Lessons learned from Loma Prieta earthquake

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Looking back 25 years ago, there were many great lessons learned out of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and residents have prepared.

This coming Friday is the 25th anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake. It killed 63 people and did $10 billion in damage. It was the deadliest and most destructive earthquake to hit the San Francisco Bay Area since 1906.

All this week, ABC7 News will be looking back at what happened, what we learned and how to get ready for the next big one. We took a look at the San Francisco neighborhood that was one of the hardest hit that produced some of the most important lessons.

When the 6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake hit heroic firefighters and police responded all over the Bay Area. The impact was so serious and widespread, many ordinary citizens also jumped in to help.

In San Francisco's Marina District 200 buildings were damaged or destroyed. Volunteers manned fire hoses and searched for victims.

An elderly woman said there were "people we never knew and they never knew us, but they carried us in their arms down the stairs."

Even people whose homes were spared faced big problems.

Twenty-five years later, Marina resident Gail Goldyne remembers the smell of gas everywhere and feeling totally helpless. Goldyne told ABC7 News, "I didn't know anything. I didn't know you don't turn on the flashlight because just the turning of a flashlight on could make a spark and create a fire."

Goldyne and other Marina residents determined they would be ready for the next big quake. They went to the San Francisco Fire Department for help. Goldyne explains, "We said 'Please, please train us as civilians so that we know what to do next time before help can arrive.'"

That was the start of San Francisco's Neighborhood Emergency Response Team, now known as NERT. Goldyne and her husband were in the first class of what has become a model program.

Anne Kronenberg from the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management said, "Those folks who go through NERT know exactly what to do, not only to take care of themselves, but also their immediate neighborhood."

NERT has now trained an incredible 24,000 people.

Another legacy of Loma Prieta is San Francisco's fire boat system, which had almost been eliminated. The earthquake hit it knocked out water lines in the Marina, so volunteers helped run hoses from a fire boat that pumped water out of San Francisco bay. A portable hydrant system connected the hoses and kept water pressure high.

"The fireboat, which nobody thought that it had any value, became the most important thing to save the Marina in 1989," Goldyne said.

San Francisco is now building a third more modern fire boat, but still needs funding for more portable hydrants. Goldyne says residents need to keep pushing to make sure the Bay Area is prepared for future disasters. She's been working for 10 years to get a monument built in the Marina as a reminder of what community spirit can accomplish.

"To remember this earthquake, to teach the public about earthquake preparedness and to honor the fire department and the NERT program," Goldyne said.

There is a lot to be proud of, but there's still a lot of work to be done. Coming up this Friday, I am hosting a half hour special on the 25th anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake. That's at 6:30 p.m. during the second half of our 6 p.m. news. I hope you'll join me to learn more about the incredible resilience of the Bay Area.

ABC7 Presents 15 Seconds; 25 Years Later: The Loma Prieta Earthquake

RAW VIDEO: ABC7 News coverage from 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake

For more information about the NERT program, click here.
Twitter: @SFFDNERT
Facebook: San Francisco Fire Department Neighborhood Emergency Response Team (NERT)

To find a Community Emergency Response Team, or CERT, program in your area click here.

San Francisco Department of Emergency Management
Twitter: @SF_emergency
Facebook: SFDEM
Related Topics:
earthquakedisasterrescuesearch and rescuenorthern californiaprepare norcalfiremarina districtneighbormedical emergencySFFDSan Francisco
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