Post-Earthquake Building Safety Inspection

With the Great ShakeOut approaching on October 19, in addition to holding an earthquake drill, building and facility teams may want to consider practicing their post-earthquake safety check procedures.

Because the default response to an earthquake is for office building occupants to shelter in place, building engineers and other staff need to quickly conduct a thorough safety check to ensure the structure is still safe.  A gas leak, fire, or major system impairment could require a full building evacuation.

A standard punch list for a post-earthquake building inspection:

1. Check the fire panel for possible ignitions

2. Check for gas leaks. Inspect piping and determine whether seismic safety shutoffs have tripped

3. Check to ensure sufficient water pressure in the sprinklers

4. Check for leaks in generator tanks and pipes, or any other source of flammable liquids

5. Check for elevator entrapments. Secure elevators until rail inspections can be performed

6. Check stairwell exit doors at grade to ensure they are not jammed shut

7. If power has failed:

– Ensure emergency egress lighting in stairwells is functioning

– Disconnect the main power feed until circuits can be inspected

8. Inspect the perimeter, looking for cracked or falling glass panels or other building materials (masonry, signage, etc.)

9. Check for internal flooding from cracked water pipes.

10. Check domestic and sprinkler water backflow preventers at point of entry for leaks and pressure

11. Check access control systems (stairwell door locks, turnstiles, etc.)

12. Ensure water treatment chemicals and all other hazardous materials are still safely contained

13. Inspect the lobby and common areas

14. Inspect mechanical rooms

15. Check fan operations in cooling towers (seismic switch)

Of course, your building may have additional systems or features that need inspection – medical equipment, UPS equipment, chemical suppression systems, water features or swimming pools, day care centers, etc. These should all be documented in your emergency response plan.