prepared for an earthquake

By: In: RackingServicesTips On: May 13, 2019

Is Your Warehouse Prepared for an Earthquake?


If you live near a fault line, you know there is a question about potential earthquakes lurking in the back of your mind. Heavy earthquakes happen few and far between, but that doesn’t mean you can put off preparing for them. There are all sorts of precautions you can take to make sure you’re fully equipped for when that 6.5 magnitude comes your way. But the real question is: Is your warehouse prepared for an earthquake?

Don’t hesitate to do what it takes to prepare your warehouse for the tremors. You may have millions of dollars worth of machinery and inventory to worry about, but more importantly, you have people to protect.

Let’s review some details to fully prepare and reinforce your warehouse. 


Get a Seismic Engineering Inspection

The engineering inspection looks at each component of a racking system to confirm it meets load requirements. It checks the column, base plate, anchors, beams, connectors, bracing and welds. Going through every item assures that the system is ok for use with the added earthquake loads.

To obtain an inspection, send a DWG file (an AutoCAD blueprint or your warehouse plans) to LINK to get a full assessment of your operation. It is definitely worth talking to an expert – you don’t want to have missed anything when disaster strikes.

Talk to an expert.

Know your Earthquake Engineering Codes

The analysis required by code for storage racking systems comes from the 2016 California Building Code (with references to the 2012 RMI Code). These requirements ensure that storage rack systems near known fault lines have taken proper earthquake safety precautions.

The analysis must confirm that the materials in the warehouse meet the client’s loading requirements. This means the warehouse materials should hold up during any potential earthquake.

Be aware that there are some factors that can change coding requirements:

  1. If the space is open to the public
  2. The proximity to control & construction joints
  3. The proximity to building components, such as walls and columns
  4. The slab thickness of the warehouse floor
  5. The height of tall single-row units


Obtain Seismic Permits

Any unit that is 5′-9″ or taller requires a seismic permit. Some jurisdictions allow units to reach up to 8′ in height, but this is rare nowadays. Most warehouses have racking taller than 5’-9”, so be sure your units are seismically up to code. The code does not have any requirements with regards to storage racking for anything under 5′-9″.

You can obtain seismic permits at your City Building Department. Law requires permits for warehouse racking and other components, so don’t delay. If a collapse occurs without having proper permits in place, the owner is liable for all damages.


How to prepare your warehouse for an earthquake

Start by getting an understanding of your fault lines and where your warehouse sits in location to them. Based off of historical records, you can get an idea of how severe the quakes can get. Although forecasting earthquakes is like forecasting the stock market, history can tell you a lot about your area.

Make sure your warehouse is up to code. This is especially crucial for older buildings that may not have had those codes in place when it was built. Here’s a list of items you should consider:

  1.     Conduct quarterly internal inspections of racking and anchorage conditions
  2.     Remove and replace any damaged racking
  3.     Confirm you are not exceeding posted loads and not overloading systems
  4.     Certify your forklift drivers
  5.     Post protection if an impact may occur
  6.     Conduct annual third-party inspections

With components and heavy equipment that could cause serious damage, take a look around and make sure these items are secured. Pay extra attention to the materials that you store in higher areas. Even light fixtures and fans should be inspected. Anything that has the potential of falling can cause serious damage.

One of the best things you can do to prepare for an earthquake is have regular earthquake drills. Consider doing them semi-annually or annually. In these drills, make sure you have safety zones mapped out. Safe zones are clear open spaces or sturdy items, such as desks, to duck under. This will help you ensure everyone in the warehouse is stays safe.

If you feel weary about anything or are unsure of something, call an expert.


What to do when an earthquake strikes

Be prepared for an earthquake!

If you find yourself in the warehouse during an earthquake, the number one rule is don’t panic. If you’ve been through earthquake drills and have everything up to code, you should have designated safety zones.

Remain in these safe zones until the earthquake completely passes. The worst thing you could do is move to different areas during the earthquake.

Be aware, many earthquakes will have aftershocks. It may seem that the earthquake has passed, but a violent aftershock can cause heavy damage. Once everything is clear, immediately get your team to a safe place.

There are so many things you can do to prepare for these kinds of natural disasters. We are here to help you get your warehouse up to code and ready for anything mother nature throws at it. If you have questions or concerns about the safety of your building and your crew, don’t hesitate to reach out to us for expert advice.

If you have questions about code compliances or need an inspection, please visit Structural Engineering & Design, Inc.