January 09, 2019

Earthquakes: A Business Continuity Management Plan

Since 2000, more than 1,000 earthquakes have been recorded around the world and each year, thousands of people are killed due to earthquake-related hazards. While earthquakes are not preventable, a business continuity plan can help minimize your operational risk and exposure.


Anchorage, Alaska: November 30, 2018

A magnitude-7.0 earthquake approximately 13 km north of Anchorage, Alaska on November 30, 2018. A local tsunami warning was issued for Cook Inlet and southern Kenai Peninsula. Preliminary reports included cracks in buildings, water main breaks, and damage to some highway infrastructure. A landslide was reported along Seward Highway.


Intelligence Alerts

WorldAware triggered its response protocol and sent out an incident alert within fifteen minutes of receiving initial verification from the US Geological Survey.

A subsequent flash alert, sent at 12:50 p.m. on November 30th, contained the following advice:  

Officials may temporarily shut down transportation infrastructure in the tremor zone to check for damage and landslides. Disruptions could occur during shutdowns, but service will likely resume quickly if no damage is found. Utility outages are possible, particularly near the earthquake's epicenter.

Move away from low-lying coastal areas in Cook Inlet and the southern Kenai Peninsula until the tsunami threat has passed. Consider vacating multistoried buildings or unreinforced structures in areas where strong shaking occurred; aftershocks could cause additional damage. Due to the threat of landslides, seek updated information on road conditions before driving in hilly areas in the affected area.

Two additional update alerts that indicated the severity, affected areas, new information, and updated advice were sent November 30, a third update was sent December 1, and a fourth update was sent December 2. These alerts included situational information about the earthquake itself, as well as related tsunami warnings, flight status, transport and utility updates, damage assessments, and recovery efforts.


Business Continuity Management Planning

It is important that you have a business continuity plan (BCP) in place for unforeseen natural disasters such as this one. The success of any disaster risk reduction (DRR) strategy is contingent on thorough preparation, underpinned by a sound understanding of the threat that natural and technical hazards could pose to your personal safety, organization, and locations important to you.

Although hazard mitigation initiatives should ideally be developed by a dedicated risk manager, a generalized disaster preparedness checklist has been provided below for stakeholders, homeowners, and your people. These guidelines refer to earthquakes specifically but can nonetheless be adopted for other hazard types as well.


Prepare Before the Crisis

  • Maintain effective crisis management, risk management, emergency response and business continuity capabilities.
  • Ensure that your business continuity plan has the capability to recover essential functions both inside and outside of the earthquake zone.
  • Check WorldAware intelligence briefs to see the frequency and magnitude of earthquakes in your area or the area to which there is planned travel.
  • Know exactly where your people are and plot important locations that matter to you in the Worldcue® platform. This enables you to immediately visualize their proximity to affected areas at the time of exposure.
  • If you are in an earthquake zone, understand the building codes and work or stay in buildings or hotels that are built to withstand earthquake damage.
  • Rehearse your plan with your personnel using any two-way emergency communications tools you may have such as Worldcue Communicator®.
  • Ensure your contact information for internal and external stakeholders is current.


Monitor the Situation

  • If traveling, check WorldAware intelligence alerts to verify if an earthquake recently occurred prior to your arrival. This may alert you to aftershocks, tsunami warnings, damaged infrastructure and transport limitations, and potential communication interruptions.
  • Avoid areas with unsecured shelving or furniture that may topple over, possibly resulting in injury or death.
  • If living or working in an earthquake zone, ensure your emergency response plan includes a response to an earthquake and that it is rehearsed at least annually.


Respond with Crisis Communications

  • Leverage two-way communications to account for those impacted, inform people to avoid the area, and initiate any crisis response protocols.
  • Establish communications and coordinate with public and private response organizations.
  • Develop messages for all internal and external stake holders through redundant methods of communication. These include corporate leadership, employees, vendors, the media, and supply chain.
  • Leverage the PACE acronym for planning and establishing communications:
    • Primary – The most efficient and reliable means of communication.
    • Alternate – The next best method of communication.
    • Contingency – Utilize a different medium of communications.
    • Emergency – This will likely be the least efficient but the most reliable. Consider using couriers or face to face communications.



  • The recovery should be performed by a different team than those leading the response.
  • If your business continuity plan includes an alternate work (or safe) location, ensure it has not been impacted by the earthquake. If not available, designate a place to consolidate personnel and begin performing essential functions.
  • Assess the damage to essential daily functions.
  • Decide which essential functions to recover and when.
  • Mobilize any preplanned or ad hoc recovery resources.

Once you’ve got personal safety under control, implement your crisis communications plan to resume operations. Be transparent with your organization and people about the plan of action. Document any lessons learned to determine priorities should another earthquake occur, or to deal with aftershocks.


The WorldAware Difference

It is important that you have a business continuity plan (BCP) in place for unforeseen natural disasters. Earthquakes can happen at any time of the year and occur without warning. Most regions around the world are at some risk for earthquakes. The risk is higher in identified seismic zones.

WorldAware’s intelligence, technology, and response operations allows decision makers to rapidly analyze their risk profile in an event, hazard, or other barrier, and respond accordingly. Incident and intelligence alerts help you understand the severity of the situation, event details, a map to help you quickly visualize the specific location of the event and recommended advice. The Worldcue technology helps you identify which of your people are affected based on calculated exposure and proximity to the epicenter, respond using two-way communications, and initiate check-in protocols for your people. Should your personnel require assistance, the Global Assistance and Response team is on standby 24/7 to answer inquiries that come in via a dedicated hotline with protocols specific to your organization. The crisis and response teams are also available to provide consulting and training services to ensure your personnel are prepared to handle a crisis before it occurs.