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The following report describes the major events associated with the earthquake of October 17,1989 in terms of the actions taken by the Police Department and the resources required to implement police objectives. Consideration of the city's Emergency Operations Plan, its applicability, and our implementation of its relevant portions are also discussed. Our assessment is based on reviews of Administration, Investigation, and Patrol Bureau chronologies and after-action reports, plus interviews with personnel assigned to the areas which saw most of the action. The discussion is divided into a Background section and reports on:

1. Overall compliance with the E.O.P.,
2. The police chain of command,
3. Mobilization and staging of personnel,
4. Access control,
5. The Emergency Operations Center,
6. Computer services,
7. Communications, and
8. Emergency response training.


The quake measured 7.1 on the Richter scale. The city's Emergency Operations Plan develops a number of scenarios for each of several types of disaster. The scenarios for a major earthquake (Appendix 1-1) assume a magnitude of 8.3. Our review indicates that damage to major highway systems was probably much greater than anticipated. Other aspects of the scenarios were reasonably accurate, except that major damage to infrastructure and to buildings, such as described in the plan, occurred at a lower level of quake intensity than magnitude 8.3. Post-quake fires caused a great deal of the actual damage in the single hardest-hit area, the Marina. Severe effects such as injuries, fatalities. and property loss were highly localized. concentrated in five primary clusters totaling roughly .5 square miles or 1 percent of the city's land area. Most of the serious damage was sustained in three districts: Central, Southern, and Northern.

We estimate that police resources could have dealt successfully with twice the affected area and one additional major perimeter if other conditions (e.g., no major aftershocks, lack of looting. few reported offenses) remained the same. In other words, a sustained Level II emergency would certainly occur if more than 2 percent of the city's area was affected and there were more than two distinct zones of involvement requiring perimeter and access control.

Following guidelines established on page 1-7 of the city's Emergency Operations Plan we define the event as a Level I emergency, the lowest level, consisting of a "minor to moderate incident wherein local resources are adequate and available. A LOCAL EMERGENCY may or may not be proclaimed." A review of Police Department and other agency records issued during the first eight hours of the immediate impact phase indicate a brief period during which officials reacted in a way appropriate to a Level B emergency. Level II is reached when there is a "moderate to severe emergency wherein local resources are not adequate and mutual aid may be required on a regional or even statewide basis." Initial reports from media sources, indicating looting and perhaps more widespread catastrophic damage than actually occurred, plus poor interagency communications. made the initial Level II evaluation a prudent response to conditions as they were understood to exist at the time.


Issues: Appendix C of the plan contains a checklist of actions which are to taken in the event of a major earthquake. Many of the actions were unnecessary due to the relatively low levels of damage and disruption that resulted from the quake and the short duration of the primary impact phase. Compliance was generally high during the primary impact phase. The Turk Street center was activated 59 minutes after the quake, an initial poll of stations was taken at 5:20 p.m., 16 minutes after the quake, and more detailed assessments were conducted at reasonable intervals. Only two issues have been identified. Required actions were not always initiated by the designated personnel but this may be due to unique circumstances (i.e., the World Series). Emergency vehicles were not moved into open areas as mandated by the plan.


1. Clarify chain of command as described below, to minimize confusion regarding who has the authority to initiate specific actions.

2. Instruct responsible parties at all police facilities to move emergency vehicles into an open area after a major quake, to avoid losses should a damaged structure collapse due to an aftershock.


Issue: Both the Department's Event Management Manual and the city's Emergency Operations Plan provide for an event commander and subordinate line of authority should the Chief of Police be injured or otherwise unavailable. A consistent observation was that lines of authority were unclear. Information and logistical operations traveled through various people before the proper authority was found to make a decision.

Recommendations: The Department's recent reorganization offers an obvious solution to uncertainty about the chain of command.

1. The (Chief of Police will act as the Event Commander. The newly created Chief of Staff (or Assistant Chief of Police) position should be identified as the Police Command Post commander. The incumbent is responsible for major personnel and fiscal management functions on a daily basis, and is ideally suited to operate as the overall director of activities during a major emergency. This change, along with a description of emergency duties, should be included in an updated Event Management Manual and Emergency Operations Plan.

2. The Deputy Chief of Patrol succeeds the Chief of Staff, and is succeeded by the Deputy Chief of Investigations. These changes should also be included in an updated set of emergency operating plains.

3. The Event Commander should have a designated emergency operating staff which is prepared to begin emergency operations immediately after an incident occurs. The positions and responsibilities should be clearly identified in all emergency operations plans. These staff members would act as a conduit for information and would provide immediate rumor control.


