Will Bay Area Cities Survive the Next Big Disaster?

By Sarah Karlinsky
June 16, 2011

1906 earthquake image courtesy Flickr user km6xo

What happens the next time we have a major earthquake on the Hayward or San Andreas Fault? What should we be doing right now to make sure we are prepared? On Monday, I spoke at a forum hosted by the Association of Bay Area Governments, “Shaken Awake: Creative Ways to Strengthen Housing and Promote Resilience in Today’s Economy.”

Our session focused on the topic of long-term recovery, the months and years it will take to rebuild our city and our region after a major event. SPUR posits that there are three core functions of government during recovery:

1. Repairing public facilities and services (the assets that government owns/controls)

2. Providing resources and information for private sector actors to repair and rebuild their affected assets

3. Providing vision and leadership for the recovery and rebuilding process.

We sought to determine which of these local governments are most prepared to tackle and which are they least prepared to tackle? As panelist Charles Eadie pointed out, during the recovery phase, there is enormous pressure to rebuild quickly, so planning often happens after the fact, a process he described as “ready, fire, aim.”

The truth is that after the disaster, we will face enormous challenges exacerbated by time compression: the pressure to rebuild our cities quickly while also taking the time to make thoughtful land-use decisions. SPUR is in the process of developing recommendations to help facilitate rapid and thoughtful recovery in the post-disaster period.

Read more about SPUR’s work on disaster recovery >>