe, and for following code.
Before getting started with our checklist, this first item bears mention. When you build a new building, don’t cut corners. Take the time to find the right resources you will need to ensure proper construction and maintenance. Learn all of the code items that are relevant to your project and share them with your design team. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure in this case. Take your time; build it right, from the beginning.
1. Learn all of your Legal Rights and Obligations
When you take over a property, the first thing that you must do is learn your responsibilities. Many of those responsibilities belong to state and local government, and others to the owner. In the case of earthquakes, you must learn about your companies policies and know the law. If you need to provide specific resources to your tenants before or during an earthquake, add that to your checklist. Most importantly, every municipality is different, so you will need to do some research.
2. Earthquake Emergency Kits
You should provide an emergency kit for any on-site personnel, including resident and on-the-clock managers, and staff. These packages should include water, non-perishable food items, and first aid materials. A flashlight and radio (each with fresh batteries), procedure outlines, contact information, and escape routes with rendezvous points belong inside.
It’s up to you and your laws whether you need to provide emergency kits for your tenants. If they are to incur that cost themselves, then you can notify them if they need to procure one. You can also make them available for a fee. No matter what you choose, the kits should provide everything your tenants need for survival for three days.
3. Plan Escape Routes
Every tenant should have a good idea of how to escape their unit, and where to go once they do. Personalize these plans for each unit, or else show a floor plan with clear paths and exit points. Ideally, they will be laminated or made otherwise durable. Once created, send them to each unit, letting them know that you are available for any questions. Of course, your employees will need to have their escape plans as well.
4. Checklist of Procedures
During an emergency, people don’t have time to think. You should have a list that does this for you so that you can minimize damage and keep people safe. Your tenants also should have their own checklists. It will reduce stress for them, keep them out of danger, and give them options for reaching safety.
5. Reinforce the Foundation
From an engineering standpoint, there are several things you can do to protect it from an earthquake. Reinforcing the foundation requires calling on the services of a structural engineer. This professional will perform an inspection and identify all areas requiring upgrades. From there, you can contact several vendors that specialize in retrofitting buildings for earthquake protection and solicit quotes.
Also, there are additional construction services may help your foundation. However, your assessment will show that. Here are a few:
- Anchor the structure to its foundation (if it isn’t already)
- Fix any cracks in your walls and roof
- Brace the wall between the foundation and first floor
- Reinforce chimneys and other attached structures
Furthermore, you should help your tenants take responsibility for their own space by checking for free-standing items. If there are any tall or unstable furniture items, bolt them down. Communicate with your tenants to ensure that their spaces are safe so they won’t endanger themselves or your building.
6. Install Automatic Gas Shut-Off Valves
In the event of an earthquake, these valves will automatically shut off the gas, thereby protecting your building or complex. A structural engineer should help you price their cost and installation, and locate where to place them. You should also have a backup plan in the event that it fails (see #7).
7. Learn to Use Main Switches for Gas and Water
Most facilities have valves that shut off the water and gas supply for the entire complex. Typically, the fire department tests these valves each year. Learn how to use them, so that if an earthquake occurs, you can keep people safe and minimize damage.
8. Shatterproof Glass
During an earthquake, windows can shatter easily. This sends glass all over the ground, the rooms, and the hallways. Many commercial properties use a transparent film on windows to protect them. It provides additional support for each window to prevent cracks, and it holds the pieces together if it shatters. This film coating varies in quality, thickness, and opaqueness, and it can be expensive to protect an entire building. However, if an earthquake occurs, it can keep many people safe, and save your company a lot of money.