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The result of the earthquake of October 17, 1989 was most evident in the Marina District in San Francisco. This was not to say that there was no other damage in the City. The most concentrated area of damage was located here and this gave us a chance to learn from first- hand experience how to operate a mass care facility and a multi-purpose staging area.

The Marina Middle School became a mass care facility because of its location in the district. Many people were homeless, all were without heat and lights, a major fire was raging in the middle of the district, and there was widespread damage. A number of homes and apartment houses had collapsed, some with occupants still inside, and other buildings were on the verge of collapse. There were a number of gas leaks, some water mains had ruptured, and a massive search and rescue effort was underway at one of the building collapse sites.

There were many volunteers on hand trying to help in the search efforts, as well as trying to help friends recover their belongings from some of the damaged buildings. Unfortunately, there were also a lot of onlookers and curiosity seekers that gave the scene a misguided festive appearance.

It was decided early on that the crowd would have to be moved out of the district altogether. This was necessary for their own safety, to possibly prevent fires, to keep the area clear for emergency crews, and to prevent looting. A perimeter was established with Police and military guards and people were not allowed in.

The Middle School soon became overrun with residents of the district. There was a large gymnasium and auditorium which soon became overcrowded. People were sleeping in the halls and in the cafeteria, water ran out, the toilets were unusable and, of course, there was no electricity. one of the reports received from the Medi-vacs [San Francisco Dept. of Public Health paramedics] on the scene was "send everything, we're bare bones". The first thing was to move in cots and blankets, then we took in water (bottled water, at that), flashlights, and some portable toilets. This made the area at least livable until morning. Ah, morning! Now we had to begin the task of trying to figure out how to assess the damage, sort out who belonged to what, and how to begin to make repairs and restore essential services.

The damage assessment was the most difficult, but because we had the process that had been developed for just such a purpose, the mechanics were easy. it was dealing with the people that was difficult. Not that they were tough to deal with, but many were faced with losing all that they owned and this was very difficult for them to accept. We established a processing center at the Middle School site, assigned people numbers, and then brought them into a processing area where each could be dealt with on an individuals basis. They were told the condition of their building, what the rules were for visiting their building, and general instructions as to how to exist for the time being. As I mentioned earlier, we even had a desk staffed by a person from Animal Control to deal with concerns about abandoned pets.

All of this was done outdoors and we were extremely lucky that there was no rain. Next time, provisions should be made for some sort of cover. Shade is also important, both for the workers and for the people being processed.

One very favorable condition at the Middle School was the presence of a group of double- wide trailers. The school administrators had planned to use them for temporary classrooms while some reconstruction work was being done in the school. They served as great office space in the weeks following the earthquake. we had signs made that identified the function of each trailer and were soon in business. Portable generators supplied power for temporary lights, and we used cellular phones and radios to communicate with the outside world.

The processing of the residents was completed in about ten days. Initially, inspectors were assigned to residents and accompanied them into the area and to their homes. People were allowed 15 minutes to enter their homes, get their valuables and come out. The inspectors were very understanding and helpful but it is hard to tell someone that time is up and they have to leave. In the case of the homes that were red-tagged, two inspectors went along on the visit. If, in their opinion, the building was safe to enter, then the resident was allowed to enter for their 15 minutes. if a building was judged unsafe, then entry was not allowed. In all cases, the decision of the inspectors was final and was very carefully thought out.

The repair and reconstruction crews were very anxious to begin work. Utility companies were making temporary fixes and wanted to get on with the permanent work. Next to the Middle School yard was a playground which they wanted to use as a "hardstand." This is a place to keep equipment and supplies. I said no. I felt that the playground would be better used by the school children as we had taken over their play yard for our staging area. Also, they and other people from the area needed a place where they could just go and sit on the grass. Furthermore, there was a paved area in the Presidio at the other end of the district that would serve better. It was more secure and it was paved. Also, it would not have to be repaired when the work was completed. The military were good neighbors and let us use the area, and I think we all came out ahead. Each of the utility companies shared in the site in the Presidio.

A more pressing issue was the demand for immediate restoration. The utilities made plans to work "round-the-clock" until they were done. I did not think that this was a good idea in spite of the dire predictions of months needed for restoration work otherwise. in my opinion, the people that were able to occupy their homes needed some peace and quiet, so I prohibited work between midnight and 6:00 a.m. In addition to the need for some quiet, I felt there would be safer work conditions if the workers were not under constant pressure. This was especially true as long as there were no street lights. It would also be safer for people walking along the Streets. In retrospect, this was a good decision as the residents who could occupy their homes were able to cook their Thanksgiving dinners at home, less than six weeks after the earthquake.

We did make some special efforts to keep non-residents out of the area, we even had tour busses that tried to bring their customers in for picture-taking. Also, we established 5 and 15 MPH limits in the whole area. We also enforced the use of standard construction traffic routing signs and barricades. After the initial security regulations were established, we were able to replace the Police and military guards with people from the Conservation Corps. The Corps is an invaluable resource, one that is dedicated to doing an exceptionally good job of whatever task they undertake.

We also had to establish standards of performance for the people that were working in the area, especially in the relief role. After the restoration work had begun, people began to get lax in their behavior and work habits. I had assigned my Assistant the chore of coordinating the recovery effort. She requested that I have a meeting with all the people assigned to the Middle School Multi-purpose Staging Area to discuss some of these concerns. We convened such a meeting and I tried to stress to the people working there that we needed to make a special effort to protect the dignity and well being of those that had suffered losses, that it would be necessary for us to be very careful of our conduct and actions. I emphasized that these were not just my wishes, but my demands, and if someone disagreed with them, they could leave the scene. After a little grumbling, no one left and the restoration work proceeded in good style. In her own area of restoration work, rules were strictly enforced. People who broke them were sent back to their normal place of work, and no amount of pleading would get them back onto the team. She soon had the team molded into a closely knit work unit that got the job done. Because of the earlier meeting, communication channels were opened and all started to work together for a common cause.

In addition, we published a weekly newsletter that was distributed to residents and work crews that kept everyone informed of the latest schedules, progress, and possible changes. These newsletters were also posted on bulletin boards that we erected at the entrances to the area. This helped to keep the rumors to a minimum.

The experience learned in the Marina emphasized the need for up-to-date information. Communication is the key to keeping control of a situation. Also, the relief workers must show genuine concern for those who have suffered losses. The best intended plans will fail without these two elements.

Finally, we finished the major recovery work. It was time to go back to normal work places and regular work. Most people are reluctant to stop such a good operation. It is natural to want to continue to operate in a situation that is comfortable and lacks the routine of everyday life. However, the return to normal must happen and it must happen before everyone becomes too entrenched where they are. It is important that one recognizes the proper time to return to normal.

The Marina was a good proving ground. We learned to communicate, use the Yellow Pages¨ (great place to find almost anything that you might need in an emergency), and work together. It would not hurt to practice setting up a multi-purpose staging and processing area again, just to see what is needed in the way of equipment (do not forget the copier), materials and supplies and those other necessities of life that we all forget until its too late.

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