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October 17, 1989

The National Warning System (NAWAS) connects the emergency services headquarters of the 50 states to FEMA's Mt. Weather, and various other military and government facilities. It was designed and maintained to alert the states to a nuclear attack. It is also used during major disasters, as heard in this five-minute clip of the NAWAS recording. (Requires RealAudio)

There is a subset of that system in California called CALWAS, which connects OES in Sacramento to the emergency operations centers of the 58 counties. In San Francisco's case, the NAWAS/CALWAS circuit is connected to the emergency 9-1-1 center on Turk St.

ALCO: "California, Alameda County!"

OES: "Roger, Alameda County."

ALCO: "This is Alameda County, we're experiencing a pretty good earthquake right now!"

OES: "Roger, you got my board lit!"

SCLCO:"Sacramento! Sacramento! - Santa Clara County!"

OES: "Roger, San Mateo."

SCLCO: "Santa Clara County! We've just had a major earthquake, repeat, major earthquake! We have damage in the 'comm' center!"

OES: "Roger."

LIVERMORE: "California, this is Livermore calling."

OES: "Roger, Livermore."

LIVERMORE: "California, via Livermore. We've just had a moderate to severe earthquake lasting approximately 25 to 30 seconds."

OES: "Roger, copy."

SONOMA COUNTY: "And Sonoma County would like to add on to that."

YLOCO: "California - Yolo."

YLOCO: "Many citizen reports and we felt in here of an earthquake. Can you confirm?"

OES: "Roger."

SOLCO: "Solano, we felt it also here."

SIXTH ARMY: "National - Sixth Army."

NWC: "Sixth Army, this is National. Go ahead."

SIXTH ARMY: "National, we just had a major earthquake in our area. Can you give us some kind of feedback and give us status on magnitude?"

NWC: "Ah, roger, we'll give you a call back on that."

SIXTH ARMY: "Sixth Army out."

NAWAS: "National Warning Center clear."

MTYCO: "OES Region II, Monterey County." [in background radio can be heard calling "Hollister, two-zero-one."]

LAWX: "Yea, California, this is L.A. Weather, the Federal Building in West L.A. is moving a little bit right now. L.A. Weather out."

SJQCO: "San Joaquin, very strong San Joaquin County."

OES: "Roger."

SCLCO: "California, Santa Clara."

OES: "Roger, Santa Clara."

SCLCO: "On the earthquake incident here, we have damage downtown – report only one building collapsed. We haven't done an interior inspection or exterior of our 'comm' center, but our systems' are up and rolling."

OES: "Roger, looks you guys got the most of it in that area."

SCLCO: "Affirmative, it seemed to travel from south to north."

OES: "Our first indication is down probably Hollister or thereabouts. San Benito you on here? San Benito - California."

NWC: "National, go ahead."

TRAVIS AFB: "National we've got, as I'm sure you know, a major earthquake in the area. Have you had a center of the location yet?"

NWC: "Ah, no. We've called NEIS. They're working up the information. He says he'll be on the circuit shortly, and we'll patch you in. National Warning Center clear."

TRAVIS AFB: "Travis clear."

CG ALAMEDA: "National, Coast Guard Alameda."

NWC: "This is National, go ahead."

CG ALAMEDA: "Yea National, any information you can get on that,if you can pass along the circuit it sure would be awful [unclear]. We suffered the same earthquake that Sixth Army has just felt across the Bay."

NWC: "Ah, roger."

CG ALAMEDA: "Thank you."

NWC: "Roger. National Warning Center clear."

MNDCO: "California, Mendocino."

OES: "Roger, Mendocino."

MNDCO: "California, any quake activity our area?"

OES: "Say again?"

MNDCO: "You have any reports of earthquake activity our area. We're getting several reports."

OES: "Felt all over the state. Looks like south Bay Area center."

MNDCO: "Okay. Will there be an update shortly?"

OES: "When we get around to it."

MNDCO: "10-4, thanks."

SBNCO: "California, San Benito County."

