OT? Or Y2K Lesson? Public Unprepared For Another Quake (San Francisco Examiner)

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Oct. 17th is the 10-year anniversary for last Bay Area semi-big one. Likely that preparedness will be a "hot" media topic this coming weekend.


Public unprepared for another quake
By Anastasia Hendrix
Tuesday, October 12, 1999
)1999 San Francisco Examiner


[Fair Use: For Educational/Research Purposes Only]

It seems that when it comes to earthquakes, even those who can remember the past are destined to repeat it.

After the Loma Prieta quake nearly a decade ago, thousands of Bay Area residents solemnly vowed never to be caught unprepared again. Cans of corned beef hash were stashed, drinking water was readied, batteries were bought.

But as the years have passed, so too has the collective vigilence, leaving too many people vulnerable when -- not if -- the Big One comes.

"People go out and get their family ready, then tomorrow it's back to real life, and they forget things are there, or need to be rotated, or expire, that's just human nature," said Lucien Canton, head of the San Francisco Office of Emergency Services.

Others just aren't concerned or believe that the government and other agencies will provide for them.

"It's always a constant struggle to overcome apathy and this attitude that, "Well, the government will take care of me,'." Canton said. "I think people have a lot of misconceptions about plans they think we've got."

A 3-inch thick binder details protocols and procedures if there were a crisis in The City, he said, but it could take a while before agencies can reach everyone who needs help.

Despite constant pleading with the public to boost individual preparedness, most have done little or nothing to make their surroundings safer.

Richard Ferrante, for example, remembers the 1989 Loma Prieta quake when the room twisted, the walls bulged, and glass popped out of the windows as he escaped his Marina District apartment.

He still lives in the Marina (in a different location) and has yet to buy any supplies or quake-proof his home.

"I didn't do anything except forget about it," said the 58-year-old advertising sales manager. "I'm one of those people who say, "Que sera1/2,' you know?"

A flashlight in the fridge

He does, however, keep a flashlight in the fridge -- because someone told him the batteries will last longer that way -- and keeps a pair of shoes and pants handy after going to bed.

As for more serious preparations, Ferrante laughed and said in a self-mocking tone: "I'm ineducable."

He pointed out that rents in the Marina were sky-high and said he just couldn't relate to people who went to enormous expense and effort to horde survival gear.

"People who are so profoundly affected by something that is a force of nature ought to leave," he said.

Most people stayed, but not much is left of the niche industry that boomed after Loma Prieta.

Stores filled with merchandise specifically for earthquake preparedness have gone out of business in San Francisco, Emeryville, Redwood City and Albany. After the Emeryville store closed in April, two employees worked through the summer and reopened it a month ago out of a sense of civic duty.

They admit business is a struggle on days when not a single customer crosses the threshold. A quarterly newsletter dedicated to the topic, The Seismic Guardian, also folded years ago because of lagging readership. Even the Bay Area Regional Earthquake Preparedness Project was reclassified as a more humble "earthquake program" that is part of the governor's Office of Emergency Services.

Y2K on the mind

It's Y2K that's on more people's minds lately, with some scurrying to buy champagne or caviar for their New Year's Eve parties instead of decidedly less glamorous basics like heating packs and light sticks. Others are hunkering down with enough supplies to live independently for months.

"It's kind of strange that people all of a sudden think Y2K will roll around, and the world is going to end, but that the possibility of major quake is so much less," mused Stan Deorian, co-owner of the newly opened Earthquake Store in Emeryville. "But hey, I tell them, "If you're prepared for Y2K and nothing happens, then you've got your earthquake supplies, and they say, "Oh, yeah.'."

The fear that computer glitches will cause massive power failures and electronic problems for days has meant more people are giving survivalism more serious consideration. And with mounting publicity commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Loma Prieta quake, and the other massive disasters around the world, Deorian said it seemed interest might be starting to swell -- and perhaps even preparedness.

"More people are worried about Y2K because it might hit them in the wallet. It's the money that's making them think about preparing," said Joan Lombardo, president of the Lyford Cove Old Town Homeowners Association in Tiburon. "But that's a date certain, so people can relate to it more than an abstract disaster."

Lombardo was living on the bottom floor of a three-story building in the Marina District when the 1989 quake hit. Doors were jammed shut, and the panic was almost overwhelming.

"It was a real eye-opener -- I've never experienced anything so dramatic," she said on a recent afternoon while stocking up on silver emergency blankets, water packets and whistles at the Earthquake Supply Center in San Rafael, one of the few stores that has managed to stay open.

Renewing supplies

Lombardo has shopped at the store three times in the past few years to renew her supplies. "This is just something I do now so that when the time comes, and they say it will within the next 20 years, that I at least have some material sustenance that we can use or give to friends and others in need," she said.

Marty Barclay, president of the Bateman neighborhood association in Berkeley, said she'd squeezed in a stop at the store to buy food substitute bars, fasteners for her computer and bookshelves while there on other business. She'd been meaning to get supplies for months, she admitted, before actually getting there. And before she'd left, she spent more than $200 on gadgets and gizmos, even a "Luggable Loo" brand portable toilet.

