Disaster Planning

Our goal: Make our cities resilient in a major earthquake.


Article Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Housing is only one element in the complex web of factors that contribute to the city’s earthquake resilience, but we believe it is an especially important one. This article, based on our report Safe Enough to Stay, asks: What needs to be done to enable residents to shelter in place for days and months after a large earthquake?

Blog Monday, October 24, 2011

Many of us in the Bay Area felt a series of sharp tremors on October 20 and 21 — coincidentally the same day that Christian radio broadcaster Harold Camping predicted would bring the Apocalypse. It might not be time for the Rapture just yet, but we do know the Big One is coming, and we want our buildings to be prepared. Fortunately, Mayor Ed Lee has released the first draft of San Francisco's Earthquake Safety Implementation Program.

Blog Thursday, June 16, 2011

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? The Association of Bay Area Governments considered these questions at its forum “Shaken Awake: Creative Ways to Strengthen Housing and Promote Resilience in Today’s Economy.”

SPUR Report Tuesday, July 6, 2010 After a major disaster, our transportation infrastructure could be severely damaged. How are we going to get around in the weeks and months after an earthquake, if one or more of our regional transportation links fails? Who should lead the recovery effort? And what can we do now to make our roads, bridges and tunnels more resilient?
Article Tuesday, July 6, 2010 After a major disaster, our transportation infrastructure could be severely damaged. How are we going to get around in the weeks and months after an earthquake if one or more of our regional transportation links fail? Who should lead the recover effort? And what can we do now to make our roads, bridges and tunnels more resilient?


Our Priorities for Disaster Planning


When we select engineering standards for buildings and lifelines, we are really choosing how many deaths, how many building demolitions, and how long a recovery time we have for various levels of earthquakes. SPUR believes that San Francisco must adopt clear performance objectives for determining how our buildings should perform, with an eye towards facilitating a rapid and effective recovery after a major earthquake.


There are many things we could be doing right now to improve the safety and performance of San Francisco's existing buildings, new buildings (i.e. those yet to be built) and lifelines. In a February 2009 report, SPUR recommended policy steps including retrofitting the most vulnerable structures, upgrading our building code to ensure new buildings are built better, and forming a lifelines council to help coordinate upgrades to our critical utility systems.


When disaster strikes, San Franciscans must be prepared. We need to be ready to care for family members, assist our neighbors and work effectively in teams and alongside first responders and other emergency workers. We will need adequate stores of water, food and supplies to support a citywide response. Comprehensive public disaster education and neighborhood-based training and resource coordination are necessary for engaging all residents of the city in an ongoing preparedness effort.


San Francisco needs to be thinking not just about the days and weeks following a disaster, but the months and years it will take to rebuild our city and our region. This means developing plans for how to access and make the best possible use of recovery funding. When the Big One strikes, we should be prepared to rebuild San Francisco rapidly and in accordance with our best-laid plans to help make our city stronger and more resilient.

Disaster Planning Projects


Which existing buildings must be retrofitted and to what standard of performance? How do we encourage better performance from our new buildings? How do we shore up our vital services and infrastructure so that our buildings are serviceable after an earthquake? SPUR has established a "Before the Disaster" task force to focus on what we should do now—before a major earthquake—to make sure we can recover quickly. We published our findings and recommendations in a series of policy papers.


When a disaster strikes, are we positioned to rebuild our city even better than before? What plans and systems of governance must be in place for San Francisco to be effectively positioned to rebuild? What lessons are to be learned from the recent recovery experiences in New Orleans, lower Manahattan and beyond? These are some of the questions SPUR will address in a forthcoming series of four major policy papers on disaster recovery as it relates to transportation, housing, planning and governance.


This effort focuses on planning for the days and weeks following a major earthquake by creating a culture of preparedness. The first step toward creating a culture of preparedness is individual awareness and self-reliance. The second step is community awareness, cooperation, planning and preparedness. SPUR has recommended several steps towards creating a culture of preparedness, including strengthening the City's Neighborhood Emergency Response Team (NERT) program, establishing community disaster response hubs and improving public information in San Francisco's neighborhoods.


The Community Action Plan for Seismic Safety (CAPSS), a project of the Department of Building Inspection, seeks to develop programs for privately owned buildings that help reduce earthquake risk. In February of 2009, CAPSS project delivered a major report detailing recommendations for the upgrade of multiunit, wood-frame, soft story buildings. SPUR is pleased to be a participant in CAPSS and looks forward to working to help CAPSS continue its important work.

Disaster Planning Updates

To get updates on SPUR's disaster planning policy efforts contact SPUR Deputy Director Sarah Karlinsky at skarlinsky@spur.org.