Is Your Business Ready For The Big One?

Is Your Business Ready For The Big One?

Some things happen that we have no control over.

Some are inevitable (death, taxes), others are “acts of God” (typhoons, earthquakes). Some countries are naturally prone to earthquakes because they lie along something called a fault line. A fault is a break in the Earth’s crust, that relatively thin layer of solid ground that we live on, that moves when plate tectonics under a particular fault moves. In the Philippines, several major fault lines comprise what is called the Philippine Mobile Belt. One of these fault lines is called the Marikina Valley Fault System made up of two major segments, the East and West.

There has been a lot of hullaballoo about these two, but especially the West Valley Fault (WVF). The East Valley Fault (EVF) is pretty long, running 10 km across the Rodriguez and San Mateo in Rizal province, but nothing like the WVF, which is 100 kilometers and runs through at least 57 residential and highly-populated areas in Quezon City, Marikina, Makati, Pasig, Taguig, Paranaque, Laguna, and Cavite. It will literally transect Luzon nearly down the middle, affecting the most populated areas in the country.

The Marikina Valley Fault System is expected to show some activity at any time because geologists estimate that tectonic forces tend to be felt along that particular fault line every 400 years or so. The last major movement by this particular fault line was about 400 years ago in 1658, hence the buzz on the WVF. Experts estimate that the Marikina Valley Fault System may let loose a quake of 7.2 magnitude on the Metro Manila area, resulting in an estimated 35,000 deaths and thousands more in casualties.

Earthquakes can always generate a sense of awe because of the raw power they exude when they occur, but they are also terribly devastating. In 1990, movement of the Digdig Fault caused a 125 km break that ran from Aurora to Nueva Ecija. It produced a 7.7 magnitude earthquake, killing about 1,621 people, and seriously damaging any substantial structure along the break. The hardest hit area was Baguio City because of its dense population and numerous business establishments. The quake cut the city off, destroying lines of power, water, and communication. Access by road and air were severely limited, which hampered rescue and relief efforts. It was a little better on affected low-lying areas, but it was still bad.

The discrepancy in the death toll for the 1990 quake and the anticipated one in Metro Manila is primarily due to the higher population density. It would be logical to expect the same thing for the number of damaged or collapsed buildings. One need only look at the number of high-rise residential condominiums and corporate towers along the affected area to imagine the effect on business of such an event. According to some estimates that about 25% of residential, mid-rise (up to 30 stories), and public buildings and 12% of high-rise buildings will be partly or heavily damaged in the affected areas.

The economic effects of the 1990 Digdig earthquake provide some idea. It took the concerned agencies between 8 and 12 months to restore basic utilities. More than half of the jobs were lost, and it took years before employment rates went back to normal. The same may happen in the encompassing areas if a similar-magnitude quake occurs along the WVF, but affecting many more people and establishments.

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