International insurer FM Global recently released a new global earthquake mapping tool which helps businesses compare earthquake and flood risk across the world, and to assess their resilience to a potential quake.
The map identifies New Zealand as one of the ‘higher risk’ areas in the Asia-Pacific region, which FM Global operations chief engineer Michael Stuckings (pictured) said is primarily due to its position between two major tectonic plates - something both local and international businesses with a base in New Zealand will need to keep in mind when assessing the vulnerability of their operations.
Stuckings said that when it comes to resilience and forward-planning, risk maps can offer valuable insight into the risks that come with placing a business site into a particular region.
“As we know, New Zealand sits on the Pacific ring of fire and sees a lot of seismic activity on its plate boundaries,” Stuckings told Insurance Business.
“New Zealand isn’t unique in that regard, and there are areas of higher earthquake risk in countries across Asia-Pacific. Other areas - like Australia, Malaysia or Thailand - that sit within one plate do have a lower risk, and New Zealand’s higher level of risk is really because it sits at that junction between the Pacific plate and the Australian plate.”
“We always recommend that people utilise our various natural hazards maps, and when businesses go to choose a site, that they select one in a lower-risk area, if possible,” Stuckings continued.
“But if you find that your facility is in one of those higher-risk zones, we do have a range of information and data sheets available which provide our best risk engineering advice for mitigating against these hazards.”
Stuckings said that at-risk properties are often vulnerable to more than one hazard in the event of an earthquake, and so it becomes important to ensure that all of the correct mitigation steps have been taken - something businesses often fail to think about before an event strikes.
“When it comes to earthquake risks in specific zones, we recommend things like earthquake protection for fire systems and sprinklers and seismic gas shut-off valves, if you have gas coming into your building,” Stuckings said.
“We often find that after an earthquake, buildings are at an increased risk of fire for a range of reasons - gas pipelines might have broken, or your sprinkler systems might have been impaired. So, your building might still be standing, but you could have a significant exposure to the risk of fire. There are a range of mitigation measures that we would recommend for that.”
“Anchorage of critical equipment is also important,” he added.
“People often don’t think about things like switchboards, so we have advice for clients on those sorts of things
“Finally, of course, you need to have an emergency plan in place. You need to know that you’ll be able to take appropriate action quickly, and then get back on your feet and back to business as soon as possible.”