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Corpsmembers attending class stared out the window in horror as the Marina began to burn. Crews doing recycling work at the third game of the World Series overcame their own fears and helped people coming out of Candlestick. One crew, working on a project at the Family Service Agency, continued their task of building a deck after the quake was over. A supervisor finishing a swim in the bay returned to the San Fracnisco Conservation Corps' (SFCC) center to begin what would become a monumental task of assisting in San Francisco's recovery from the earthquake of October 17th.

Most of the administrative staff of the corps was away from the center when the quake happened, either on their way home, at home, or, in the case of the Executive Director, on vacation. The few staff and corpsmembers that were at the center launched a pro-active effort to aid in the emergency response.

One of the first duties was to assist the National Park Service and Red Cross in transforming the SFCC center and the Great Meadow into an evacuation center. A generator was set up, lights strung; blankets, cots, first-aid supplies, and food were carried into the center. As darkness fell the Marina fire and Ft. Mason were the only sources of light in the northern part of the city.

After setting up the evacuation center, several supervisors and corpsmembers gathered wrenches and went into the Marina area. They located and shut off gas valves and helped direct confused and shocked residents to the Marina Middle School. The supervisor in charge went from Engine Company to Engine Company trying to obtain information and direction on where the Corps might best help out. His offers were turned down, partly due to the confusion of the situation, but also due to people not knowing who the Corps was. Some corpsmembers stayed in the Marina area to help wherever they could. Others returned to the center to assist residents that had arrived seeking shelter.

Wednesday the remainder of the SFCC staff arrived at Ft. Mason to find it closed due to gas leaks. Corpsmembers were turned away, but staff were allowed in. Even though most staff had not been contacted after the quake, they inherently knew that there would be a job for the corps to do and made their way into the center. Staff met to begin planning a response and phone calls were made to DPW, MOCD, Red Cross - anyone who might be empowered to dispatch the Corps.

Late in the morning the Park Police got a call from the Marina for chain saws and hard hats. They requested the assistance of the Corps, and a supervisor was dispatched with the equipment. In the afternoon the Executive Director returned to the city, along with the Director of the California Conservation Corps, and the Bay Area CCC Director. Between them they had 2000 corpsmembers that could be immediately dispatched to help. However at a Meeting of all department heads the offer of help was again declined.

Thursday Ft. Mason was re-opened, and the Corps was back up to full strength - corpsmembers having been called the day before and told to report. It was felt that the Corps must again be pro-active in order to help. Crews were dispatched to their regular worksites, but told to look for ways to be helpful. one staff member began to work with Senior Centers to assess damage in the homes of seniors on a door-to-door basis. Another staff member was dispatched to the Police Command in the Marina to offer the services of corpsmembers in crowd control. This offer was quickly accepted as it was obvious that the detail of meter maids was becoming overwhelmed. Within a half hour three crews were deployed along Marina Blvd.

Shortly after that SFCC received a request from the Mayor's Office to provide 150 corpsmembers at Marina Middle School to escort residents into damaged structures, and assist them in removing their belongings. All crews were brought in from their regular work projects and an additional two crews were dispatched from the California Conservation Corps. Crews were divided into groups of four and deployed in front of every red-tagged building in the Marina.

As they entered the perimeter, corpsmembers got their first real impression of what damage had been done. "We were loud and talkative as we passed through what would later become Checkpoint Danny, but as we went further into the perimeter I noticed our voices echoing off of deserted buildings ... we all lowered our voices, as if on cue. Then we saw the heavily damaged buildings on Jefferson street for the first time ... silence."

The crews spent the rest of that day and well into the evening monitoring access to damaged buildings. They would write down the persons name, time they entered, and then call them out after fifteen minutes. The situation was changing constantly with more buildings being red-tagged, and conflicting information on whether residents should be allowed into red-tagged buildings (which was the case for the first day at least). The Corps was able to respond as needed, due primarily to the fortuitous rental of walkie-talkies made just as the Corps was being deployed. Corpsmembers performed far more than the required duties, often lending residents hard hats, helping them to move belongings out of buildings and out of the perimeter, and comforting and assisting residents who were too old, frail, or shocked to be able to recover their belongings. In one case a single corpsmember took charge of an entire block of Jefferson Street, including a throng of reporters and photographers, several MP's and dazed residents.

On Friday SFCC continued the job of escorting residents in the Perimeter, and took on additional jobs as well. By this time the Corps had established a command center at Marina Middle School and was able to quickly deploy corpsmembers to direct parking in the school yard, clean up trash, act as messengers, staple visquine on exposed plaster and broken windows, help residents move belongings out of buildings, and a myriad of other tasks large and small.