Issues. A majority of San Francisco police officers returned to duty immediately after the earthquake, many before the recall order was announced. The recall order was transmitted by local broadcast media. Several problems were observed relative to the mobilization and staging process. A number of officers followed the instructions in the Event Management Manual and reported to designated helicopter landing areas. No helicopters arrived and the officers had to find other means of transportation. Officers assigned to Patrol responded to their official assignments. Many who normally work in administrative or investigative offices during regular business hours appeared at their work sites where they were formed into squads and sent where needed. Many off-duty officers responded to Northern District (location of the Marina fire), where their numbers and questions hindered somewhat the operations in progress. Finally, many on-duty officers were not relieved until they had worked far in excess of 12 hours, even though there was sufficient manpower to do so. The following remedial measures are recommended:

Recommendations: Staging and mobilization can be improved by implementing actions as described below:

1. All off-duty Patrol officers report to their regular assignment.

2. The Inspectors Bureau should have, in advance of any emergency, a designated core group that can operate as a "mini-bureau" (doing follow-up investigations and rebookings) during the immediate impact and transitional phases of the emergency; all other personnel should report to a central staging area.

3. All Chief of Staff and Administration personnel, who have no designated emergency operations assignments, should report to a central staging area.

4. Requests for helicopter transportation (through a mutual aid request to the military) should be made as soon as a disaster is proclaimed and a recall announced.

5. A central staging area should be designated. The city's Emergency Operations Center is not an adequate or appropriate location. There are several potential sites. One of the "seismic core" stations (Northern, Ingleside, or Potrero) would serve. Northern is perhaps the best due to location and the availability of a small parking lot where helicopters could land. The Academy is attractive because it is centrally located and also has a large adjacent open space. The Academy's buildings experienced more damage than other police facilities, however, probably due to soil conditions.

6. The Personnel Officer should respond immediately to the central staging area to keep a register of reporting officers and, as directed by the event commander, to dispatch them to various sites as needed.


Issues: The Police Department is responsible for traffic control and regulating the movements of people into areas and premises affected by major incidents. This authority is mandated by the California Penal Code (Section 409.5, "Power of Peace Officers to close areas during emergencies") and incorporated into the Emergency Operations Plan (Annex C, enclosure C-2, pp. 1-3). Reports of "tourists," tour busses, residents, interested third parties, and others attempting to enter affected areas and buildings are numerous. The established emergency procedures governing authorization for access into dangerous areas were not well handled by supporting city agencies. An ad hoc authorization form was created, the proper form (see Annex C, enclosure C-2, attachment C-2-A) apparently was not used; changes in "policy" were made with enough frequency that maintaining access control became difficult; and many citizens were angered by the resulting delays and miscommunications. The authority of Parking Control Officers was often challenged when they were used to man the Marina perimeter, a situation that may become more of a problem once the parking control function is transferred to a new city department. Significant numbers of unauthorized citizens were allowed access to the Marina Command perimeter. This began to occur on October 18 and may have been largely due to confusion and the use of non-sworn personnel to man barricades; however, it also appears that some sworn members made exceptions to the orders, on their own initiative, and the Department issued a warning on October 22 that failure to comply could result in disciplinary action.

Recommendations: Problems of access control developed due to a failure to adhere to established procedures and the line of authority set up in the Emergency Operations Plan. Several actions are available to remedy these problems:

1. City agencies other than the Police Department should familiarize themselves with the Emergency Management structure established by the adopted plan; ad hoc decisions made by agencies which have neither the competence nor authority to control access should be discouraged.

2 Decisions, once made, must be clearly communicated through the police chain of command to the officers responsible for access control.

3. Any change in access policy should not be implemented until all interested official parties meet and confer with police management to discuss the situation existing hazards, etc.

4. Parking Control Officers should come under Police Department supervision during any emergency requiring significant access control measures (i.e., crowd or traffic control). This needs to be written into the Emergency Operations Plan, as the parking control staff is to be shifted from the Police Department to a new agency.

5. To assist in the enforcement of 409.5 PC, weatherproof, reflective signs should be created by the city sign shop and stored at the Property Control section and district stations. The suggested wording is:


Authorized personnel only.
Updated access Information will be
provided every 24 hours.

6. All requests for tours of the restricted areas(s) by outside public safety, O.E.S., or other officials should be handled by the police Public Affairs Office which will provide for an escort and/or a contact person on the scene.

7. Compliance with Department orders concerning access by citizens could be improved by having a sergeant or designated senior Q2 in charge of each checkpoint leading into a closed area.


Issues: Command staff personnel responded to the Turk Street E.O.C. less than an hour after the earthquake; delays were caused in some cases by command staff officers being at Candlestick Park as part of the Department's policing of the World Series. The Police Departments allocated space is inadequate, a small room with two chairs and a bathroom (shared with the Red Cross). There were no copies of the Emergency Operations Plan available, other than those brought by command staff members. No intrafacility communications exist, making it necessary to use "runners" within the building to coordinate operations with other city agencies. Many unauthorized visitors, including elected officials, were admitted to the building: they wanted information, asked many questions, and to some extent got in the way of emergency management operations. Once the Department's command van arrived, direction of police operations was switched to the mobile facility.

Recommendations: There is a need for a new emergency operations center. The new quarters should allow space for a media room, a meeting ("war") room for heads of city departments with emergency management roles, phone banks, and radio communications equipment. There should also be an interrupted power supply (i.e., an air-cooled generator) and a vault for storage of E.O.P. manuals and other important supplies.

