City wins major disaster planning grant

City wins major disaster planning grant

Michele Ellson

The Rockefeller Foundation will be helping Alameda draft plans to bounce back quickly from a natural disaster. The Island was one of 33 cities from across the world and four in the Bay Area picked to receive grant money and assistance in creating the plans through the foundation’s new 100 Resilient Cities network.

It wasn’t immediately clear how much money the city will receive from the $100 million grant program, which will fund planning efforts and a new resilience czar in each of the cities the foundation selects, Assistant City Manager Alex Nguyen said. He said additional details should be available in January.

City Manager John Russo said the grant – discovered by a consultant the city hired to help the city acquire more grant funding – will help the city continue an ongoing effort to help the city weather an earthquake, fire, tsunami or other disaster. The council recently okayed a plan to refinance existing construction bonds to build a new emergency operations center and approved a new legislative agenda that includes seeking out more grant money and state funding for what Russo said is a long-desired tsunami preparedness plan.

“At some point (a disaster) will happen, and the city was not ready for it. The city still isn’t honestly ready for it. These are the steps that are necessary to be ready for it,” he said.

Oakland, Berkeley and San Francisco were also selected for grants and assistance.

Alameda sits between two major earthquake fault lines and much of the city is at risk of liquefaction if a major earthquake hits. A 2012 U.S. Geological Survey report released earlier this year listed Alameda as one of six California cities with the highest number and percentage of people and businesses that could be inundated if a tsunami hits.

While public safety’s job is to deal with the immediate aftermath of a disaster, the new “resilience” czar’s job would be to put together and execute a plan to help the city get back on its feet after the initial disaster response is complete, Russo said.

“This is, how are you prepared in days 3, 4, 5 after the critical event is over?” he said. “How do you get back off the floor? How do you get your economy back off the mat?”

Half the world’s population lives in cities now, and 75 percent are projected to live in cities in 2050. That’s up from 10 percent in 1913, according the project website. And the world has struggled to weather a host of financial crises and natural disasters over the past five years, including a worldwide financial meltdown, destructive and deadly hurricanes in New Orleans and New York, tsunamis, major quakes and most recently, Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

The foundation has been working on making cities more crisis-proof for nearly a decade, a press release from the city said. Its activities have included investing in climate change resilience efforts in Asia and Africa, funding planning work in post-Katrina New Orleans, and leading New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s post-Hurricane Sandy commission, which created plans to help the state withstand crises long-term.

The competition was open to cities with at least 50,000 residents and major institutions with strong city partnerships. Some 400 cities applied for inclusion in the program; entries were judged by a group that included former President Bill Clinton and former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo.


Richard Bangert's picture
Submitted by Richard Bangert on Tue, Dec 3, 2013

"Even the interior of the San Francisco Bay would not be spared, with 10-12 foot waves reaching Alameda, and eight- to 10-foot surges spilling into the towns of Sausalito and San Rafael."

It's good that someone is going to be making plans for bouncing back, as reported above. But what about avoiding injuries when a tsunami hits? Are there tsunami warning buoys in the Pacific Ocean that would alert coastal authorities? How would residents be alerted if a tsunami was on the way? Tsunamis do allow time for some potentially lifesaving actions, such as abruptly leaving the South Shore area.

Inundation maps:

Submitted by Michele Ellson on Wed, Dec 4, 2013

Thanks for all of this information, Richard. Much appreciated.

Submitted by Brock de Lappe (not verified) on Wed, Dec 4, 2013

I would hope that at least some portion of this grant money be spent to purchase water pumps for the Alameda Fire Department. In a serious earthquake we could easily lose water pressure on the island. Having portable pumping systems would allow fire fighting with seawater from the bay and estuary. Remember that in 1989 it was a San Francisco fire boat that provided water to fight fires in the marina district.

Submitted by John Thomson (not verified) on Thu, Dec 5, 2013

The USGS study indicates much of the perimeter of the island plus all of Alameda Point, Alameda Landing, the proposed Crown Point homes at Neptune Point, Marina Village, College of Alameda, the tube portal areas ... would be inundated. That report is not clear which seismic event would cause the maximum tsunami inundation, but it is probably a nearby event which would mean the tubes would not be available (Caltrans has lights that shut the tubes down automatically for a nearby earthquake) There would be no chance to evacuate the island; only place to go is the old high ground: ie look for a Victorian!