-Appeared on Apartment Association Greater Los Angeles (AAGLA).
September is National Preparedness Month, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency messages to help people protect themselves and their businesses against earthquakes.
To help apartment owners get ready for a seismic emergency, FEMA has set up a special QuakeSmart toolkit with tips on preparing for the worst.
Here are the agency’s five easy steps to follow to help ensure that your building and your business can withstand an earthquake.
Step 1: Identify Your Earthquake Hazard
Determine whether your apartment building is located within an earthquake hazard area. Visiting the U.S. Geological Survey Earthquake Hazard Map to see how close the property is to neighboring faults or seismic zones.
Chances are, if your apartment is located in the Greater Los Angeles Area, the building is subject to significant earthquake hazards.
Step 2: Identify Your Earthquake Vulnerabilities
Review the structural and nonstructural vulnerabilities of your building to assess your overall earthquake risk. Buildings considered to be most vulnerable include:
- Soft-story buildings built before 1978: These structures, with parking on the ground floor and units built above, are prone to collapse during major earthquakes.
- Unreinforced Masonry buildings built before 1975: The facades of these buildings can collapse in a quake.
- Concrete tilt-up buildings built before 1994: Weak connections can fail and cause walls to pull apart from the roof, presenting a collapse hazard.
- Non-ductile concrete buildings built before 1977: Limited lateral resisting capacity makes these structures brittle.
- Steel moment frame buildings built before 1996: These buildings can sustain brittle fracturing of the steel frames at welded joints between beams and columns.
According to FEMA, the goal is to make your building more resistant to collapse, damage and disruption in the event of an earthquake. Identifying vulnerable buildings is a key step to protecting a community’s ability to bounce back from disaster.
Step 3: Identify Nonstructural Risks
Another hazard to consider are the nonstructural elements that can break and fall during an earthquake, causing injury, sparking a fire or prompting costly repair and recovery expenses.
It’s important to brace and anchor nonstructural items such as shelving, filing cabinets, and more.
Water heaters should be strapped down, built-in partitions secured, fragile art work anchored in place, and computers strapped to desks. Also, do not store heavy items on high shelves.
Make a list of all potential hazards inside your building so you know what needs to be done.
Step 4: Make a Plan
After you have identified the potential earthquake risks associated with your business and building it’s time to create a mitigation plan, addressing each of the nonstructural risks listed in step No. 3.
List them in order of importance so you can tackle the biggest hazards first, and advise your tenants to do the same with their furniture and possessions.
Step 5: Take Action
Implement the mitigation plan, securing nonstructural hazards as noted in your mitigation plan, and — in the case of structural risks — order an engineering plan to address the proper approach to retrofitting your apartment building to help it stay standing in a major earthquake.
If your structure is vulnerable to damage, engineering studies can also identify opportunities to minimize impacts on tenants, parking spaces and other concerns.
- Engineering studies are designed to meet the requirements of a building code as specified in an ordinance.
- They pinpoint the precise scope of work to be done so apartment owners can use that information to get multiple bids on a project in order to save you money.
- Well-prepared engineering studies avoid permitting delays and/or the need for costly revisions later on.
Doing the job right also helps to reduce liabilities, should something go wrong.
A successful earthquake retrofit requires quality engineering, steel fabrication and construction. But a tenant-friendly attitude, adaptability to the needs of the people who live and work in the building, and adherence to a tenant habitability plan are other essentials that can make your retrofit a successful experience.
Following these five steps can help lessen the impact of a major earthquake on your tenants, your apartment building and your livelihood.
Ultimately, it can help build the resilience of the community-at-large, and that’s important, too.