Earthquakes, Risk Management, Disaster Preparedness

A recent news video on earthquakes stated that seismologist experts record over 27,000 earthquakes in the US each year! (most barely detectable but an indication of potential). This week marks the 104th anniversary of the San Francisco Earthquake in 1906. The largest US relief effort ever was mobilized for that, even more than Katrina. But, it didn¶t even make the list of the top biggest 15 earthquakes ever recorded. In 1964, Prince William¶s Sound, Alaska had a 9.2 which was the biggest ever in US recorded history. But, get this! On the top 15 list of the most powerful quakes of all time, ever recorder anywhere, 12 occurred along Alaska¶s coast! The biggest earthquake of all time happened in 1960 in Valdivia, Chile: the 9.4 triggered floods and a volcanic eruption. The U.S Geological Survey estimates a 50 percent or higher chance of an earthquake measuring 7 or greater on the Richter scale hitting San Francisco in the next 75 years. That seems like a very safe ³guess´ to me! That earthquake is likely to exceed $390 billion in damage. What about the seismic zone that runs the whole length of California? If The Big One doesn¶t hit The City within the next 75 years, whose to say some other area along the fault line won¶t be devastated beforehand? Does it seem, to anybody else, that seismic and volcanic activity has increased in the last few years? What about the likelihood of a life altering natural disaster in your area? Is that occurrence a real possibility? Would you bet on it? Well, you are« Computer models show that an earthquake similar to the massive quake in 1906 would do substantial damage to The City¶s four main bridges as well as endanger the fresh water supply and utility network, including the power grid and telephone lines. Much of the coastal area would sink into the ground or collapse into the bay. What would happen in your area? STORY LINK: What kind of danger/exposure is your area afflicted with? Hurricanes, tornados, floods, heavy storms, infestations? We have all seen stock offerings where the company disclaimer states past performance is no indication of future performance. However, with disasters past performance is always an indicator. Unbelievably, most San Francisco residents are not concerned about their

exposure to damage and risk. Does your company have locations there? Do your customers have locations there? Do your vendors have locations there? The disruption to the U.S. economy, insurance industry, and financial services will be staggering when the next San Francisco quake hits. It may seriously affect you even though you may not be there. How can you prepare? An assessment of your exposure to risk is essential. Not only should you have a plan to confront how it will affect you, your company and your employees but consider the following: Irreplaceable documents, historical matter, intellectual and creative property, insurance claim documents etc may be what allows your company to reopen if you are ground zero. Its not an earthquake story but, consider this story about losses« A Sad Insurance Story Making Copies and Keeping Them in Other Locations In 2009 there were two devastating fires in Santa Barbara, California. One took out the home of a very successful businessman, politician and passionate collector whose base of operations was his office at home. In the fire he lost bronze sculptures of all sizes (the fire go so hot that a couple of life sized statures were melted into a puddle of molten metal!), numerous works of art on paper and paintings and everything else that goes along with a well furnished home. This man was well insured, on paper, with AIG (now Chartis). The problem was that in the fire, all the files, receipts, photos and records of the art collection went up in smoke. That meant that the owners were unable to readily produce for their insurance company y document how much they had paid, y document and qualify the condition y prove the level of quality y document the provenance (history of the artwork) These four missing ³details´ for each work of art meant the owner had nothing to go on for the insurance claim except an inventory sheet with minimal descriptions that was filed with the insurance company. And the fight began« After a year, three insurance agents, a couple of lawyers, a couple of independent adjusters and a lot of frustration later, the matter is still not settled and the total amount of the settlement is bound to be significantly less than what the owners feel is appropriate or justified. Devastation is at the heart of any natural disaster. But the idea of ³total loss´ by everyone is an uncommon occurrence. Usually, there is an ³epicenter´ of devastation but there is also a wide path of people affected around the impact area that are only marginally affected. So, its always worth being prepared.

Even in the event of total loss, you can do some very important things to protect yourself and reduce risk. Being better prepared in this particular sad situation could not have saved the contents. However, copies of photos, receipts, appraisals etc stored in a remote location would have empowered this businessman to get response quickly after the disaster. ³Redundancy´ is a term used in business when multiple copies are kept in different locations for just this reason.

For coaching on business assessments and answers to preservation questions, Scott M. Haskins is your preservation coach ( and provides free content for redistribution through organizations from A very interesting blog can be found at You may contact Mr. Haskins for workshops and for featured speaking engagements at 805 564 3438. For more information on Mr. Haskins¶ background, go to

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