By Steve Mahaley
Despite the challenges we faced, many of us breathed a
little easier after the Loma Prieta Earthquake on October 17, 1989. The
big earthquake that everyone talked about for decades had happened. But
don’t be deceived. Loma Prieta was not the big one. It was nowhere near
the size of the 1906 earthquake.
The inevitability of an earthquake still confronts
everyone in the Bay Area. A new study released in May 2003 by the US
Geological Survey (USGS) estimates a 62 percent chance of a magnitude 6.7
or greater quake occurring in the Bay Area sometime during the next 30
years. The Peninsula Section of the San Andreas Fault has a 21 percent
Before an Earthquake
Be prepared to be self-sufficient for up to 72 hours after
an earthquake, since that’s how long it can take for emergency response
agencies to set up recovery centers. Have one gallon of water per day per
family member. Keep non-perishable food products on hand. Maintain
flashlights and an AM radio with extra batteries. Know where the utility
shut-offs are for your home. Even if your home survives an earthquake, a
gas leak can still destroy it. Know that fire and police departments will
be overwhelmed and will only respond to the most significant incidents.
After Loma Prieta, the Palo Alto Fire Department had some 300 calls backed
up at the 911 dispatch center.
During an Earthquake
Take cover under a desk or table. Avoid windows. Do not
rush for the door. Falling debris will be evident. Wait until the shaking
stops and then find the nearest exit.
After an Earthquake
Provide first aid to those in need and check buildings for
damage. Turn off utilities if they are damaged. Be prepared for
aftershocks. Listen to the radio for instructions. Check for gas leaks and
downed power lines and warn others to stay away.
Most communities in the Bay Area offer community Emergency
Response Team training. Contact your local fire or police department for
details and for class schedules in your area. SLAC has a volunteer
emergency response team which has a seven-session course and holds
To find out more about earthquakes, visit the USGS
Earthquake Hazards Program:
For more information, contact Steve Mahaley (ESH), the
SLAC Emergency Management Coordinator (Ext. 2095, email@example.com).