If you live in California, you already know the devastating effects that an earthquake can have on a piece of property. Unlike most other natural disasters including tornados and floods, earthquakes can occur during virtually any season, and they can cause serious damage to the structure of a building without any telltale signs of warning. When business owners take the time to recognize these risks, it makes complete sense for them to invest in effective earthquake protection throughout the year. In this blog, we’ll take a closer look at what happens during an earthquake as well as some helpful tips that can help you protect your business in the event of one of these natural disasters.

If you own a commercial business or building in California and you’re concerned that your structure may not withstand the seismic movement of an earthquake, it may be time to contact a engineer to evaluate your building. At Consulting Engineers Corp., our engineers have been offering full-service seismic retrofitting since 1970, and we would love to help you find an affordable and effective design that can help you protect your structure. From commercial buildings to industrial spaces and multi-unit housing developments, we can help. Contact our engineers today to learn more about our services!

What Happens During An Earthquake?

Earthquakes are caused by sudden movements in opposing tectonic plates within the earth. When two blocks of earth suddenly slip past one another, the surface where they slip is known as the fault or fault plane. Earthquakes are caused by the movements of the large tectonic plates that make up the Earth’s outer crust. Most earthquakes begin deep underground at a point called the focus, and as underground rocks shatter the focus, shock waves are created. Also known as seismic waves, these shock waves radiate outward in all directions. This can cause buildings to sway and topple, which is why it’s critical to ensure that your business’ structure is well protected against the strong forces of an earthquake.

Earthquake Protections

Depending on when your commercial property was built, the design of your structure may vary. While there are many ways to construct a building to resist seismic ground movements, to truly determine if your building is at risk for damage from an earthquake, it’s always best to consult with a engineer. After a thorough inspection of your building and property, a engineer will be able to help you identify weak points in your building’s structure. While some major changes can be costly and time-intensive, there are a variety of affordable retrofitting options available to help your commercial property withstand the forces of an earthquake.

If you decide to retrofit your system, the best time to do this is when you are making other significant changes, such as remodeling or re-siding the exterior of your property. It’s important to note that if you rent your business space, you may not have the authority to make changes to your building, and you should reach out to the building manager or landlord.

Protecting The Interior Elements Of Your Property

According to the California Seismic Safety Commission, the foundation and superstructure of a building only accounts for 20 to 25 percent of the original construction cost. The other 75 to 80 percent is made up of mechanical, electrical, and architectural elements within the building itself. This means that it is extremely important to protect the interior of your building during an earthquake warning, both for safety reasons and to reduce financial losses. To ensure that the interior of your commercial building is safe during the event of an earthquake, consider some simple measures to take below:

  • If there are large bookcases or cabinet in your office, take the time to fasten them to nearby walls. You can also stabilize central bookcases by attaching them back-to-back to each other.
  • Secure any electronic equipment to the floor or table surface with braces or heavy glue to prevent overturning.
  • Use a protective film on all of your glass windows, doors, and walls to prevent any shattering. This can cause serious injury to your commercial tenants or employees.
  • Brace any mechanical equipment like boilers, furnaces, and air conditioning units to the wall or floor to prevent shifting and overturning.

Protecting Your Business Data

As you may already know, information and information technology are the lifeblood of any company. Whether your business is a small 30 employee office or a large 500 employee corporation, it’s important to take the necessary precautions when it comes to protecting your data. If you’re concerned that your California business may not withstand the harsh vibrations of an earthquake, one of the first things you’ll want to do is brace any expensive equipment you have.

Due to the sensitive nature of most IT equipment, rigid bracing techniques could result in damage from excessive shaking and throttling during an earthquake. There are several bracing solutions available on the market today, some of which can help to isolate your extra-sensitive components. Other options include speciality storage racks, which will move gently in the direction opposite to the ground motion to provide a stable and secure surface for your equipment.

Protecting Your Gas Lines

Did you know that during an earthquake, your business’ gas or propane line can break which can lead to a hazardous fire or a deadly explosion. Your company’s gas lines should be properly braced and equipped with effective safety devices. One way to prevent broken gas or propane lines is to ensure you have flexible connection pipes installed between your appliances and equipment. Business owners in California should invest in an automatic seismic safety shutoff valve at all of their entry points, which will cut off the flow of gas when there’s an issue.

As you can see, there are several ways to reduce earthquake damage to your business. At Consulting Engineers Corp., we’ve helped hundreds of business owners throughout California retrofit their structure to withstand the damaging effects of an earthquake. Check out some of our past projects online or contact us today to learn more about our services!