CASE NO. 4:
There is a basic truth about earthquakes: They always get in the
first punch. “Their very definition is that they’re sudden,” says
IREM Past President Joe Greenblatt, CPM. He is also presi-
dent and CEO of Sunrise Management, AMO, in San Diego,
with roughly 13,000 apartment units under management there
as well as in Sacramento, Calif., Phoenix and Las Vegas. “To
that extent, they’re unlike any other disaster, be it a hurricane or
most wildfires. There’s no alarm to warn you they’re coming.”
That they are so common and sudden only underscores the
need to not get caught off guard. This is not to say that Tulsa,
Okla., is more likely to sustain a serious quake than San Francis-
co. Rather, it simply means that, “You need to be in a constant
state of readiness,” Greenblatt says.
Of course, there are commonalities among all forms of disaster prep, from communications plans and vendor lists to resident education. But there are also major differentiators, and one
of the steps that figures so largely in other forms of emergency
management is troubling in earthquake zones: insurance.
“It is our experience that a minority of property owners in
California have earthquake insurance,” says Greenblatt. “It
isn’t included in standard property policies. It’s a standalone,
and it’s extraordinarily expensive.” In fact, he says, quake insurance can not only double your premiums but it can stipulate
a $100,000 deductible—or higher.
“You’re not going to use that for modest damage,” he says.
“Most modern buildings in California are designed to withstand seismic movement, so there’s a general expectation that
there’ll be either light to no damage or alternatively, but less
likely, cataclysmic damage. You buy insurance against that cataclysmic damage, not just a crack in the wall.” They simply take
the risk, he says.
LESSONS TO SHARE. In the face of disasters that are by definition sudden, much of the advice to be shared revolves around
common sense. First, advises, Greenblatt: “Don’t be surprised.
Know what you’ll need to do to react.” And react is the proper
word since most quakes, in addition to being sudden, are just as
suddenly over, passing within minutes, even if aftershocks erupt
for months following.
He urges managers to develop a solid communications
method, of course, and don’t forget the power of social media.
Greenblatt says that CPM Members in Japan, after the 2011
earthquake and tsunami, used Twitter as their major means of
communicating with teams, occupants and clients.
Stores of necessities are always part of an emergency recovery
plan, but Greenblatt says over the years, the post-quake mindset
has evolved to the use of durable rubberized trash cans as preparedness kits, simply because of the volume of water, first-aid
items and other supplies they can hold, especially during prolonged outages.
Also, promote best practices among your tenants—yes, teach
them the common-sense rules. “You aren’t responsible for your
residents’ behavior,” he says, “but you can do your best to educate them.” Sunrise periodically circulates best-practices information sheets, simply as reminders of how to act, with such
common-knowledge information as seeking shelter in a bathtub or a doorway; staying away from glass windows; and, if
EAR KE MAP
Fortunately, 2017 was a fairly moderate year for US earthquakes, moderate being defined by the U.S. Geological Survey
(USGS) as no more intense than a 5. 9 on the Richter scale.
Another fact about earthquakes is that they are not solely a
California phenomenon. In fact, they are exceedingly common
throughout the states. Earthquaketrack.com reports that the
US sustained nearly 21,000 quakes in the past 365 days. Greenblatt himself, a 30-year California resident, reports that the first
quake he ever experienced was while he was still in St. Louis.
Oklahoma seems to be the epicenter of earthquake growth.
The USGS reports that their number has grown every year
since 2009, with more than 2,000 quakes of magnitude three
and above. The often-cited cause is hydraulic fracturing.
Whatever the cause, it is prudent to be aware that few locales