San Mateo, Foster City, Burlingame & Hillsborough – Do You Know What Anniversary Is Today?


San Francisco City Hall after the 1906 Earthquake. (from Steinbrugge Collection of the UC Berkeley Earthquake Engineering Research Center)

One hundred and three years ago today, at 5:12AM, the San Francisco Peninsula was forever changed.  This is when the Great 1906 San Francisco Earthquake struck.  Were that quake to strike today, it likely would be at least an 8 on the Richter Scale.  To give you an idea of the magnitude of this, if you lived here in 1989, the Loma Prieta quake was a 7.2 and on the Richter Scale that means it would be double the strength!

The Great Quake was felt over almost 300 miles, up and down California, and seemed to last f-o-r-e-v-e-r, between 45 and 60 seconds.  That’s almost a minute of wild shaking.  The epicenter was somewhere near the City by the Bay. Damage was severe in the City.  Stanford University had major damage.  Fences were moved as much at 6 feet.  Train engines were toppled.  It was bad.  There are great photos online that can give you an idea of what happened.  Take a few minutes to review them.  You will begin to understand why California has the most stringent building codes in the United States.  And, why we do not build with stone.

"Wrecked arches, Geology Building, Stanford University." - J.C.B., 105A (J. B. Macelwane archives, Saint Louis University)

"Wrecked arches, Geology Building, Stanford University." - J.C.B., 105A (J. B. Macelwane archives, Saint Louis University)

It doesn’t take much imagination to wonder what will happen to us if another quake of this magnitude were to will strike our area today.  Are you prepared?  We had a taste of a major quake in 1989 with the Loma Prieta quake.  If you weren’t living in the Bay Area then, let me tell you it was very frightening, and I’ve been through a lot of quakes in my lifetime.  It was incredible watching Victorian buildings crumble in front of my eyes.  It was frightening seeing skyscrapers rock and roll.  It was astonishing realizing that the San Francisco Bay Bridge, which you’ve just driven on to, has just been closed because it broke apart.  Oh, did I mention it took 3 hours to get off of that bridge and I didn’t have a cell phone to alert anyone that I was okay?  Not a fun day and not one I want to repeat any time soon. Be Prepared.

It takes some planning to be prepared for disaster and this is one we know will come, one day.  Do you have a supply of water, food, fuel to cook with or BBQ? Do you know how to shut off your gas meter, should you need to?  Do you have a plan for your family of where to meet if a major quake strikes during daytime hours and your family is in different places?  If you don’t, you should.  If you want some detailed information on what to do, please let me know as I can send it to you.

The 103rd Anniversary of the Great Quake won’t get the same attention it did on its centennial year, but it always gets some attention by the media each year, and you need to listen.  If you don’t take the time to become prepared for disaster then when it occurs, and it will one day, you will not be ready.

There are stores specializing in earthquake safety making it easy for you to shop online:  Quakekare and  Geohazzards International. They are only a couple of starting places.  It is well worth your time to browse their inventory and figure out what you need.  Don’t put this off.  We never get warnings for earthquakes.  They just happen.
You can go to Home Depot or your local hardware store and buy simple things to protect yourself and your home. They often have whole areas with Earthquake Safely items for sale.  Take a look and buy these things.  There are special straps to attach to high items, such as bookcases or china cabinets, and then affix them to studs in the wall. These straps keep these items upright.  Baby-proof your kitchen cabinets with the latches used to keep babies out of cabinets.  These latches will keep your cabinet doors closed and items intact and unbroken. Museum putty is another great item that costs little but placed under items that are breakable can keep them firmly attached to the surface you have them displaying on.

Keep fresh flashlight batteries in your flashlights, and have them near your bed.  If a quake hits at night, you may need to vacate your home and power could be off.  Keep slippers by your bed to use just in case there’s broken glass on the carpet or floor.  Some people suggest you have an emergency stash of clothing under your bed to grab and change into.  Keep a blanket in the trunk of your car, flashlights, emergency food, water and the like.  If you find you are away from home for a few days you’ll at least have some supplies.  Don’t forget your pets.  They can’t fend for themselves and they, too, get frightened by an earthquake so make sure you have extra water set aside for them and dry food.

If you have family or friends living out of California, use one of them as your check-in point for family and friends.  Everyone should have their phone number so they can call that person and let them know they are okay.  Keep your wits about you.  Plan, plan and plan again.  An earthquake generally lasts no more than 30 seconds.  Once it’s over, be prepared for the after shocks that continue for a while, but they, too, do subside damage both to your property and your mental well being.  Do not be suprised if your cell phone won’t work.  Do not be surprised if you can’t get internet access.  Try to have a landline in your house for phone — that means an old fashioned telephone line coming in.  After the 1989 Loma Prieta quake those telephone lines worked and cell phones did not.

Since today is the Anniversary of the Great 1906 San Francisco Quake take some time to remember it and then go out and make sure to take care of your family’s safety in advance of need.  Us today to celebrate as a day to prepare for your future safety. The USGS has a great website here to give you more information for your own safety.  Take a few minutes and read it.

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