The City and County of San Francisco experienced a 7.1 earthquake on October 17, 1989 at 5:04 p.m. The following report provides an assessment of earthquake damage and costs sustained by programs in the San Francisco department of Public Health (DPH). San Francisco hospitals reported 699 casualties; 120 of these required admission. It is estimated that there were 16 earthquake-related deaths. Capital costs from damage to DPH facilities has been projected to exceed 9 million dollars. An additional 1.7 million dollars has been incurred in operating costs.
The report describes the rapid and effective response by each Division of the Department of Public Health during the emergency period immediately following the earthquake. This coordinated response facilitated a quick recovery and return to normal Department operations within 2 days.
Program managers were asked to submit recommendations on how to improve the emergency response system in the event of a larger disaster.
from each section of the report follow.
The Director of Health, the Associate Director, and the Chief Paramedic responded immediately to the earthquake by reporting to the City's Emergency Operations Center. This team worked through the evening with the Mayor's Office and other department's assessing damages and needs and directing emergency medical operations. The Deputy Director of Operations remained at 101 Grove Street to oversee evacuation activities, damage assessment and the response to community problems. The next day a DPH Command Center was established at Laguna Honda Hospital to further coordinate damage assessment and implement response plans until normal activity could be resumed at 101 Grove Street.
two hours of the earthquake the number of ambulances on the streets increased
from 10 to 30. 186 ambulance dispatches occurred between 5:04 p.m on October
17 and 2:00 am on October 18th. Mutual Aid ambulances were dispatched from
San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Marin counties with 10 ambulance units on standby
in Sacramento. A large number of DPH paramedics volunteered off-duty to
assist and worked for extended periods of time. Central Medical Emergency
Dispatch communications remained 100-percent operational as designed. All
critical calls received prompt ambulance response, treatment, and transportation.
Additional phone lines were installed to accept incoming calls.
48 hours, environmental health staff conducted a complete survey of food
establishments and water potability throughout the City. Throughout the
week following the earthquake, environmental health staff disseminated
public notices regarding water and sewage conditions in the Marina District.
Efforts were coordinated with the Water Department, the Department of Public
Works and PG&E to minimize the threat to public health and safety and
provide on site information.
Response staff of the Toxics and Safety Services Program responded to several
hazardous materials incidents calls immediately following the earthquake.
Hazardous Waste and Hazardous Materials staff assisted in assessing and
inspecting hazardous materials spills, chemical incidents, removal of hazardous
wastes and assessment of underground storage tank leaks. Hazardous Materials
staff distributed an earthquake advisory to over 7,500 businesses in the
City. Asbestos inspections were conducted throughout the week following
The Employee Assistance Program was forced to move program operations as 170 Fell Street was condemned. Staff moved headquarters to 101 Grove Street and continued to provide individual, group and telephone counseling. EAP staff developed a Critical Incident Post-traumatic Stress Assessment which will be distributed to all City employees. Ongoing earthquake-related stress groups are being provided to City employees.
Francisco General Hospital (SFGH) established an emergency command post,
immediately performed damage surveys, evacuated outlying buildings, and
accounted for all patients. The hospital's emergency auxiliary generator
provided full power for the entire hospital within minutes. Staff worked
overtime and received and treated a large portion of the earthquake-related
casualties. The building sustained moderate structural damage. The hospital
is planning to drill wells for a secondary back-up water supply.
Honda Hospital (LHH) sustained a large amount of structural damage, however
patients were rapidly secured and no one was injured. Implementation of
the written disaster plan ensured a quick response and accounting of all
patients and staff. LHH provided food and shelter to persons displaced
by earthquake damage, and temporarily housed several DPH units.
coordination with the Department of Social Services, Community Public Health,
and Community Substance Abuse Services, Mental Health provided 24-hour
crisis-counseling teams at the three Red Cross shelters in the days immediately
following the earthquake. The teams, which include psychiatrists, psychologists,
nurses, and psychiatric social workers, have been staffed by Mental Health
staff, contract staff, and volunteers from UC Langley- Porter, Letterman
Veterans' Hospital, State Department of Mental Health, and other counties.
Emergency centers and phone numbers were identified for mental health crisis
counseling and referral. Crisis counseling units continue to provide services
in the Red Cross shelters during the day and evening hours.
Substance Abuse Services (CSAS) staff maintained triage and detoxification
services in coordination with Mental Health, Community Public Health, and
DSS at the Red Cross Shelters. Twenty-four-hour drug and alcohol counseling
and detox services were provided at all three shelters by CSAS staff, contract
agencies, and volunteers until November 3. Effective November 4, 24-hour
coverage by the substance abuse triage team has been consolidated at the
Polk Street Shelter with transportation from the other shelters available
as needed to Polk Street or other appropriate services.
Health Care for the Homeless staff from the Tom Waddell Clinic provided
24-hour medical assistance to the Red Cross shelters and other community
shelters with the assistance of the DSS/CSAS/Mental Health triage system.
Additional medical staff hours from the Health Centers were allocated to
the Tom Waddell Clinic to accommodate increased referrals. Staff helped
orient church groups who were opening up new shelters. Program Directors
were on 24-hour call during the days immediately following the earthquake.
Health nurses were assigned to work with the triage teams at Marina Middle
School, Moscone Center, and St. Ignatius shelters, and continue to provide
services to residents in the Presidio and Polk Street shelters. The five
District Health Centers and two Neighborhood Centers offered reduced services
on October 18, 19 and all services were restored on the 20th. The WIC program
distributed infant formula at SFGH.
worked as part of a multi-disciplinary team to organize services for the
displaced homeless. The Office of Senior Services provided case management
and counseling at senior residences and continued to provide information
and referral telephone services. Outreach to seniors in hotels, and at
the Presidio provided ongoing assessment of seniors' needs.
contacted all staff and all AIDS contract agencies to coordinate activities.
The AIDS office staff was temporarily relocated until 25 Van Ness was safe
for occupancy. Medical assistance was provided to the Watsonville area
two days after the earthquake. Other staff volunteered help to other DPH