How the pandemic might help San Francisco respond to the next big earthquake

Source(s): SFGate, San Francisco Chronicle, Hearst Communications Inc.
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By J.D. Morris

The pandemic has put San Francisco in the throes of a slow-moving disaster for more than a year now. And it’s given the city an unexpected chance to prepare for another kind of catastrophe: the Big One.

Exactly 115 years after one of the most devastating events in California history, the great 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire, city leaders say their emergency response to COVID-19 has taught them lessons they can apply when the next major temblor strikes.

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But the pandemic, which has claimed the lives of more than 500 San Franciscans and infected 35,000 more, has tested the city’s disaster response apparatus in unprecedented ways, forcing it into a constant state of emergency management. Some city workers have been redirected from their usual jobs into pandemic-related duties for more than a year.

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At the state level, emergency managers last year received a crash course in responding to not one but several disasters overlapping simultaneously. As the virus spread widely and rapidly, wildfires also raged out of control, burning a record 4.2 million acres.

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The city is also protecting critical portions of its water system from failing in a major earthquake. This summer, workers will install new pipes with flexible joints at the College Hill Reservoir in Bernal Heights, which supplies water to San Francisco General Hospital.

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