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Ahhh! Earthquake! Small Business Owners, Be Prepared!


“That’s just the wind, right?”

“This is not from the quarry.”

“Is that the AC coming on?”


“Do we need to like… get under a table or in a doorway?”

All of that took place during a meeting at 123Print on August 23, 2011, during the tremors of a 5.9 magnitude earthquake. I should also mention that some employees made a mad dash for the windows to see what was going on, which in retrospect might not have been the smartest thing to do. You’ll have to excuse us. We’re from the east coast and earthquakes are not our forte.

123Print is located in Frederick, MD within a few blocks of a quarry. Every day or every other day there is some type of blast that shakes the building – but we’ve learned to ignore it. Every now and again there will be blast that causes people to laugh and go “Wow. That was a big one,” but then go right back to what they were doing. So, on Tuesday when the tremor in our area started no one paid attention for the first four or five seconds, because we assumed it was from the quarry. Then we noticed the projector on the ceiling was shaking, and the rumbling just didn’t stop. Enter the panic and people dashing out of the conference room to try to figure out what was going on.

This part of the country just doesn’t get earthquakes. We do really well with two feet of snow dumped on top of sheets of ice. You may think we panic when we’re about to get a bunch of snow dumped on us, but we’re really just concerned about how much toilet paper and alcohol we have in the event we can’t leave our house for a few days. I know Californians were laughing at the entire east coast as panic ensued from a “mere” 5.9 quake, and I guess I can see why. I mean, people were saying that the end was near. I think someone in the 123Print office actually said, “This is one of the predictions for the beginning of the end. You know, 2012.” But I have to ask those living on the west coast, what if tomorrow you were suddenly covered in 2 feet of snow? Wouldn’t you freak out just a little bit? Ask “What the hell is going on?” But, I digress.

Later on in the day, HR sent out instructions on what to do during an earthquake. I’ve filed it away in my “May Need Someday,” folder. I had no idea that we even had procedures for the event of an earthquake. After all, we don’t get earthquakes here! I already knew what to do in the event of a fire, the power goes out, or a blizzard is upon us… but not an earthquake. This raises an interesting thought for small business owners. Make sure you have some sort of emergency plan that encompasses both people and company assets.

  • Make sure employees know where to meet upon evacuating the building
  • Have emergency contact information for all of your employees
  • Make sure you have an up-to-date inventory of equipment and software
  • Don’t forget your website. Make sure you have back-ups.
  • Have batteries, flashlights etc are charged and ready for a moment’s notice
  • Have procedures in place. Are there certain things that need to be shut down to avoid an explosion? Make sure your employees are aware and someone will be in charge of turning off (or turning on) certain things to prevent an even larger disaster
  • Just be prepared

I’m no expert on this, so please take some time out and read FEMA’s Ready Business program at http://www.ready.gov.

Keep yourself, your employees and your business safe and prepared.

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