What will happen AFTER a tsunami hits San Francisco

By John Baker

Should a tsunami actually strike San Francisco, the city will go into what city officials call “recovery mode” once emergency rescue operations have been completed, according to San Francisco’s Emergency Response Plan for a tsunami.

Documents posted on the Department of Emergency Management’s website state that once the waters recede, the city will immediately begin a tedious process of cleaning and sanitizing the afflicted areas. For example, after large debris has been removed, street sweepers will be assigned to clean the affected areas as soon as possible.

Much of the cleanup, however, will be left up to the public. Owners of private property, for instance, will be responsible for cleaning the sidewalks and landscaping in front of and on their own property. Officials will encourage the use of city water for such cleaning. City health officials caution, however, that people should not touch the bare sidewalk with bare skin — including bare feet — for two-to-three sunny days after the cleanup in order to make sure ultraviolet light has killed microbes.

As the cleanup continues, the Department of Public Works will send workers into the wave-hit area to provide information to the public about specific hazards, public health inspectors will assess the impact on public health, and the Neighborhood Services office workers will begin a “needs” assessment for the affected zone.

After that comes the really hard part: the economics. Beyond the need to pay emergency workers, the city will also face financial hits in terms of necessary repairs to infrastructure, lost taxable property and the like. The City’s plan calls for a declaration of a local emergency so San Francisco can apply for state and federal emergency funds.

Individual homeowners and businesses can seek financial assistance from the Federal government. Any such assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, however, requires that a disaster be declared a State and Federal emergency, not just a local one.

Local non-profit organizations, such as the Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity, would be approached by the City to help low-income individuals.

Contact John Baker at jcbaker@mail.sfsu.edu

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