OES: Roger, San Benito."

SBNCO: "Be advised we suffered a major earthquake!. We have buildings off the foundations! People trapped! Untold damage!"

OES: "Roger, copy."


SFWX: "San Francisco Weather."

MCO: "This is Monterey."

SFWX: "San Francisco Weather. We've had quite a bit of damage to our radios, ah, weather radio's off the air for a while."

SFWX: "Yes sir, we've had quite a bit of damage to our radio equipment. Our weather radio will be off 'till further notice."

OES: "Roger, copy."

NWC: "This is the National Warning Center. Alaska? National Warning Center calling Alaska."

AK: "This is Alaska."

NWC: "Stand by, please. Oregon? National Warning Center calling Oregon?"

OR: "Oregon!"

NWC: "Please stand by for a message. Washington? Washington?"

NWC: "Calling California. National Warning Center calling California."

OES: "California's up."

NWC: "Ah, roger. National Warning Center calling Washington."

NWC: "No answer from Washington. Go ahead, Alaska Tsunami Warning Center."

TWC: "This is a tsunami information message, no action required. A severe earthquake, preliminary magnitude 6-point-9, occurred at 1704 Pacific Daylight Time on October 7 [correct] or 0004 UTC on October 18, 60 miles southeast of San Francisco, 50 miles northeast of Monterey, California. An investigation is underway to determine if a tsunami has been generated. Additional bulletins will be issued hourly, or sooner, as information becomes available."

NWC: "California, do you copy?

OES: "California copies."

NWC: "Roger. Oregon, do you copy?"

OR: "Oregon copied."

NWC "Alaska, do you copy?"

AK: "Alaska copy."

NWC: "Washington, did you copy?"

NWC: "Tsunami Warning Center, we'll pass the information to the state of Washington."

TWC "Thank you. Also please relay this to British Columbia."

NWC: "Ah, roger."

TWC: "Tsunami Center clear."

NWC: "National Warning Center clear at 0022 Zulu."



NO ID: "California, this more information if you haven't heard from us already. We've got numerous reports of, ah, moderate damage - roads cracked, ah, some structural damage around the county on a county-wide basis."

OES: "Roger, anything major?"

NO ID: "We're still attempting to assess that now. Will advise."

OES: "Roger, thank you."

NO ID: "Do you have any information on the epicenter, or size?"

OES: "All I have is what Alaska Tsnunami was giving out is 6-9, probably about Hollister."

NO ID: "6-9 Hollister?"

OES: "Ah, yea, it is still incomplete; Berkeley is supposed to be doing a good workup for us here shortly."

ALCO: California - Alameda County."

OES: "Roger, Alameda County."

ALCO: "Just for info, I don't know – I – we – haven't done too much about this – the last few minutes here have been all crazy, but I don't know if you know the Cypress structure there in Oakland – the freeway overpass – is said to be totally down! We have a medical Red Alert going right now with quite a few ambulances going down in that direction."

OES: "Roger."

ALCO: "Alameda clear."

SCLCO: "California - Santa Clara."

OES: "Go ahead Santa Clara."

SCLCO: "California, we're still getting series of aftershocks, ah, bouncing the center around. Ah – however were standing, holding together. Ah, heavy call for ambulance service and damage in the central area, however we haven't assessed the gravity or extent of it. We'd like to order now, if we can get the CHP helicopter [ringing over conversation] come down here if they're available. I think they come out of Napa." [Ringing continues]

OES: "Attempt to contact them if you can. We're setting up the 'ops' center here and we'll have somebody in here very shortly, but right now I can't help you."

SCLCO: "Okay, we have our county exec coming in and with the local OES director. We're going to go to a full operation."

OES: "Roger."

SCLCO: "California - Santa Clara County."

OES: "Go ahead, Santa Clara County."

SCLCO: "Yea, Santa Clara County. We're requesting five strike teams from Region II. We're unable to make radio contact or 'phone contact. We need them to respond and stage at 70 West Hedding in San Jose. Please relay the message."