Saturday, October 21, began with the news that another building had collapsed overnight in the perimeter. Because of the concern that people might try to get into buildings after dark SFCC was asked to mount a 24-hour watch beginning Saturday night. In order to accomplish this additional crews were called in from the California conservation Corps, East Bay Conservation Corps, and Marin Conservation Corps. The night watch paid off when crews were able to quickly alert DPW to water leaks and another house on the verge of collapsing. As more buildings either collapsed or were demolished, the job of helping residents sift through the rubble grew and several crews were assigned to assist in this. Among the items that were recovered were a bird that had been trapped in the rubble for several days - dusty but otherwise unhurt, and valuable family pictures that were traced to the owner through a framing studio in Indiana.

On October 22 a meeting was held with officials from SFCC, DPW, and the Mayor's Office to discuss the second phase of relief work. It was decided to barricade each red- tagged building in the perimeter, and eventually all the other red-tagged buildings in the City. This would allow the Corps to consolidate its efforts, and rather having to guard each building individually, be able to guard only the entrances into the Marina.

On October 23 and 24 the Corps placed barricades, helped residents move belongings, and handed out fliers from PG&E and the Mayor's office giving information on relief help and the resumption of services. The Corps also began renovation work at a shelter on Polk Street to house people made homeless by the earthquake.

On October 25th the responsibility for manning all checkpoints leading into the perimeter was passed from the Police to SFCC. The role of the corps was to ensure that people essential to the recovery operations - residents, public utility employees, contractors, movers, social service employees, and others, were allowed into the effected area, while sightseers and such were kept out.

This phase of the relief work called upon all of the Corpsmember's diplomacy and maturity. Corpsmembers had to deal with residents who were tired of being stopped, contractors who didn't have permits, and sightseers who felt they were entitled to view the damage. In one instance a corpsmember was attacked by a residents dog. Another corpsmember successfully provided first-aid to a woman suffering a heart attack. As the rapport between the community and the corpsmembers grew, residents showed their gratitude by bringing coffee and food.

The corps was able to return to some semblance of regular duty during the period of manning the checkpoints, which extended until November 22. Day and night shifts were formed, and those corpsmembers not required on perimeter duty returned to their regular work projects. Work at the perimeter was for the most part uneventful. The presence of the perimeter undoubtedly enabled PG&E and DPW to quickly restore services without being hampered. The perimeter was also able to assist in providing security, as on several occasions possible looters were prevented from entering the area. The security aspects of the perimeter were diminished when Muni restarted a bus route into the area. With the announcement of the restoration of all services by Thanksgiving, the work of SFCC in the Marina came to an end.

The end of SFCC's presence in the Marina was not the end of the Corps' earthquake relief and recover work. SFCC has taken on projects in other areas, including assisting the Salvation Army to sort and load clothing and supplies, renovation of a homeless shelter, repairs at child care centers, and other projects. It is anticipated that the Corps involvement in recovery activities will last well into the first quarter of 1990

Planning for the Next One

One of the roles of SFCC is to train young people. Inherently in any training organization methods are always evaluated to determine their effectiveness. Thus the entire time the Corps was working in the Marina, techniques were being evaluated in order to be better prepared for the next one. over the next months the staff will be meeting to develop a comprehensive plan to enable SFCC to be even more effective during the next disaster. The following are some of the issues that will be addressed in that plan.

1. Preparedness

All staff will attend disaster preparedness training, most likely that offered by the California Conservation Corps. Refresher courses will be taken as needed. Most staff hold multi- wbr>media first-aid certificates, however an effort will be made to ensure that all staff are so trained. A class in disaster preparedness will be added to the core curriculum taught to corpsmembers. Presently all corpsmembers are required to obtain a certificate in basic first-aid. The involvement of SFCC in any city-wide or regional disaster preparedness exercise will help improve the effectiveness of the Corps, and increase the level of cooperation and understanding between the corps and other agencies.

2. Staging

Ft. Mason was closed after the quake. If the closure had extended more than one day, the corpsmembers would not have had a place to report. Alternative emergency staging sites will be identified. The feasibility of establishing mobilization points throughout the city will also be explored. Telephone numbers and other emergency information for corpsmembers and staff will be updated on a regular basis. In those cases where corpsmembers could not be contacted after the October 17th quake, it was due to incorrect or no phone numbers being given in their personnel file.

3. Communication

It is safe to assume that during the next disaster walkie-talkies will not miraculously appear. SFCC will seek funding to purchase suitable walkie-talkies or cellular phones. This equipment will serve two purposes - to call staff in when an emergency occurs, and to communicate at the site of a disaster.

Walkie-talkies, if they are used, will have to be strong enough to reach all parts of the city since the next one may not be localized in just one area.

4. Equipment

SFCC will seek funding to procure generators, and emergency lighting equipment. Basic supplies such as flashlights, flares, portable radios, face masks, etc. will be purchased, stored and renewed as needed.

5. Liaison

From the corpsmembers and staff point of view the best scenario would be for SFCC to be among the first to arrive and the last to leave after a disaster of the magnitude of the October 17th quake. Plans that the Corps develop will be integrated into interagency plans in order that SFCC will be called upon, and that they will be ready to serve.

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