San Francisco's Department of Emergency Management tested its ability to shelter and care for residents on Thursday during a simulation exercise.
VIDEO: Bay Area's most dangerous fault is a 'tectonic time bomb'
The reality is that for the first four days following a major earthquake, San Franciscans would have to fend for themselves before any outside help would arrive.
The disaster response exercise was performed at St. Mary's Cathedral, one of 100 locations that would be activated in an emergency.
"The point is to find gaps in our plans and to feel confident that we can activate this as quickly as possible after an emergency," explained Mary Ellen Carroll, Executive Director of Emergency Management.
Other shelters would include churches, schools, and community centers -- enough places to take care of 60,000 people throughout the city.
VIDEO: What to pack in your earthquake emergency kit
Volunteers like Emilie Mactane, a San Francisco resident who uses a wheelchair, participated in the simulation.
"People with special needs are still going to be here after a disaster and I want to make sure the shelter volunteers know that we're going to have these extra needs and to make sure those needs are met," said Mactane.
All temporary shelters would have staff, medical supplies and generators. This would keep people with non-emergencies from crowding local hospitals.
"And that's one of the great things about these shelters, that we can get medical equipment and supplies in that if they are dependent on electricity to get the medical care they need, we can do that in the shelter itself," said Dr. Naveena Bobba, Deputy Director of Health for the city and county of San Francisco.
Food and water will also be available as well as translators for those who aren't fluent in English.
Most of the people helping in these shelters will be city workers who have already taken an oath to become service workers during a large-scale emergency.
Get the latest stories and videos about earthquakes here.