OES: "Okay, five strike teams from where?...Region II?"

SCLCO: "From Region II."

OES: "Okay – Hedding."

SCLCO: "Yes, that'll be off of First Street and Highway 880."

OES: "Roger."

SCLCO: "Okay thank you, Santa Clara County out."

MTYCO: "Sacamento - Monterey County."

OES: "Go ahead Monterey."

MTYCO: "Can you give us any report on where this was centered and the magnitude?"

OES: "Uh, all we have so far is Alaska Tsunami says 6-9, Hollister area."

MTYCO: "6-point-9 Hollister. Would you like a status report on Monterey County?"

OES: "Roger, I will take it."

MTYCO: "Okay, at this point, we have no major damage. We have a few minor structure fires; I don't know if they are related to the quake. We do have the potential of some possible structural damage to one of our courthouses and to one of our county hospitals. We have building inspectors looking at 'em at this time, and when we get an assessment, if you want, I'll get back in touch with you."

OES: "Roger."

MTYCO: "And that's the report from us. Monterey County clear."

SJQCO: "Sacramento - San Joaquin County."

OES: "Roger, San Joaquin."

SJQCO: "We're getting heavy, ah, heavy calls from the public confirming a CNN broadcast of a 50-foot section of the Bay Bridge collapsed onto the bottom one. Do you have any information on that?"

OES: "Cannot confirm at this time."

SJQCO: "Appreciate it, thank you."

NWC: "This ring is for the states of California, Washington, Alaska and Oregon."


NWC: "The preceeding ring is for the states of Alaska Washington, Oregon and California. Alaska, do you copy?"

AK: "Alaska copies."

NWC: "Stand by. Washington, do you copy?"

WA: "Washington copies."

NWC: "Stand by. Oregon, do you copy?"

OR: "Oregon copies."

NWC: Stand by. California, do you copy? California, do you copy?

SIXTH ARMY: "This is Sixth Army."

NWC: "Roger Sixth Army."

NWC: "Tsunami Warning Center, I'll pass this on to California. They're really busy now."

TWC: "I understand."

TWC: "This is tsunami information message. No action is required. Severe earthquake, preliminary magnitude 6-point-9 occurred at 1704 Pacific Daylight Time on October 17 or 0004 UTC on October 18. Sixty miles southeast of San Francisco or 50 miles northeast of Monterey. 37.3 North, 121.6 West. No destructive tsunami threat exists. Some areas may experience small sea level changes. This is the last bulletin issued on this earthquake unless additional information becomes available."

OES: "Alaska, this is California, can you give me those coordinates again?"

TWC: "37.3 North, 121.6 West."

OES: "121-6?"

TWC: "Correct."

OES: "Magnitude?"

TWC: "6-point-9."

OES: "Roger, thank you."

TWC: "That was, as I say, 60 miles southeast of San Francisco or 50 miles northeast of Monterey."

NWC: "Sixth Army, do you have any information to ask the Tsunami Warning Center?"

SIXTH ARMY: "Ah, Sixth Army. We have no request for information."

NWC: "Roger. Alaska, do you copy?"

AK: "Alaska copied."

NWC: "Washington, you copy?

WA: "Washington copied."

NWS: "Oregon, you copy?"

OR: "Oregon copied."

NWC: "Roger. Thank you very much Alaska Tsunami Warning Center, and I'll pass this to British Columbia."

TWC: "Yes, thank You."

NWC: "National Warning Center clear at 0041 Zulu."


NWC: "This ring is for California, Oregon, ah – "


NWC: "Stand by please."


NWC: "Yes, this is the National Warning Center with the National Earthquake Information Center on the circuit for California – "

NO ID SPEAKING UNDER NWC: "Break, break, break – "

NWC: " – Oregon, Washington, Nevada. Go ahead NEIC with your information please."

