Earthquakes, Flooding, Arson, Terrorism – are Emeryville residents prepared for the next disaster?

4 mins read

The smoke-filled air from the Santa Rosa wildfires are a reminder of how vulnerable we are to disasters — and how important it is for agencies and residents to be prepared.

While recent natural disasters like wildfires and hurricanes are probably not the most likely scenario for an emergency in Emeryville —  earthquakes, flooding, and other man-made disasters loom large. But preparedness is essential and the City has a plan in place to address and mitigate just about every imaginable scenario.

Oakland Hills fire from 80/Powell, October 1991
1991 Oakland Hills fire from I-80/Powell in Emeryville (Photo: marymactavish via Flickr)

City staff is currently updating its Local Hazard Mitigation Plan (LHMP), which identifies hazards to the community, assesses the City’s vulnerability to those hazards and identifies specific actions that can be taken to reduce the risk. It also identifies projects that could potentially reduce risks in the community from these natural and man-made hazards. Cities are required to adopt a LHMP every five years under the Federal Disaster Mitigation Act.

This comes on the heels of the release of the City’s Climate Action Plan 2.0, outlining many of the threats that our city faces from changing environmental factor. Both documents give residents clear insight to the threats at play and how to create a strategy to prepare for them.

This house at the corner of Adeline & 36th was one of many structures in Emeryville damaged by the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake (Photo: Emeryville Historical Society)

One of the longer term issues the city will face is inland flooding and sea level rise, with models projecting a sea level rise of 36 inches by the year 2100. In context, a sea level rise between 48 and 72 inches would inundate the city.

The report identifies Fire Station 34, the Police Station, and Powell Street as being highly impacted with water at this level. The City believes damage could be realized not with sustained sea level rise, but rather, a combination of king tides, storm surge, and glacial melting.

The UCS published a sobering report on the impact of rising sea levels from climate change.

In the shorter term, earthquakes, fires, and terrorism, and civil unrest appear to be more immediate threats Emeryville will face. The Hazard plan, in particular, outline risks such as a 7.2 magnitude earthquake, bioterrorism aimed at our city’s biotech community, and hazardous materials leaching into our community from railroad cars.

The Western side of our city is susceptible to Liquefaction of soil from a major Earthquake.

Across these two documents, the city has mapped out an exhaustive list of mitigation measures, including reducing our carbon emissions, educating residents, modifying physical infrastructure, and working with private companies manage risk that occurs on their property.

But city staff says that key to surviving any one of these disasters is preparedness.

“The systems are going to be overwhelmed. The best thing citizens should do is to prepare themselves,” said Lori Elefant, Management Analyst with the City of Emeryville and the staff member leading the update of the City’s Local Hazard Mitigation Plan.

Civil unrest led to this looting of Pak N Save in 2014 following a protest (Photo: SF Chronicle).

The city has prepared itself by forging mutual aid agreements, creating shelter plans, and outlining emergency operations plans. And it has procedures in place to work with county, state, and federal officials, according to Elefant.

“We encourage community members to plan to be self-sufficient for at least 72 hours and that means having water and non perishable foods, specific dietary / medical supplies, batteries, flashlights, portable charges, generators, first-aid supplies, and even a family communication plan. Residents should have copies of important documents in a safe place. Residents should be aware of elderly or non-ambulatory neighbors who they can lend assistance to.” said Chief Jennifer Tejada, Emeryville’s Chief of Police.

Our city has seen its share of bomb threats targeted at biotech employers by animal rights groups.

The City of Emeryville also participates in the AC Alert program through Alameda County. Residents who sign up will receive alerts with up to the minute emergency notifications and information. And the system is also capable of dialing landline phones with the same information, commonly referred to as ‘Reverse 911’.

Both Tejada and Elefant encourage residents to visit Ready.gov for lists of items they should have on hand at all times, as well as advice on how to create a family communication plan and what to do during an emergency.

A spate of Arson has been a reminder how quickly one might need to evacuate (Photo: KRON 4).

The City says that residents are invited to apply for the forthcoming Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), a program that provides disaster preparedness education and teaches basic emergency skills, by e-mailing Lori Elefant at lelefant@emeryville.org.

The City of Emeryville is also currently accepting public comment on the Local Hazard Mitigation Plan update. More information can be found on the Emeryville.org website.

The City of Emeryville will be presenting the draft of the 2017-2022 Local Hazard Mitigation Plan Update at the City’s Advisory Body meetings. Emeryville residents and business owners are welcome and encouraged to attend these meetings, and to provide either written or oral comments during the public comment period.

Planning Commission
Thursday, October 26th, 2017 at 6:30 PM
Civic Center, Council Chambers (1333 Park Avenue, Emeryville)

Joint Meeting of the Public Works Committee & Transportation Committee
Thursday, October 19, 2017 at 10:00 AM
Civic Center, Garden Level (1333 Park Avenue, Emeryville)

City Council Study Session
Tuesday, November 7, 2017 at 6:00 PM
Civic Center, Council Chambers (1333 Park Avenue, Emeryville)

The final draft of the plan Updated October 10, 2017 can be downloaded here [PDF].

Go Bag Basics:

  • Medication
  • Extra set of keys
  • Eyeglasses/contact lenses
  • Hearing aids
  • Change of clothes
  • Water & snack bars
  • Cash in small bills
  • First-aid kit
  • Flashlight
  • Portable radio
  • Phone Cable/Portable Charger
  • A copy of your ID
  • Respirator/Face mask


Subscribe to the AC Alerts Emergency Alert & Notification System
National Emergency Preparedness Month Website
American Red Cross – How to prepare for Emergencies
FEMA Family Emergency Communication Plan [PDF]
Ready.gov – Official website of the Department of Homeland Security
FEMA Pet Owner’s Checklist
Emergency Financial First Aid Kit [PDF]
Red Cross Emergency Preparedness Kit

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Bobby Lee

is a Bay Area native who’s lived in the Christie Core Neighborhood since 2010, Bobby enjoys exploring the far corners of our region, trying the newest restaurants in the area, or relaxing to 80's era television sitcoms and game shows. For the past six years, he's hosted a web video series called 2 Minute Finance teaching basic money management and consumer education.

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