Loma Prieta 1989 Earthquake Rescue Efforts and Coordination of U.S Agencies

The 1989 earthquake in San Diego details amongst the most devastating earthquakes to ever occur in U.S history. Apart from the extensive damages caused by the quake, the costs incurred were similarly high. With a magnitude of 7.1, the quake was felt over a 400, 000 m2 area. Damages to the highway included the collapse of freeways which did not have strong reinforcement. The collapse of the Cypress street structure caused the death of forty two individuals. These were part of the overall fatalities which was sixty two. Numerous buildings were destroyed during and after the quake while also causing minor fatalities. Injuries amounted to 3750.

Disaster management strategies were activated immediately after the quake, resulting to the rescue of many lives and property. This paper seeks to provide an analysis of the preparedness, response, mitigation and recovery strategies used by U.S agencies involved in rescue efforts. The Loma Prieta earthquake has provided many practical lessons for disaster management which serves other areas prone to earthquakes.

Workplace disaster management programs which were a part of disaster preparedness in California contributed high to individuals immediate reactions to the quake. Individuals in schools and workplaces where exercise drills had been conducted were observed to seek self protection during the shake. The public education programs put in place were seen to impact greatly on how people responded to the quake. Immediately after the earthquake many agencies were mobilized to engage in rescue efforts. Organizations included such volunteer organizations like the Red Cross, the Salvation Army and local volunteer coordinating council. Even though these groups helped greatly in the search and rescue efforts they were relevantly disorganized. Prior planning of these groups has been identified as what contributed to their performance. However, most of the rescue efforts involved volunteers and community efforts. Due to the large numbers of people seeking to volunteer there emerged coordinating problems. Other coordinating problems were as a result of communication deficiencies between the organizations because of their use of different radio frequencies. The community was also unprepared in their lack of machinery and equipment for rescue efforts.

Although most intergovernmental disaster management efforts were disorganized they effectively handled the earthquake disaster. Federal agencies had been well prepared as they had always anticipated a major earthquake in the region. The Federal emergency Management Agency (FEMA) had funded the communitys emergency training and preparedness programs. They also offered recovery assistance to the victims of the Loma Prieta earthquake. Its adequate level of preparedness made response activities to be carried out with only few problems. Prior to the earthquake, FEMA had coordinated an exercise in California to test the disaster management plan. Following the earthquake a majority of people were displaced and had to seek refuge in state shelters. These shelters could not accommodate many people and they had to be released to go back to their homes earlier to make room for others.

Recovery from the earthquake depended on the residents capacities to rebuild their homes among other activities. FEMA was involved in the recovery process by funding for the rebuilding of homes. The agency had estimators consider the value of rebuilding costs. Complaints on these procedures were made on the basis that these estimators and field representatives were from other regions and their interaction with locals was limited due to this unfamiliarity. The California Natural Disaster Assistance Program funded only those people who had not received federal aid. Their procedures included first seeking federal aid and being denied which hindered immediate implementation of recovery strategies. The entire funding process can be observed to be inadequate for serving recovery strategies. The only people who experienced less hurdles when getting funds for rebuilding were those who had earthquake insurance. This could play a major role in future recovery strategies.

Housing for the low income earners detailed immense problems especially because most of them had been homeless prior to the quake. Their inability to rebuild created a dilemma especially after FEMA declared that they would not offer any financial assistance. Even other organizations failed to take up the responsibility. Pre-disaster plans had failed to allocate responsibilities to the state agencies. In addition, financial planning was limited due to the lack of preparedness for extensive costs. There are no agencies which are solely dedicated to reconstruction of houses and infrastructure which only heightens barriers to recovery strategies.

Mitigation strategies are very crucial to disaster management and where they had been considered during the 1989 San Diego earthquake, they were effective in limiting damages and fatalities. Disorganization of state agencies needs to be reversed through the provision of particular guidelines in order o foster organization. Other concerns brought on by this earthquake are the lack of adequate financial planning, reconstruction and other recovery programs. The 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake does offer great insights into future management of earthquakes and their effects.


Post a Comment