Friday November 30th, 2018: As dawn was breaking in Anchorage and its residents went about their weekday morning routines, the earth beneath them suddenly convulsed for 30 long seconds. At 8:30 a.m., a 7.0 magnitude earthquake rattled the state’s most populated region, with an epicenter just 7 miles north of the city.

The quake cracked walls, crumbled chimneys, collapsed garages, and left a blanket of dust covering fallen ceiling tiles, and household, office, and retail items on disheveled floors. But buildings weren’t the only structures shaken up. Roadways were ripped up, power and telephones lines were knocked out, the airport’s control tower was evacuated, and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson sustained a water leak and limited personnel access.

The city’s “most significant” earthquake since 1964 rocked the ground with 200 aftershocks in just 12 hours…but its continuity of services shifted little. An event like this would certainly mean disaster along with a loss of lives, property, and service continuity in most other areas of the United States. However, thankfully, Anchorage suffered zero fatalities, and no significant injuries. And according to initial assessments, the crumpled and gaping roads may just be the worst of the damage. The airport is open, but operating with delayed flights. The precious Port of Anchorage, integral to Alaska’s goods and food supply chain, remained unscathed. Ships are able to dock and cranes appear to be stable following damage appraisals. In other words: Anchorage’s business continuity planning helped minimize disruption.

Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz stated, “The amount of infrastructure damage has been mitigated in large part by how we build things here and the level of preparation.” He elaborated further: “People pulled together. We followed the plans that were in place. We looked after one another. And when people around the country and around the world look at this, they’re going to say, ‘We want to do things in the Anchorage way because Anchorage did this right,” Berkowitz said.

With extended sub-freezing temperatures, generous snowfalls, and six-months darkness, Alaskans understand the importance of planning ahead. They’ve also heeded the warning from the Good Friday quake and reinforced their structures appropriately.

Earthquakes hit Alaska approximately 40,000 times in one year. Most people think of California as the ‘shakiest’ state. But Alaska actually endures small, reportable quakes roughly every 12 minutes, and more high-magnitude quakes than all other 49 states combined - though it’s rare for big ones to hit highly populated areas. Thus, in response, the Land of the Midnight Sun has taken great measures to diminish damage and loss.

Preparation and following plans. This is the heart of preparedness and business continuity. Learn from the past, plan for what may come, and adhere to those plans when it does. In a way, Alaskans have become experts in business continuity management, and thus become accustomed to circumstances which would cause major operational interruptions elsewhere. As a result, even potentially catastrophic disasters won’t stop them in their tracks, giving real-life evidence that proper business continuity planning can and does make all the difference.

“Do things the Anchorage way.”

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Topics: In The News| Incident Management| Business Continuity

Angie Longacre

Written by Angie Longacre

As a writer for Assurance Software, Angie devotes her craft to promoting business continuity and disaster recovery awareness, and trumpeting Assurance Software’s invaluable benefits for both. When she’s not commanding the keyboard, you can find her outside for a run, searching for her next antique treasure, or lost in a good book.

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