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A spring day in San Francisco, 1906


After the 1906 earthquake


In the back of many visitors minds is the nagging fact that San Francisco is sitting on an earthquake danger zone. And how can one not be concerned? After all, the great 1906 earthquake was the largest natural disaster in America's history. The quake and the fires it caused resulted in the death of an estimated 3,000 people, destroyed some 25,000 buildings and left about 300,000 people homeless.


But a lot has changed since then. Building are constructed much better, safety infrastructure has been greatly improved, and of course, new technologies, such as radio communication, makes help much more effective than it was in the early 20th Century. So compare the devastation of 1906 with the latest "big one", the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Where in 1906 there were about 3,000 deaths, in 1989 only 63 people died through out the entire Bay Area. True, 1906 was bigger, about 7.8 on the Richter scale, verses 6.9 in 1989. But the population had exploded since then to where in 1989 about 7 million people were effected. And as terrible as the 63 deaths were in 1989, when compared to the 7 million potential victims, it is statistically minute. And on top of that, much was learned from the 1989 quake and there was a massive amount of retrofitting done to the city's buildings and elevated highways. So, it is reasonable to believe if another quake on the order of 1989 occurs, the damage and death will be much less.


But still, the danger is there. So what do the experts tell us we should do in a quake? If outside, move away from buildings (however, I can tell you from personal experience, it is very difficult to walk during a quake) where one might become injured from falling debris. Also, watch out for overhead lines, for they might not remain overhead. Stand on dry ground so as to lessen the chance of a shock from downed electrical lines.


The standard advise when inside used to be to stand in a doorway. But now we are told it is better to lie down next to a large strong object such as a sofa or a bed. The idea is, if the ceiling falls it will not completely flatten the sofa or some such, but there will be a triangular safety zone next to it, a sort of air pocket that will not be smashed.


After the 1906 San Francisco earthquake


bottem of the shadow


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