Earthquake Disaster Recovery Plan: Assess, Treat, Shelter, and Evacuate

An earthquake is rarely an isolated event. Typically, one or multiple aftershocks will follow a major quake – and these often can be even more devastating than the initial quake. Practices should consider how they’re going to protect their employees and property immediately following a quake. But studies show that as many as 75% of small businesses don’t have a disaster recovery plan in place.1 Don’t let your practice be part of this statistic. Be prepared.

Before an earthquake strikes, make sure everyone on your team knows what to do when the earth stops shaking. And be sure your practice has the necessary supplies and equipment on hand in case they are needed.

Here are a few steps to be prepared to take in the wake of a quake:

  • Assess. Immediately following an earthquake, check for serious hazards such as leaking gas or water lines, downed power lines, fire, or structural damage. If any of these hazards are present, quickly exit and move away from the building. Do not enter damaged buildings.
  • Treat. Injuries are not uncommon during an earthquake. Be prepared with common first aid items like bandages, tape, antibiotic ointment, hand sanitizer, and disinfectant. Fortunately, most veterinary practices have these items on hand to treat patients, putting you one step ahead of other small businesses.
  • Shelter. Depending on the severity of a quake, you may need to provide shelter for your employees, clients, and patients for up to 72 hours. You’ll want to have food, water, and sleeping materials like blankets on hand. It’s also a good idea to keep flashlights, batteries, and even a generator on site in case of emergencies.
  • Evacuate. Monitor local news or communicate with authorities to determine when it is safe to evacuate the area. If you are near a coastal shoreline, move to higher ground immediately.

One factor that is commonly overlooked in the aftermath of any disaster is the wellbeing of employees. It is common for people to feel stress, fear, and anxiety in the face of any disaster. But it also is important to recognize the ongoing effects of a disaster on a person’s mental health. Immediately after a quake, behave in a calm, soothing, professional manner to help others reach safety. In the long term, consider making mental health resources available to your team members.

Finally, it is important to note that a disaster recovery plan can be part of a larger business continuity plan. The “disaster recovery” portion of the plan focuses on what to do immediately after the disaster (in this case, an earthquake), while the rest of the plan addresses longer-term activities aimed at getting your business back up and running.

 Nationwide poll, 2015.