In looking back over the events that followed the earthquake of October 17, 1989, I have been trying to sort out those things which worked out well and those that did not.
of the good results included the following: quick response by our employees
to return to work, both in the first hours and then continuing on through
the night and into the next days, the really good cooperation between personnel
of different Departments, the positive way that very different parts of
the Department worked together, the "can-
The building condition assessment program, while very new, was a most valuable tool in determining, and then making known, the condition of each building surveyed. Of course, the declaration of emergency gave us very definite authority to act as necessary to meet conditions. What power!
Finally, I think that the general population saw a very different "Civil Servant" than they were used to seeing. Many times after the earthquake, Mayor Agnos commented in public forums on the exemplary performance of the employees of the City of San Francisco.
This is not to say that there weren't some things that did not pass muster. The City's emergency operations center is a very poor facility. Crowded, noisy, poorly ventilated, and almost totally unable to meet the demands placed on it, we survived, but barely. We, unfortunately, lost contact with the media. Some of the radio transmission towers were out of service and many members of the press corps were at Candlestick for the World Series, so they just were not available. Then, when they were, the EOC did not have a way to handle them inside the building.
This resulted in poor press contacts and cooperation. Several times I tried to get radio time to call employees back to work but could not because there was no chance to get on the radio. Thank the Lord, they came back on their own.
sporadic operation of the telephones was very frustrating. This was often
complicated by the loss of power or the lack of back-
When the next "big one" occurs, there are some things that we did that I hope we do not do again. These include setting up a mass care facility without immediately arranging for temporary lighting, water, and portable toilets. If the mass care facility is outdoors, you need to remember chairs and some means of providing shade, if at all possible, in addition to the above. This assumes that cots and blankets are available.
way we reported requests for service, and kept track of these requests,
was most unsatisfactory. Too often there was no follow-
Also, as I reported earlier, we did not keep track of events. functions of employees of the Department of City Planning is to keep track of a status or situation board. They were not in the EOC. So it did not happen. Even so, it should have. It does not take a lot to do this work, someone should have done it. Next time ...
Early on, we did not make use of the Purchaser to help in getting supplies, especially for the mass care facilities. I remember trying to get flashlight batteries. One of the suppliers offered to give us whatever we needed. Unfortunately, they were in Emeryville and the Bay Bridge was closed due to the collapse of a portion of both the upper and lower decks. This last points up a need to keep a good inventory of supplies and a rotation of stock to insure freshness.
A Department Head must schedule regular briefing meetings, and stick to the schedule, so that information is shared. This helps to squelch rumors, surface problems, and develop solutions. Remember, the Department Head will be required to attend other briefings, so the key to keeping to a regular schedule is to plan for times when other meetings would not normally be held.
very important factor is to begin scheduling employees' shift hours as
soon as possible. This will help avoid burn-
I think that when the final grades for the Departmental performance are handed out, they will be very high. However, this should not be misleading. We were lucky! If the earthquake had been more severe, we might not have done so well. I should likely to think so, however.
Maybe the final grades will be held up until we know how we made out with FEMA. The all important records that we all tried to keep and that plagued us all may be, hell, will be what we are really graded on.
matter what the outcome, the men and women of the Department of Public
Works performed above and beyond the call of duty. it is with a great deal
of pride that, I work with them and dedicate this journal to them.