Planning and preparing for an earthquake can play a major factor in your organization's safety and recovery. Recovering quickly from such a natural disaster requires preparedness, advanced planning, knowing what to do in the event of an earthquake, as well as rebounding from any serious injury, property damage, or any other business disruption.

Before an Earthquake Occurs: Review your Policies and Coverages

If your business office is near or in an area prone to earthquakes, you must always be prepared. In anticipation of such an event, it is never too early to contact Gallagher and ensure you have the appropriate coverage, update your current property information, and understand what is covered with your current policy.

Pre-Planning your Business' Safety before an Earthquake

Your emergency response team should continually review, revise and communicate your earthquake preparedness plan. Unfortunately, earthquakes can happen anytime, anywhere. It is imperative you are ready.

We recommend you review your emergency communications with your emergency response team. Equip your emergency kit to be prepared for any natural disaster, including earthquakes. Create an emergency kit including these sample documents below, and you can review and update annually to prepare your business and your employees in case of an earthquake or other natural disaster:

Employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthy workplace for their workers. If possible, coordinate with building maintenance to prepare your office building in the event of an earthquake.

  • Secure heavy items like bookcases, refrigerators, televisions and objects that hang on walls.
  • Store heavy breakable objects on low shelves.
  • Consider making improvements to fix structural issues that could cause your building to collapse in the event of an earthquake.

Sheltering During an Earthquake

When you feel the start of an earthquake, you will not have much time to react. Safety, at this point, is the first order of business for your staff, employees and possible tenants. Wherever you are, direct your staff to drop to their hands and knees, cover their heads and necks and then hold on to something sturdy while the earthquake continues.

If you are in an office, there will be little time to change locations. Crouch under a large object like a desk and cover your head with your hands. Assist any staff, especially those with disabilities and special needs, to crouch under tables and large objects. If you are outdoors, crouch in a spot away from buildings and other large objects. Try to find cover and protect your head and neck.

Post-Earthquake Recovery Guidelines for your Business

After receiving the "all-clear" signal from your local agencies or emergency personnel, you can begin your post-earthquake measures. Once it's safe to return to your property or building, examine the interior and exterior of your property, and report the information to your claims handler. It's important that your claims handler receives this information as soon as possible.

While organizing your post-earthquake recovery efforts for your business, be sure to review the emergency plan, and update as necessary. Also, replace and restock items on your Disaster Supply List. You may also review your Business Interruption and Extra Expense Claims list on how to assess possible business interruption impacts, as well as potential claims coverage. Lastly, complete any mitigation items as directed by FEMA or your insurance carrier.

  • Inspect your property for immediate dangers – watch for animals, falling debris, downed power lines or unstable buildings surrounding your area.
  • Secure any areas where dangers exist with caution tape. Keep areas cordoned off until a determination is made regarding safety.
  • Watch for downed trees and large limbs fallen on power lines, vehicles and buildings.
  • Use flashlights to examine walls, floors, doors and windows to ensure your building is not in danger of collapsing. If the building is in danger of collapsing, do not enter.
  • Inspect the foundations for cracks and other significant damage, paying particular attention to retaining walls.
  • Make sure all valves and power are turned off for potential gas leaks or possible electrical shocks.
  • Complete an incident report and forward pictures to your supervisor, corporate office and insurance agent.
  • Notify staff and corporate of the situation.
  • Assist all staff, especially those with disabilities and special needs, walking down stairs, entering small spaces or leaving the facility. Seriously injured persons should not be moved unless they are in danger of further injury.
  • Ensure you have the following items available: cellphones, smartphones, tablets, laptops, battery operated handheld radio(s), flashlights, cameras, additional chargers and batteries, water, food, first aid supplies and additional items from your Disaster Supply List.
  • Check local emergency broadcast radio for information regarding the earthquake and subsequent aftershocks.

When inspecting your property, make sure to avoid all areas with exposed electrical circuits and electrical appliances until the power has been cut. Also, watch for gas lines, electrical lines or flammable materials. Limit use of cell phones, laptops and handheld radios to preserve battery life.

You might even consider keeping all employees off the property during recovery, depending upon the damage to the structure. And be prepared for aftershocks — these can come for several days after the main quake and can frequently topple already weakened structures.

You may need to contact the following groups after an earthquake strikes:

  • Emergency services, such as the fire department, gas and electric companies, as necessary based on the review of the property.
  • A security company if there is sufficient damage to the property to arrange for surveillance. Instruct them to assist in directing emergency vehicles into the area and supply a list of approved employees to reduce the possibility of looters.
  • Local hospitals regarding injured staff and keep a log of all calls.
  • Your corporate office and insurance carrier to verbally report damage so that an adjuster can be sent to the site.
  • Vendors, such as cleaning services, biohazard companies, electricians or plumbers, to help reduce further damage to the property.

Filing an Insurance Claim due to Earthquake Damage

You may have suffered damage as a result of the earthquake. Once your local agencies or emergency personnel have said it's safe to return to your business, you can begin your post-earthquake recovery measures. Examine your property and complete your Preliminary Damage Assessment Report with pictures or video of the damage and property, a facility inspection and inspection to the foundations for cracks and other significant damage. You may also bring your Business Interruption and Extra Expense Claims list to determine insurance coverage and business operations impacts.

It's important that your Gallagher claims handler receives this information as quickly as possible. Also make sure to maintain an up-to-date Policy and Claim Reporting Information Directory, should such an event occur.

Claims Reporting Reference Guide

Coverage FAQs and forms to help your claims process.

Download Claims Guide

Find your Insurance Carrier

Use our Commercial Claims Contact List to find phone numbers and email addresses of your insurance carrier.

View Claims Contacts

Starting an Insurance Claim

In order for a claim to be initiated and investigation to begin, the claim handler must have as much detail as possible. The following is recommended:

Claims Process for Insurance: What to Expect

Throughout the insurance claim investigation process, you may have various coverage-related questions. Please reach out to Gallagher with specific policy and claim questions. During this high-volume claim reporting period, you should anticipate the following:

  • Initial contact may take some time. Some insurers may use adjusters under contract, so the adjuster's contact information may appear different than expected.
  • Limited access to affected areas.
  • Competition for labor and materials will be high, which may impact the timeframe and costs associated with repair and remediation.
  • Working closely with your claims adjuster. If you have questions regarding the resolution process, Gallagher is here to assist and ensure you are in control of the claim progress.

Your policy and insurance company's website will contain important information about how to handle claims and manage losses. To summarize your policy details, use our Policy and Claim Reporting Information Directory.