Museum of the City of San Francisco



By Subject

By Year


The Gift Shop


Media arrangements during the early hours of the earthquake were very poor because the space in the E.O.C was extremely limited. There was no room inside for members of the press. They were kept outdoors, and until portable lights were set up, they were really kept in the dark. We were really fortunate that the weather was mild and that there was no rain until late in the week.

A number of things could have been done that would have helped. Some of them include the following: a pool press representative (this person is normally selected by a consensus vote of the press representatives present); situation boards manned constantly and updated with the latest news on a regular basis; prepared press releases with the latest information (these need the use of a copier which may not be available for a number of reasons) and, finally, a public information person that would read the latest information to those present.

Situation boards are very valuable because they are useful inside the E.O.C., as well as for the press. They present a running tabulation of what is happening and serve as a constant reminder of follow-up actions that are needed. The same information is made available to situation commanders and the press, as well as other concerned people, including political leaders and the general public. Importantly, one must remember that whatever is shown is public information, so if anything is needed to be kept confidential, it should not be entered onto the Board.

One problem that compounded the issue during the October earthquake was the fact that there was an extremely large number of press present because of the World Series. This meant that there were many more looking for news than ever and that they were frustrated because they did not know their way around, especially in the dark. This large number of press included many from foreign countries. This brings up an additional point in that translators May be necessary to cope with the foreign press, as well as local citizens to whom English may be a distant Second language.

It is also necessary to get the latest news into the E.O.C. This means that provision must be made for T.V. sets with good reception in the Center.

The situation boards that are mentioned above are merely tablets of paper on easels that are filled in with grease pencils. As a sheet is filled in, it is removed and taped to the wall for both a source of information and a reminder of follow-up work that remains to be done. Entries should be numbered and annotated with the time, if possible, to aid in keeping track of events and to avoid double entries. These sheets also provide a history of action taken as we move through the response period. In actuality, this is the most reliable system that there is to trade actions and reactions.

After the situation is under control, members of the Press are not going to be content with staying in just one place. They are going to want to visit the scene of action. They are entitled to do so, as long as a visit can be made safely and will not interfere with the activities of emergency crews. Actually, the scene commander could probably do a lot worse than to provide a briefing area at the scene and to arrange for carefully guided tours of the situation.

If necessary, the scene commander should be able to provide protective gear (hard hats, etc.), flashlights, and a description of what is taking place. Such action might be enough to keep the press from going places that might be dangerous or where they might be in the way.

One needs to remember that the best answer to questions from the press are clear and concise. Do not guess at answers that you do not have and try to be as accurate as possible. If you do not know, say so, then try to find out. More importantly, a designated spokesperson should be established and kept informed. This takes the heat off those that are trying to deal with the situation. But if there is no one to answer questions, do your best. Do not try to hide because they will become more persistent and probably more difficult to deal with. Do not forget, they have a job to do also.

Continue to Memories or
Return to 1989 Earthquake Exhibit.