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Environmental Emergency Responders Plan for Major San Francisco Bay Area Earthquake

Release Date: 09/11/2009
Contact Information: Mary Simms, (415) 947-4270 / or Angela Blanchette, (510) 540-3732 /

MEDIA AVAILABILITY: Emergency Responders from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Coast Guard, the state and other agencies will participate in a full-scale disaster exercise next week from September 14 - 17. Please email to request a media kit and/or explore possible interview and photo opportunities surrounding the disaster drill. Please include your name, contact information and deadline in your request.

SAN FRANCISCO - Emergency response officials from California, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, Washington and multiple federal and state and agencies have spent nearly a year planning to test their response to the Bay Area’s worst nightmare and most likely natural disaster -- a catastrophic earthquake with devastating environmental implications.

Next week, from the Bay Area to Sacramento, geographically-dispersed emergency responders from as far as Alaska will travel to Northern California in real-time as part of an emergency response. All week, they’ll participate in a full-scale exercise to test coordination, communication, and logistics in an effort to manage the environmental response of a disastrous Bay Area earthquake.

As part of the drill, the earthquake will simulate the loss of and damage to major infrastructure resources in the Bay Area. Major bridges, drinking water supplies, wastewater treatment facilities, and chemical and radiological facilities will all potentially be impacted. As part of the exercise, field reconnaissance teams will deploy to test and strengthen emergency response skills.

The week-long disaster drill will span multiple locations and the earthquake will result in compounded simulated emergencies. The scenario will begin with a devastating 6.8 magnitude earthquake along the northern end of California’s Hayward Fault, affecting Contra Costa and Alameda Counties. A series of additional complications stemming from the natural disaster will challenge the skills and resources of hundreds of emergency, public safety, transportation and public health officials.

The emergency planning exercise, called “Great State Shake,” is a collaborative effort between EPA offices in Denver, Seattle and San Francisco, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the state of California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control. The focus of the exercise will be communications and logistics coordination within the first 24 to 72 hours of the exercise with unique new challenges being unveiled each day of the exercise.

In response to a major natural disaster, the state of California can request federal assistance under the provisions of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act. This will allow for and provide additional federal resources to augment state and local emergency response.