Waiting for the next big quake

September 23, 2008 7:17:12 PM PDT
When the next big quake hits, state and federal emergency officials intend to be ready. They've put together a master plan to get disaster aid into the Bay Area.

It's 1906 all over again. Only this time, when the huge quake hits, there will be many more buildings and people in the way.

"We are re-running the 1906 earthquake in modern times in the Bay Area," Says Jeff Lusk, earthquake expert.

A team of planners from the California Office of Emergency Services and FEMA studied the 1906 quake so they could coordinate their efforts when a big one strikes again.

The modern scenario: A 7.7 to 7.9 quake on the San Andreas Fault at 2:00 pm, when buildings in the Bay Area would likely be full of people.

The projected casualties: 3,300 fatalities, more than 12,000 serious injuries and 1,700 trapped.

The projected damage: 300 miles of roads closed, 600 bridges collapsed and 115,000 homes destroyed.

"Instantly, 300,000 people would need shelter in the Bay Area," says Robert Fenton, FEMA disaster planner.

There could be 500 fires burning at once, but unlike the federal response to Hurricane Katrina, where tens of thousands of people were left stranded for days, this time, FEMA plans to bring in massive resources, almost immediately.

"California has eight urban search and rescue teams. FEMA has 28 nationally. Within 12 hours, we would be able to mobilize and deliver the first resources in terms of search and rescue," says Robert Fenton, FEMA disaster planner.

FEMA also plans to quickly deliver medical supplies, food and water and tons of equipment to repair roads and bridges.

For instance, if a section of the Bay Bridge collapsed like it did during Loma Prieta, the plan calls for a sea bridge from San Diego to be dispatched here in a matter of hours, not days.

"If anything, this shows we have been learning from the Katrina lessons," says Henry Renteria, CA Office of Emergency Services.

Of course, when it comes to disaster planning, the difference between a hurricane and a big earthquake is that you can't see it coming.


Load Comments