Cal OES, FEMA Strengthen Bay Area Catastrophic Earthquake Preparedness

The likeliness of a catastrophic earthquake occurring in California, similar to the devastating Loma Prieta and Northridge earthquakes, in the next 30 years has increased to a 72 percent probability, per the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

Due to heightened risk, the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) jointly announced the 2016 Bay Area Earthquake Plan during a rollout event at the Alameda County Office of Emergency Services in Dublin. The plan was created to assist local governments and specifies strategies to support access to the Bay Area following a major earthquake.

The new plan is an update to the 2008 version, referred to as the San Francisco Bay Area Earthquake Readiness Response: Concept of Operations Plan. Key improvements include the provision of a multi-modal transportation concept, specifically by air, land and marine.

Read the 2008 Concept of Operations Plan here.

“Now, as far as I’m concerned, the heavy lifting begins. The real work begins,” said Cal OES Director Mark Ghilarducci after the plan was revealed. “I know it was tough putting the plan together and updating it, but the work begins now to make sure that everyone that needs to know about it knows about it and that there’s no surprises when the event happens.”

EQ Plan 3

The Bay Area Earthquake Plan is designed to mitigate the threat posed by large earthquakes in the 16 county Bay Area region, likely resulting in significant damage to transportation, water, power, fuel and other essential life sustaining systems. Analyzing the threat was based on Hayward and San Andreas Fault rupture modeling and systems analysis provided by the California Geological Survey and USGS.

Both fault lines are considered to have the highest probabilities of causing a significant seismic event in the Bay Area.

“The economic impact from a catastrophic earthquake will be profound. Profound,” Ghilarducci said. “And we cannot afford as a state, as local governments, to end up with dark communities or dead communities after one of these events.”

Updates to the new plan include:

  • Risk based vs. scenario based, looking at risk across the entire San Andreas Fault System;
  • Execution checklists have been developed to ensure critical tasks are completed within the established phases of response and recovery
  • California Emergency Functions (EFs) did not exist when the 2008 plan was developed. The EFs are now incorporated in the new plan
  • Operational activities are now organized by Presidential Policy Directive 8 (PPD 8) Core Capabilities for the Mission Areas of Response and Recovery. The 2008 plan organized operational activities according to the Target Capabilities List
  • Multi-modal Transportation Concept added (air, land and marine)
  • Fuel working group identified
  • Task forces identified, staffing and approval from EF leads (Fuel, Water, Sheltering and Feeding, Mass Care, Temporary Emergency Power, and Survivor Movement)
  • Access and Functional Needs are integrated throughout the plan
  • Long-term recovery actions are defined in the new plan

EQ Plan 4

The 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake (6.9 magnitude) caused 63 deaths, 3,757 injuries and an estimated $6 billion in property damage, according to the USGS. It was the largest earthquake to occur on the San Andreas Fault since the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

In Southern California, the 1994 Northridge earthquake (6.7 magnitude) killed 60 and injured more than 7,000. An additional 40,000 buildings were damaged in Los Angeles, Ventura, Orange and San Bernardino counties.

“These catastrophic events are not easy,” stated Ghilarducci. “They are very complicated with many, many, many cascading impacts. It will require a tremendous amount of effort on all of our part to work together, to come together, to be flexible yet utilize this plan to be able to provide that structure and guidance as we respond effectively to be able to deal with the multitude of problems that we are going to face.”

Additional Resources:

Cal OES Earthquake Program and Planning & Preparedness

Bay Area Earthquake Plan video

FEMA Region IX


Jonathan Gudel

Jonathan Gudel is a Public Information Officer for the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES). Since joining Cal OES, he has assisted in the response and recovery efforts of the Aliso Canyon Gas Leak, the state's historic drought, the Oroville Dam Emergency Spillway Incident, unprecedented winter storms in 2017, the October (Sonoma County) and December (Santa Barbara County) 2017 wildfires, and statewide wildfire siege in 2018 . Previously, he worked in the newspaper industry for 12 years.

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