Sunday's 6.0 earthquake in Napa County proved fairly destructive near the epicenter, toppling wine bottles, knocking out power, and shearing bricks off buildings. It was the strongest quake to hit the San Francisco Bay Area since 1989.
Even if earthquakes aren't that likely where you are, plug the magnitude of harm into Judge Learned Hand's cost-benefit analysis and you'll quickly discover it's worthwhile to take some steps to make your office more earthquake-resistant -- especially here in California.
Here are five tips not only for making your physical office more earthquake-proof, but also for making your practice earthquake-proof:
1. Secure Bookshelves to the Wall.
You know those little brackets and straps that come with furniture like bookshelves? They're there for a reason. Tall furniture has a lot of torque, and when there's an earthquake, it can fall down pretty easily. Those brackets and straps secure the furniture to the wall (well, really, to a stud in the wall; drywall isn't going to secure a bookshelf) so that it doesn't fall over.
2. Have a Disaster Recovery Plan.
The best practice is for your office to have a disaster recovery plan in place. If your office becomes physically inaccessible, how will you access client files? Where are your backups? If they're located on-site, then we need to sit you down and tell you that's not OK: If your office got destroyed in an earthquake, then so did your backups. Backups should be located off-site, either through a cloud service like Crash Plan or a meat-space provider like Iron Mountain.
3. Is Your Office Up to Code?
Literally, this means: Does the building you're in meet state and local guidelines for earthquake safety? Believe it or not, there are still older buildings in California that haven't been retrofitted. If they're all-brick, they're going to come down pretty quick because the building isn't anchored to anything.
4. Got Earthquake Insurance?
According to Bloomberg Businesweek, 8 out of 9 Californians don't have earthquake insurance. Because earthquakes are so probable here, insurance companies don't offer quake insurance policies by default; you have to pay extra for an earthquake rider (and you pay a lot more). Even so, it may be a prudent cost of doing business. Without earthquake damage insurance, you may end up paying for damage to your office -- and even your client's valuables (see No. 5 below) out of your own pocket.
5. Secure Your Valuables.
If you have a safe on-site and you're in the business of storing valuables for clients, it might be more prudent to keep that stuff in a safe deposit box at the bank. If your client's valuables are damaged in an earthquake, who knows if your insurance covers it? (Hopefully you know.) There's also the possibility of fire or even looting after the earthquake, so do yourself a favor and keep the Dowager Countess' jewels in a bank vault instead.
- Committee on Disaster Response and Preparedness (American Bar Association)
- Earthquake Preparedness (Governor's Office of Emergency Services)
- Five Things to Know About Disaster Preparedness Plans (FindLaw's D.C. Circuit Blog)
- 5 Tips to Prep Your Tech-Savvy Practice for Hurricane Season (FindLaw's Technologist)