NEIC: "Okay. We've had a strong earthquake, preliminary magnitude 6-point-9 on the Richter scale. It occurred at 0004 Zulu, October 18th, or 6:04 p.m. Mountain Daylight time, 5:04 Pacific Daylight. Preliminary location 37-point-zero North, 122 point-zero West. Magnitude 6-point-9 that's located in the Santa Cruz area, California.

NWC: "National, do you have a depth on that please?

NEIC: "I've held it arbitrarily at 10 kilometers, so 6-to-10 kilometers.

NWC: "Roger, copy. California, National, do you have any questions for NEIC?"

OES: "Roger, can I have those coordinates again please?"

NEIC: "Yes, 36...I'm sorry...37 point-zero-North..."

OES: "Roger."

NEIC: " – 122-point zero-West. I'm giving that to you to the nearest tenth, they both just round to a degree."

NWC: "California, do you have any other questions at this time. We know your very busy."

OES: "Negative, I'm up to my alligator, fellas."

NWC: "All right-ee. Alternate, National. Do you have any questions for NEIC?"

ALT: "No questions."

NEIC: "We would like to know, if possible, ah, what damage – if there's damage reports."

NWC: "Yea, there is plenty of damage. The Bay Bridge and some portions have collapsed. There are building structures damaged and some injuries."

NEIC: "Okay. And from, perhaps, Nevada, was the quake felt in Nevada?"

NWC: "Nevada - National."

NEV: "Nevada."

NWC:"Yes, NEIC is asking, did you feel a quake in Nevada?"

NEV: "That's 10-4. The [garble] area, up along the Sierras, Douglas County, Carson, [garble], Washoe, Reno; it rocked pretty good in this area."

NWC: "Roger copy. NEIC, did you copy that?"

NEIC: "Roger, yes."

NWC: "Okay, anybody else have any questions for NEIC?"

NAPCO: "Napa County."

NWC: " – If not, this is National clear at 0047 Zulu."

NAPCO: "California - Napa."

NEIC: "Okay."

NWC: "Thank you NEIC."

NEIC: "Okay, NEIC clear. We'd appreciate any further information as it becomes available."

NWC:"Right. As soon as we can get California clear of most of its busy-ness..."

NEIC: "Understand."

NWC: "Tune into ABC and they've got a live coverage on all that right at the moment."

NEIC: "Okay. Great! Thank you!"

NWC: "You're welcome."

NAPCO: "California - Napa."

OES: "Napa - California."

NAPCO: "Do you still need use of a helicopter?"


OES: "That ring is for Santa Clara County, Santa Clara County only. All others disregard."

OES: "Napa County, California."

NAPCO: "Napa County."

OES: "Can you go direct into to them by telephone for me please?"

NAPCO: "Okay. Just for information we have the availability of a Jet Ranger with some medical...[garble] helicopter with a nurse and pre-hospital."

OES: "Okay, I think they're probably going to need it. Let me give you a number here. Can you call them direct please?"

NAPCO: "Will do, go ahead."

OES: "408-299-2501."

NAPCO: "Copy, 408-299-2501."

OES: "Roger, copy."

NAPCO: "Thanks California."

NAPCO: [REPEATED CALLING] "California, This is Napa County."

OES: "Napa, go ahead."

NAPCO: "Yea, we're unable to make 'phone contact with Santa Clara, just for information. Apparently the wires are down."

OES: "Roger."

UCBSS: "California Warning Point, this is UC Berkeley Seismographic Station."


UCBSS: "We recorded a major earthquake at 5:04 p.m. local time this afternoon. The epicenter is located about 50 miles south of Berkeley in the region 10 miles northeast of Santa Cruz and 20 miles south of San Jose. The Berkeley magnitude for this event is 7- point-zero on the Richter scale based on our low-gain torsion instruments here. It's in the same general region as the magnitude 5-point-4 earthquake on August 8th. The hypocenter we have; it's origin time 00:04:15 point 5 Zulu, latitude thirty seven degrees zero-two- point-zero minutes north, one-hundred-and-twenty-one degrees fifty-two-point-four minutes west and a depth of 17 kilometers. Berkeley clear."

