Earthquake Preparedness in Santa Cruz County

It’s been 26 years since the Loma Prieta earthquake, and the systems, services, and technologies that served Santa Cruz County during that time are ripe for re-examination. The Emergency Medical Care Commission, which advises our county supervisors on emergency medical care issues, has put together a subcommittee for Earthquake Emergency Preparedness. Response systems and protocols for earthquakes happening outside of our county still apply, so we will be looking at what we can do should another big earthquake hit inside Santa Cruz.

To create the strongest plan, the subcommittee will work with some assumptions about the imaginary quake. As of February, 2015, those assumptions include:

  • That roadway loss has isolated Santa Cruz County.
  • That telecommunications, including cell service and internet service do not exist.
  • That, as with the Loma Prieta quake, 60% of 911 calls for ambulance services will result in the caller having evacuated before the ambulance arrives.
  • That Santa Cruz County will not have ready access to services other than what already exist in the county.
  • That Fire will be too busy to assist in most cases.
  • That Police will be too busy to assist in most cases.

Areas we’ll be coming up with responses and systems for include:

  • Communications – how will Ambulance/Police/Fire dispatch handle medical injury calls, what will Medcom be tasked with?
  • Pre-hospital treatment
  • Triage
  • Supplies
  • Staffing
  • Service hand-off (housing, food, mental health, etc.)
  • Security for staff and resources
  • Scenario where operations are disrupted at Dominican Hospital or Watsonville
  • Managing multiple critical injuries
  • Transportation
  • How will we manage to acquire a ‘big-picture’ view of what’s happening in the County?

It’s likely that the subcommittee will begin by reviewing:

Other areas to be addressed later in the process will likely include:

  • Consumer education
  • Possible school drills

Finally, it is accepted that it would be a best practice to ensure that systems and protocols revolve around job functionality, and not specific persons.

If you have any questions or concerns you’d like to bring up regarding this subject, please email me at RobynMcIntyre at gmail dot com


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