SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) - Last night, with Houston's Convention Center overflowing with refugees, the NRG Convention Center open today as a shelter for another 10,000 flood evacuees as will also be the case with the Toyota NBA Center. So, the question arises: With a mega earthquake along the San Andreas or Hayward Faults, likely to cause mass evacuations, are we ready to do what it takes to house tens of thousands of earthquake evacuees?
Lucien Canton was the Emergency Services Director under San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown who said, "Sheltering is one of the basic Emergency Management functions. I would say that about any major jurisdiction does at least have some plan for sheltering people that involves public buildings, school districts, things like that."
The San Francisco Department of Emergency Management offered this statement: The City and County of San Francisco maintains a shelter database for facilities in San Francisco that have been surveyed and identified for potential emergency shelter use. More than 100 facilities are listed in the database and they include city owned buildings, recreation and park facilities, and school district campuses. During an emergency the Mayor and the Department of Emergency Management will also explore all other public and private facilities that could serve as shelters.
Public buildings are easily accessible and many have signed Memorandums of Agreement with Emergency Management agencies. But what happens if many of those spaces are too heavily damaged or inaccessible to place people in them? Can public officials commandeer private sector facilities to shelter people? This is a question neither San Francisco nor Oakland Emergency Management agencies chose to answer by interview or written statement. In fact, Oakland ignored my request outright. But, former San Francisco Emergency Services Director Canton said this, "The Mayor, under his emergency authorities could commandeer building if necessary. That would be absolutely our last resort.,"
In extreme cases, many private interests have stepped up, but we haven't seen what a mega quake could do to a region of seven million people not so affect for 111 years during the 1906 Great San Francisco Earthquake.