OES: "Can you give the that location - the translation, again, in miles?"

UCBSS: "Okay, its located about 50 miles south of Berkeley in the region 10 miles northeast of Santa Cruz and 20 miles south of San Jose. It's also 14 miles west-southwest of Morgan Hill."

OES: "Roger, thank you Berkeley."

NO ID: "California, I know you're busy. What was the size on Berkeley's report?"

OES: "Roger, said 7-0."

NO ID: "Thank you!"


SCRCO: "Santa Clara County, this is Santa Cruz."

NAPCO: "California - Napa."

SCLCO: California - Santa Clara County.

OES: "Roger, Santa Clara County."

SCLCO: "Can you reach Santa Cruz for us?"

OES: "Roger, will attempt to. Napa was also calling. Napa, are you still with me?"


OES: "That ring is for Napa and Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz, you with me?"


OES: "Napa, are you with me?"


OES: "Santa Cruz - California."

SCLCO: "Santa Clara. We'll try another frequency. We got a big structure fire on the grade we need assistance with.

OES: "Right."


OES: "San Francisco, this is California Warning Center."

SCLCO: "Santa Clara."

OES: "Santa Clara, yes, go ahead."

SCLCO: "Can you get through to Fort Ord for us and ask them to scramble two choppers if they can. We'd like an observer helicopter and a Huey-type if we need to evacuate."

OES: "Stand by and I'll see if I can ring them up. Haven't had too much luck here."


OES: That ring was for Fort Ord, that ring was for Fort Ord; Fort Ord, how do you copy?"

OES: "Fort Ord, this is California."

OES: "Fort Ord, how do you copy?"

OES: "Santa Clara, I haven't had any luck getting through to 'em on the telephone, although I have talked to other people around that area; but I'll keep trying, though."

SCLCO: "We have the 'phone number if you wanna try. Area 408-424-7329."

OES: "That's correct, that's the same one that I have here."

SCLCO: "Okay, can you raise Monterey County Communications and see if they have direct line over to them, or can get them on CLEMARS?" [California Law Enforcement Mutual Aid Radio System]

OES: "I will check back with you, just a moment please...just a minute please."

OES: "Santa Clara County from California, This is from California for Santa Clara County, all others disregard."


OES: "Santa Clara County, this is California."


OES: "No response, Santa Clara County. California clear."


SCLCO: "California - Santa Clara."

OES:"Go ahead, Santa Clara."

SCLCO:"We requested 2 helicopters from Fort Ord. They're gonna put a Huey and an observer up; they indicated they won't divert without instructions from you, or authorization and from you and something about a question of payment. Is there some problem in directing you to have them to come up to our center here, and we'll have them land up here?"

OES: "Roger, will you have them contact 916-427-4312."

SCLCO: "As I told you earlier, we are unable to get through. We had to go via Moffett Field and use a military satellite, ah, we'll try relaying it through that direction, otherwise the Duty Officer won't come in here."

OES: "Roger."


OES: [REPEATED CALLS] "Santa Clara - California."


OES: [REPEATED CALLS] "Santa Clara - California."

NEV: [REPEATED CALLS] "California Warning Point, this is the Nevada Warning Point."

NWC: "California, this is National. This ring is for California only, all other stations please disregard."


NWC: "California - National."

OES: "National, this is California. Go ahead.

NWC: "Yes, Nevada's trying to contact you. Go ahead Nevada."

NWC: "Nevada, National."

NEV: "This is Nevada."

NWC: "Yes, California's on the line; somebody's trying to contact California from the Nevada state warning point."

NEV: "Yes, I'm trying to get a landline number to call California OES."

OES: "Roger, 916-427-4312. Roger, that should get you my active ops center."

NEV: "Thank you."

NWC: "Thank you, California."

NEV: "Thank you, National."

NWC: "You're welcome."

OES: "California clear."

NEV: "Nevada clear."

