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"The Great Southern
California ShakeOut":
Lessons Learned

Fighting Blight and

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Main Office:
385 N Arrowhead Avenue
San Bernardino, CA 92415

Chino District Office:
13160 7th Street
Chino, CA 91710

Staff Members:
Mark Kirk,
Chief of Staff

Brian Johsz,
District Director

Grace Hagman,
Field Representative/
Community Outreach

Roman Nava,
Small Business Liaison

Anthony Riley,
Special Projects Director

Naseem Farooqi,
Constituent Service

Burt Southard,
Special Projects Analyst

Michael Delgado,

Joy Chadwick,
Executive Analyst

Jeanna Pomierski,
Executive Secretary
(District Office)

Annette Taylor,
Executive Secretary
(Government Center)

Christy Ray,
Office Assistant

January 2009


Click the following link to view Supervisor Ovitt's Video:

The largest earthquake drill in U.S. history, held November 13th in Southern California. The simulation exercise found some serious gaps in local earthquake planning, prompting utility companies, emergency managers and others to rethink their planning for a major temblor.

The Great Southern California ShakeOut was the first time so many agencies and earthquake officials teamed up to examine what would happen if a huge quake struck the region, in this case a 7.8 magnitude temblor. Many Shakeout participants said they have gone through earthquake drills before, but never with a scenario so detailed.

Based on the results of the Nov. 13 experiment, in which each agency estimated damage and emergency services requirements based on detailed quake scenarios developed by supercomputers, officials said they will need more emergency workers, better sources of water and come up with new ways of restoring electricity.

Fire protection

For local fire officials, one of the most worrisome estimates from the drill was the 1,600 fires expected to ignite with lamps overturning, electrical wires shorting and natural gas lines bursting open. Many fires would grow out of control as firefighters struggle to get fire engines across damaged roads and water stopped coming out of their hoses, experts found.

An estimated 200 million square feet of property would be damaged in the blazes. The fires would cause more than 900 deaths -- about half of the total for the earthquake.

Today, if this were to happen, we would need outside assistance and a lot of it.

Unfortunately, help would not be available for quite some time because neighboring fire agencies would be fighting fires in their own districts and departments from Northern California would have to make their way around damaged highways. Because they can't afford to multiply their staffs, several fire agencies are looking into training more members of the community to be first responders, learning such skills as basic first aid and turning off gas lines.

County's are also looking into ways to better draw water from other sources during a disaster, such as pools or storm drains that are collecting runoff from broken pipes.

Water supplies

But the drill also raised troubling questions about how much water would be available after a major quake. Of all utilities, water would take the longest time to restore, experts found. Some communities might have to wait six months for taps to flow again.

The Shakeout helped officials at East Valley Water District in San Bernardino County estimate that they would see about 1,000 leaks in their 450 miles of pipe because about 40% of their pipes are made from a material that is particularly brittle in earthquakes. All 78,000 of its customers would lose water for some period because all of the agency's reservoirs are on one side of the fault and all of its wells and distribution systems are on the other.

As a result, the district plans to stock more replacement pipe parts in repair sheds near those areas and store more bottled water for their employees, employees' families that might stay at their facilities to help customers who need water.

The water agencies are also retooling their mutual-aid agreements so they can figure out how to prioritize different agencies' needs and distribute replacement parts or water from other states as rapidly as possible.

Electrical supplies

The 7.8 temblor modeled by the test would leave large swaths of Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties without power, according to estimates by a working group that included utility companies representatives. Breaks in natural gas pipelines could add delays because many plants use gas to generate electricity. It probably would take about 10 days to restore power to 90% of customers, the estimates found. Even that assessment may be overly optimistic.

The problem is harder than people initially think. Although Southern California Edison already uses equipment designed to be safer in earthquakes, such as transformers with low centers of gravity, other utilities and parts vendors would probably be having problems at the same time.

If we lose bridges or roadways, getting people or materials to the job sites would be difficult if not impossible. These potential problems together, might take two to four weeks to restore power to the vast majority of Edison's 12 million customers.

The scenario's value was in identifying what we have to look for than just available on-hand resources.

Planners of the "Shakeout" hoped the drill gave agencies concrete data that will help them better prepare. People don't need to be convinced an earthquake can happen, that is a given. They need concrete information so they know what to do in the event of one.

The effort to develop the scenario cost about $500,000, engaged some 300 experts and took two years to complete.

Geophysicists wanted to plot a plausible event, so they started the earthquake at a part of the San Andreas that has not moved for more than 300 years. They decided the energy stored in that part of the fault could cause a 200-mile rupture moving northwest from Bombay Beach, at the Salton Sea. Quakes of this size are possible, Jones explained, because they rocked San Francisco in 1906 and Fort Tejon in 1857. Seismologists used the supercomputers to calculate the shaking, generating data for 25,000 points of a grid laid out over Southern California.

Geologists, engineers, utility managers and other experts used the data to estimate the damage, which included more than 10,000 landslides, more than 50 sewage spills and more than 100,000 addresses losing phone and Internet service for two or more days. Motorists would have to wait one to two weeks to use arterial roads in cities such as Los Angeles and seven months to use damaged highways.

Public health experts estimated some 1,800 people would die and 50,000 would be seriously injured. The economic costs of the disaster, including the business interruption, would total about $213 billion.

The scientists purposefully avoided a worst-case scenario but wanted to analyze an earthquake far more damaging than the 1994 Northridge earthquake, which had a magnitude of 6.7.


San Bernardino County recently outlined its plan to spend nearly $22.8 million in federal funds to help fight blight stemming from the region's home foreclosure crisis. The County will use the largest share of its $22.8 million to provide subsidized second mortgages to low- and moderate-income residents buying foreclosed homes. Along with first mortgages, the so-called soft seconds help make a home more affordable.

The funding comes from the federal Housing and Economic Recovery Act approved by Congress and signed by President George W. Bush in late July. State and local governments are set to receive a combined $4 billion, of which $133.5 million is slated for the Inland Empire region. Local governments had until Dec. 1 to submit a plan on how to spend the money to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. San Bernardino County supervisors approved their plan in November.

Outside of subsidized second mortgages, San Bernardino County plans to use $2.5 million to provide down-payment assistance to new homebuyers. The county will use $2 million to partner with nonprofit and for-profit companies to buy foreclosed homes and sell them to residents with a household income of less than $74,000. Another $4 million will go toward partnering with the county's housing authority or other partners to buy up foreclosed or abandoned rental properties.

The board has been at the forefront of this housing recovery effort since Congress approved the legislation in July because we know swift action is necessary to stabilize our housing market and to protect neighborhoods from the damaging impacts of multiple home foreclosures.

The plan covers nearly half of the county's cities and communities. Other incorporated cities, such as Fontana and San Bernardino, receive their own funds through the Housing Recovery Act.