Sunday, July 26, 2015

How would Arizona handle a major earthquake in California?

We recently got an inquiry referencing a blog post I did some time back about whether Californians might stream into Arizona looking for shelter and assistance if a major earthquake strikes that area.

We turned to our colleagues at the Arizona Division of Emergency Management and Mariano Gonzalez, Jr., State Plan Coordinator, provided this information about the State Emergency Response and Recovery Plan (SERRP) relative to earthquake evacuation from California to Arizona:
1.  The SERRP is an all-hazards plan.  It contains 15 Emergency Support Functions, and Logistical Support and Specific Incident Annexes.
2.  Arizona is a member of the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, an agreement of mutual aide and support amongst the States.
3.  State agencies have specific rules, laws, and authorities that may allow them to engage immediately in their subject matter area in support of other states' requests.  In this case, a state agency may ask for coordination support from the State Emergency Operations Center to supplement their response work, whether in-state or at the request of another state.
4.  FEMA Region IX has constructed a Concept of Operations Document with Arizona to allow for immediate synchronization of efforts in a catastrophic situation affecting Arizona and/or other states in Region IX's area.

These elements allow for rapid support in the initial response, short-term and long-term recovery.

The recent I-10 bridge failure in California demonstrated #2 and #3 above, as ADOT and CALTRANS worked to coordinate traffic control, information flow to the public, and situation reports regarding safety of the rest of the road infrastructure along I-10.  Hats off to ADOT for keeping the Arizona State EOC fully informed of their support to CALTRANS, including the use of WEBEOC to inform all concerned in a real-time basis.

This background supports the answer to Evacuation of California as a result of a catastrophic earthquake.  Arizona would support California's request for evacuation support and reception.  It would be upon California to define and determine (and inform) Arizona how it would map and time the evacuation.  Both Arizona and California's transportation and emergency management agencies would be closely involved in developing this timeline and the support needed. This timeline would be incident specific, and could change on the fly.

It is important to note that California has not engaged with Arizona, to my knowledge, in the past regarding evacuation planning as a result of a catastrophic earthquake.  We would welcome the opportunity.
As a final note, cursory research of after action reports and available academic research indicated to our office that residents in California affected by earthquakes in the last thirty years were unwilling to evacuate.  Instead, they chose to camp in available spaces (parks, shelters, etc.) nearby to wait to go back in and rebuild/repair.   

Mariano shared that ADEM would like to work with California to develop a Concept of Operations document to better coordinate and cooperate in the event of a big quake.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous11:05 AM

    The major political differences between the states also explains the minimal planning. A major earthquake in Southern CA would devastate the transportation and communications grid. The fire risk is one planners should take far more seriously as SF, LA and SD are all in close proximity to major forests. How will authorities be able to conduct search-and-rescue and clear rubble amid spreading blazes? There's the potential for consecutive, overlapping disasters. This summer 2014 podcast offers an extremely sobering assessment: (in particular, just before the 22:00 mark)