1. Funding either already exists or should be developed for the construction of a new emergency operations center (renovation of the existing site is feasible, as the location is quite good).

2. Communications lines designated for Police Department use should not be made available to those not involved in emergency management roles, unless otherwise provided for by the event commander.

3. Access control to the center should be enforced by the police, perhaps through use of a colored access (e.g., green for unlimited access,. red for access to a restricted "public" area) pass, and other new electronic identification methods.

4. Emergency plans and other material relevant to police emergency management should be located in a safe and secured area (e.g., a vault) and should be updated at regular intervals by Staff Inspections.

5. Connect designated rooms at the Hall of Justice to the uninterrupted power supply, to allow these locations to operate as command posts or in support of outside command posts. A committee is currently considering which rooms might be connected to the U.P.S. [uninterruptable power supply] line.


Issues: Mainframe equipment was physically shifted by the force of the earthquake, there was some minor failure of ancillary equipment, and the emergency power source failed because the generator's cooling system uses water (which was unavailable when the main was broken). As a result, there was a temporary shutdown of the mainframe system.


1. Secure the equipment by bolting it into position.

2. Provide an uninterrupted power supply that does not depend on other Hall of Justice utilities for its operation (e.g., air-cooled generators with their own fuel supply).


Issues: When emergency generator power failed, the mainframe went down and so did the Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system. The 911 transfer line to other municipal units such as the Fire Department and paramedics was not operational, due to Pacific Bell's McCoppin Street switch failure. The automatic number and location identifier systems (ANI/ALI) failed for approximately 24 hours. There was an inadequate supply of "call record" forms and no maps, both of which were necessary when CAD went down and Communications switched to manual operations. Phone numbers for outside agencies and departmental units were wrong or outdated. Rumors circulated that the Hall of Justice was about to collapse, increasing the uneasiness of dispatch workers and causing some discussion on whether or not Communications should be evacuated. There is no auxiliary communications site could be put into use if the Hall is destroyed or rendered unsafe for continued use.

Recommendations: Corrections in progress and suggestions for additional improvements include:

1. CAD, ANI, and ALI systems should become more reliable with the installation of an uninterrupted power supply.

2. Phone numbers are being updated and it is suggested that a regular review be instituted to assure that numbers are always current.

3. The existing emergency generator should be replaced with an air-cooled model; a proposal to do so is under consideration at this time.

4. The difficulty with 911 routing should be solved, and the ability to interface with the city telephone system added, when installation of the Enhanced 911 is completed.

5. Assessment of the Hall's structural safety should be done on a priority basis, better rumor control is needed.

6. If evacuation is necessary, a secondary site is needed. The Department's command van has communications equipment, but emergency management operations will require it to serve in other capacities. Therefore, we purchase of a second command van-type vehicle that is equipped to function as an emergency center. We note that limited communications/dispatch facilities exist at the E.O.C.. but their utility is limited by the time it would take to activate them as well as by the problems at the E.O.C. site referenced above.

7. Portable generators are needed, and have been requested, to provide power sources for P.I.C. radio battery chargers.

8. A portable AM-FM radio should be present in the room to provide access to news broadcasts.


Issues: It is reported that there was a fair amount of uncertainty about "what to do" among Patrol officers during the quake and for a brief period thereafter. No major difficulties were noted because police officers "did the things they usually do, just more of it for a longer period of time." This approach worked due to the relatively small area of the city that actually experienced catastrophic losses of life and property. In a more severe quake it that officers might not have all the training and materials they would need during the critical impact phase.

Recommendations: The following recommendations address a number of concerns that relate to overall preparedness:

1. The Event Management Manual sections dealing with natural disasters should be revised to include additional detail and to stay in conformity with the city's Emergency Operations Plan

2. Each unit, section, and company should maintain updated copies of the emergency action plan (both the Manual and E.O.P.) or those sections specifically applicable to their role. Dissemination is currently very limited and officers below the rank of lieutenant appear to have little knowledge of special procedures or guidelines that might be implemented during a major disaster.

3. Each unit. company. and section should have a uniform internal procedure to establish command posts and to designate people on each watch to perform specific duties.

4, Initial training and periodic retraining on emergency operations should be given at the Academy to members of all ranks. Memories fade and plans change.

5. At the unit level, require each commanding officer to promptly prepare and submit after-action plans. In addition to chronologies and cost reports, the reports should give an overview of the incident and describe any problems or other special factors that might have affected the operations and performance.


PERSONNEL COSTS (10/17/89 to 12/21/89): $2,694,053.00


Bannerguard: $3,749.13
Flares: $9,901.21
Batteries: $1,197.00

TOTAL $14,947.34


Bannerguard: $297.00
Flares: $4,597.20
Batteries: $101.50
Flashlights: $1,197.00
Gloves: $1,275.00
Raingear: $658.60
Misc.: $467.40

TOTAL: $8,593.70

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