Is the Bay Area ready for the next
By Kelly Paku, Bay City News Service
April 4, 2006
On April 18, 1906, the great San Francisco earthquake rocked
the Bay Area and now, 100 years later, researchers and state officials
alike are advising residents to be prepared because it's only
a matter of time before the next big temblor strikes again.
During the 1906 earthquake, without warning, the San Andreas
Fault ruptured 296 miles from San Juan Bautista to the triple
junction at Cape Mendocino producing a magnitude 7.8 earthquake,
according to Tom Brocher, Northern California co coordinator of
earthquake hazards investigations for the U.S. Geological Survey.
After about one minute of shaking, the earthquake and resulting
fires caused an estimated 700 deaths and millions of dollars in
property loss throughout the Bay Area, according to a USGS Web
site. Years later, on Oct. 17, 1989, the San Andreas Fault ruptured
again resulting in the magnitude 6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake, according
to the USGS.
Today, Brocher says there is a 62 percent chance that the Bay
Area will have a magnitude 6.7 earthquake or greater in the next
"That's a two-thirds chance of having a damaging earthquake
in the next 30 years," Brocher said. "A big earthquake
is going to strike the Bay Area soon. It's going to be bigger
and worse than the Loma Prieta earthquake."
According to Brocher, the Federal Emergency Management Agency
predicts that, if there was a 6.9 earthquake on the Hayward Fault
- which stretches from San Pablo to Fremont - there would be about
500 deaths and 2,300 injuries.
As well, according to Brocher, the Association of Bay Area Governments
says that, in light of a major earthquake, there would be 150,000
uninhabitable buildings and at least 300,000 people without shelter
in the Bay Area. The damage caused by the earthquake would cost
a staggering $23 billion.
"The Hayward Fault has produced really big dangerous earthquakes
every 150 years. The last one was in 1868," Brocher said.
"That means we're do for another big earthquake on the fault
in the next 12 years or so."
With the overwhelming likelihood that another big quake will
hit the Bay Area sooner than later, Lt. John Quinlan, director
of the San Mateo County Office of Emergency Services and Homeland
Security, is warning residents that general preparedness will
be the best way to survive another big temblor.
"You can't prevent it. You can't detect it. You can just
prepare for it," Quinlan said. "If you're prepared for
an earthquake your prepared for anything else like a tsunami or
According to Quinlan, the nine Bay Area counties are well equipped
and prepared to deal with any natural or man-made disaster that
may come California's way.
Quinlan referred to the state's Standardized Emergency Management
System, which, in a nutshell, is a multi-level response plan that
links local and state disaster response teams in the event of
some type of disaster.
According to Tina Walker, a spokeswoman for the Governor's Office
of Emergency Services, through SEMS the state OES will offer assistance
to individual county OES teams as needed through the coordination
and deployment of statewide resources.
"Over the past centuries California has made great strides
in increasing government and private sector emergency preparedness,"
Walker said. "As we continue to work through each disaster
we learn things." It was after the Loma Prieta earthquake
that FEMA created the state's Urban Search and Rescue Response
System. These task forces are trained to rescue structural collapse
victims, Walker said.
"Every disaster is different in the nature and how it impacts
us," Walker said. "Personal preparedness is going to
be the key to survival."
According Quinlan, residents need to prepare to be on their own
for up to a week immediately following an earthquake.
"We could have 25 "ground zeros" in the Bay Area.
How many first responders are going to be there rescuing people
with broken arms or bumps on their heads," Quinlan asked.
In addition to possible injuries, state OES public information
officer Greg Renick says up to 65 percent of Bay Area residents
will be without potable water for about three days following a
major quake. He also said it could take about three days for electricity
to be restored.
"We're going to make every effort to respond as efficiently
and quickly as possible," Renick said.
Though many Web sites, including the San Francisco Office of
Emergency Services and Homeland Security's 72hours.org, are dedicated
to helping people plan ahead for any type of disaster, Quinlan
said he worries that not enough people have taken the time to
make an emergency kit.
"Before Katrina we said 10 percent of Bay Area residents
had kits," Quinlan said. "Now we'd like to think that
it's between 30 and 40 percent."
Quinlan said residents should grab a trash can and fill it with
food, water, blankets, first-aid kits, flashlights, photocopies
of medical prescriptions, spare clothing, and proof of insurance.
Families need to create reunification plans, have alternate forms
of transportation and setup emergency contact numbers outside
the immediate area.
"There's going to be a lot of anxiety, fear, frustration
and anger," Quinlan said. "We have so much potential
for so many bad things here but we're prepared."
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