STNCO: "California - Stanislaus."

OES: "Stanislaus go ahead."

STNCO: "Ah, this is Stanislaus. Many of our folks here work for the fire departments and police departments in the Bay Area counties. Have you knowledge of any call back of all their forces, particularly from Alameda?


OES:"Negative, I am not aware of any. It's entirely possible under the circumstances though."

STNCO: "Ah – "

OES: "Would you please call my ops center at 427-4312 and see if Law Division has anything in that nature?"

STNCO: "Correct, I was trying that but I lost them. I'll try again."

OES: "Roger."

OES: "San Benito - California." [many calls]


OES: "San Benito - California on CALWAS."

SBNCO: "Sacramento OES, this is San Benito EOC."

OES: "Roger San Benito EOC. Contact Region II EOC please."

SBNCO: "Are they on NAWAS?"

OES: "Ah, Region II are you with us?"

OES: "Region II, California....okay, can you come up on LG [local government] radio?"

SBNCO: "Our LG radio is down!"

OES: "Ah roger. How's your phone service?

SBNCO: "Intermittent. We can try and call ah, ah, Region II straightaway. Can we let you know that we have declared a local emergency at 17:05 and requested a gubernatoral declaration. We have at this point zero fatalities, we have established a shelter at one of the schools; there are numerous people homeless, we have numerous gas leaks, there's no power in the area and there is substantial damage."

OES: Roger, copy."

SBNCO: "Okay, we'll try and contact OES Region II on landline."

OES: "Roger, thank you."

SBNCO: "Okay."

MENDO: "Sacramento, this Mendocino County OES."

OES: "Roger Mendocino."

MENDO: "I've been trying to contact Region II OES by landline as well as Local Government radio from the repeater system , but I'm unable to. I'd like to get a message to Region II OES to make make contact with me at the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office."

OES: "Roger, will do'er."

MENDO: "Thank you, Mendocino County OES clear."

MERCED: OES Sacramento, this is Merced County."

OES: "Roger, go ahead."

MERCED: "This is Merced County calling. Our sheriff inquired if any assistance is need from Merced County to assist."

OES: "Can you have them call - can they call in to 427-4312 and the 'ops' center will go ahead and coordinate for you."

MERCED: "Okay, 427-4312?"

OES: "Roger, They're catalogin' who we've got on stand by and who we don't."

MERCED: "Okay, the area code on that please?"

OES: "916."

MERCED: "Thank you very much."

SBNCO: "California OES this is San Benito EOC."

OES: "Roger, San Benito."

SBNCO: "Hi. We can't get out on landline, but you might want to, if you can contact Region II to ask them to call either 637-3277 or 637-6017. Our CLETS [California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System] is operational."

OES: "Roger."

SBNCO: "Okay, and tell them that Paul Penn happens to be on scene by chance."

OES: "Okay."

SBNCO: "Okay, thank you very much."


NAPCO: "OES California, this is Napa."

OES: "Roger, Napa."

NAPCO: "California, this is Napa calling. We have a medical technician inquiring if San Francisco needs any volunteer medical personnel."

OES: "Roger, if you would have 'em call my ops center here, 916-427-4312."

NAPCO: "916-427-forty-three-twelve. Will have 'em give a call."

OES: "Roger."

NAPCO: "Thanks much."

FEMA: "California, this is FEMA, Santa Rosa."

OES: "Santa Rosa, go ahead."

FEMA: "Yea, we'd like for you to turn on your radio on the FEMA net if you could, please."

OES: "Roger."

FEMA: "Appreciate it, thank you."

OES: "FEMA Santa Rosa - California."


OES: "This ring is for FEMA Santa Rosa, FEMA Santa Rosa only. All others disregard."


OES: "FEMA Santa Rosa, this is California." [many calls]

REGION IX: "OES California, OES California, this is Region IX, over."

OES: "Region IX, this is California, ah, is this, um, Santa Rosa?"


OES: "Region IX, this is California. Are you located in Santa Rosa?"


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