Editorial: Mixed grades for disaster readiness

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom recently toured the Washington, D.C., high-tech emergency command center and gave mixed grades to The City’s own preparedness in comparison.

With the solid financial backing of federal Homeland Security dollars, officials in the nation’s capital have been highly active in preparing scenarios for coping with the possibility of biological or bomb attacks by terrorists. They are arranging for Washington’s plethora of public buildings, such as the Smithsonian Institution, to shelter tourists after an attack and organizing downtown hotels as shelters and first-aid facilities.

Where terrorist attacks are the primary concern in Washington, San Francisco and the Bay Area must also worry about living atop a minefield of earthquake faults every day, as well as considering the real possibility that terrorists, particularly those based in Pacific nations, might attempt to destroy landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge or the Transamerica Building.

Yet the difficulties of preparing for earthquakes and terrorism are quite similar. Both disasters are most likely to happen without warning and could force residents to survive primarily on their own resources for the first three days.

Washington has distributed thousands of basic emergency kits with water containers, military-type food rations and flashlights. San Francisco simply has a Web site — www.72hours.org — offering tips on surviving three days without electricity, water or gas.

However, Washington officials lauded San Francisco’s citywide network of 65 emergency sirens, which are also capable of broadcasting emergency news announcements. Earthquake-prone San Francisco also has almost four times as many trained emergency responders as Washington, with 15,000.

Mayor Newsom was right to recognize that Washington’s preparedness is ahead of San Francisco’s in some important ways. With the certainty that a major earthquake could devastate the Bay Area on any given day, it would be foolhardy for the region not to organize as efficiently as possible to survive a disaster.

editorialsOpinion

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted changes to The City's streets including Slow Streets closures to increase open space access and the Shared Spaces program, which allows businesses to use public right-of-ways for dining, retail and services. (Examiner illustration)
COVID is reshaping the streets of San Francisco

Walk down Page Street, which is closed to thru-traffic, and you might… Continue reading

Superintendent Vincent Matthews said some students and families who want to return will not be able to do so at this time. “We truly wish we could reopen schools for everyone,” he said. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SFUSD sets April reopening date after reaching tentative agreement with teachers union

San Francisco Unified School District has set April 12 as its reopening… Continue reading

José Victor Luna and Maria Anabella Ochoa, who cite health reasons for continuing distance learning, say they have been enjoying walking in Golden Gate Park with their daughters Jazmin, a first grader, and Jessica, a third grader. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Some SFUSD families prefer distance learning

Health issues, classroom uncertainties among reasons for staying home

Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed legislation intended to help California schools reopen. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Newsom signs $6.6 billion school reopening legislative package

By Eli Walsh Bay City News Foundation Gov. Gavin Newsom and state… Continue reading

Most Read