"I think we do a little bit of the ostrich thing when it comes to this," she said. "It's very hard to face the fact that this could happen when we're all busy doing other things."

The most accurate and official gauge of public preparedness will come Thursday when the Association of Bay Area Governments releases the results of a two-year study in 17 Bay Area communities.

Most of the statistics involve how many people are retrofitting their homes, and why the others haven't. But even their researchers had to give up on trying to discover who had food and water on hand because there was no reliable way to measure that.

Based on previous attempts to quantify levels of preparedness, the news Thursday isn't likely to be good.

For example, a small and admittedly unscientific survey conducted by the San Francisco Office of Emergency Services last month showed that businesses appeared to be more prepared than the general population.

Residents are unprepared

Questionnaires were sent randomly to 100 residents and businesses. Of 25 business that responded, 15 said they had taken some steps to prepare for an earthquake or other disasters. Just seven of the 21 responding residents said they had done the same.

In another example, a doctoral candidate at UC-Berkeley conducted research in 1996 that found one in four houses in the Bay Area were bolted to foundations, one in five had interior hazards secured, and only half had their water heaters properly strapped.

But in some instances, enormous strides have been made. The San Francisco Unified School District has stationed footlockers full of emergency equipment at each school, formed a response team and outfitted its members with cell phones and pagers. The district also has created an 80-page emergency plan so that everyone who reads it will know what to do.

More people may start educating themselves in light of recent worldwide disasters, Y2K worries, memories of the massive power failure that brought The City to a standstill last year and the Loma Prieta anniversary.

In recent weeks, the Office of Emergency Services has been "besieged" with calls for informational pamphlets and presentation requests. After sagging for years, enrollment is beginning to pick up for the Neighborhood Emergency Response Training held at San Francisco fire stations.

And business is better again at stores like the Earthquake Center in San Rafael, especially after the recent Bolinas quake, said co-owner Mona Skyler, who said preparedness had become a passion for her. "Planning is so important because most of us, hopefully, won't die in a quake, it's just a matter of the level of comfort or discomfort you want to deal with," she said. "I'm a Marin person, and I'm not into discomfort, but some people keep shining (getting prepared) off. It's beyond stupidity to be in a state of denial."

-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), October 12, 1999


Wow. You'd think the rattle of an earthquake would be enough to knock reality into heads. Did for us.

NERT/CERT/NET training is excellent.

-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (allaha@earthlink.net), October 12, 1999.

Another date... Ashton & Leska?



Published Friday, October 8, 1999, in the San Jose Mercury News


`Big One': corporate disaster planning


JEANNE Perkins, earthquake program manager for the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), says there was a joke making the rounds in the earthquake professionals' community after the Kobe, Japan, and Northridge (Los Angeles) earthquakes.

``Both the Northridge and Kobe earthquakes were Jan. 17, and the Loma Prieta quake was in October, but on the 17th. The Turkey earthquake was Aug. 17.

``So when people say, `When is the next one?' our people would say, `We don't know what year, but it will be on the 17th.' ''

[snip--to end]

-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), October 12, 1999.

Memory fuzzy, but it seems, the last huge EQ to hit Cascadia was January 17, 1700, @ 9/p. They know because of tsunami records in Japan, native legends, subduction strata on PNW coast. That was the date we always saw, but have seen one other take on it. Not *this* January 17 please!

Thanks for posting these interesting facts, Diane.

-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (allaha@earthlink.net), October 12, 1999.

Just in case your interested,there's a movie on November the 14th called After Shock (on NBC).I plan on watching it.

-- Maggie (aaa@aaa.com), October 12, 1999.

Looks like this will be a big weekend for "earthquake" revisited newz. The local town weekly paper even had a front page story.

Thanks for the heads up Maggie. When we get closer, hope you can post a reminder. I'd like to see that. (I missed the Loma Prieta quake, in England at the time, but certainly "caught it" in the Northridge quake. Quite an experience!)

I'm "curious" to see if the articles will mention Y2K. Kind'a think so.


-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), October 13, 1999.


If I remember,I'll post a reminder.Diane we had to live fairly close to one another in 1/17/94,because I lived in Simi Valley,Calif. when the Northridge EQ happened.I am a native Californian.Lived in the Bay area for many years also.

-- Maggie (aaa@aaa.com), October 13, 1999.

Apathy is no better out in these parts of the country. Officials have been trying to raise awareness and preparation if the New Madrid Fault goes snap like it did in 1811 (largest Earthquake in Continental U.S. - rang bells in Boston and made the Mississippi run backwards while creating Reelfoot Lake in Tennessee)...all to deaf ears. U.S. Geo survey folks said we are overdue for some stress relief on the fault here. No one believes them.

Figures. No one believes Y2K is going to be a problem either.

I guess all this wealth and relative prosperity has made Americans stupid as well as arrogant.

"It can't happen here".

Yeah, they thought that way in Rome too. What idiots we've turned into.

-- INVAR (gundark@sw.net), October 13, 1999.

Invar,When I moved to Missouri,I had an EQ insurance put on my house.Better safe then sorry.

-- Maggie (aaa@aaa.com), October 13, 1999.

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