S.F. releases new quake plan

Officials say 7.9 temblor would cause 1,400 deaths, destroy 45,000 buildings

The City’s emergency planners presented an updated earthquake response plan Wednesday that officials say builds on lessons learned from other devastating temblors, including Loma Prieta.

The earthquake plan supplements The City’s general “all hazards” emergency operations plan, according to Laura Phillips, executive director of San Francisco’s Emergency Communications Department, which oversees all public safety efforts in the event of an emergency.

The City’s emergency planning efforts have been bolstered in recent years by federal Homeland Security dollars that have flowed to states and cities nationwide in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. A year inthe works, the new plan is the first update to The City’s earthquake plan in a decade.

“I think we just wanted to have a good product,” said Phillips, who was hired in May to head the department. “This [an earthquake] is the most real threat to San Francisco. We wanted to make sure we got all of the current information to provide the best response.”

The 100-plus-page earthquake plan prepares for the worst — a 7.9-magnitude earthquake along the San Andreas fault, similar to the one that ravaged San Francisco in 1906. According to city emergency officials, such an earthquake would destroy or heavily damage 45,000 buildings, cause 1,400 deaths and 22,000 injuries, and leave more than 50,000 people without shelter.

The updated report includes a summary of response strategies that outlines key assumptions, limitations and strategies for the range of emergency needs The City will face in the event of such a catastrophe.

Staging areas would be set up for emergency supplies and equipment at AT&T Park, Candlestick Park, Pier 48 and Crissy Field, among other large open spaces, according to the plan. Hospital space would be limited in the event of a catastrophe, due to structural damage, as well as the availability of medical transport vehicles, so plans to establish “casualty collection points for on-scene treatment” are outlined for areas where there are mass concentrations of injured.

Potential shelter sites for up to 50,000 people have already been determined and will open adjacent to heavily damaged areas. Prepackaged meals will be provided during the first few days after an earthquake. The San Francisco Sheriff’s Department staff of 850 officers will provide facility security.

Water service could take two to three months to be fully restored, according to the emergency plan. A system is already in place to provide access to potable water through special fire hydrants placed throughout the system. Four 5,000-gallon water tanker trucks and 12 2,000-gallon water storage bladders will also support water distribution throughout The City.

Mayor Gavin Newsom, who called The City’s updated earthquake plan “one of the most comprehensive plans that exist in the United States,” said that in light of the earthquake in Hawaii and the 17th anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake this week, there was no better time for a reminder of the importance of disaster preparedness.

beslinger@examiner.comBay Area NewsLocal

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