What if you’re at work when the Big One hits San Francisco? 

As a resident of an earthquake-prone region, I hope you have made it your personal responsibility to have plenty of extra water, food, etc. stored at home for you and your family. But what if you’re at work when the Big One hits?

Millions of working people crowd into San Francisco and other business districts around the Bay Area each weekday, often more than an hour’s commute from home. There we work and play for half of our weekday lives. So what’s the drill if a major quake hits when you’re in your 19th-floor office in the middle of a suddenly dysfunctional urban environment?

Here are some brutal facts you’re better off hearing now than when the Big One hits, and it’s too late to prepare:

  • The area’s roads and transportation infrastructure may be so damaged that you will not be able to return home for some time.
  • In some parts of downtown, there may be so many feet of glass and other debris in the street that you won’t be able to leave your area until walkways are cleared.
  • Your building landlord does not have the space to store water, food, medical supplies, etc. that you will need to survive for a day or two or three before you can leave The City.
  • You, individually, or your company will need to have adequate supplies on hand to sustain you until you can get home.
  • Government personnel will be busy providing critical services to get city residents back online and will not be able to offer you much of anything in the immediate aftermath.
  • Your business will be disrupted; for how long depends somewhat on your own resourcefulness and how well you have planned for a serious incident.
  • Power may be interrupted for days, so you will need to rely on an alternate power supply.

In short: You need to take personal responsibility for yourself and your business operations.  How can you learn how to better prepare? Web ites that will be invaluable to you include:

  • Quake Quiz SF — quakequizsf.org
  • Neighborhood Emergency Response Team — www.sffire.org/index.aspx?page=859
  • www.72hours.org
  • www.alertsf.org
  • BOMA San Francisco’s Emergency Preparedness Committee, whose members have generated quite a bit of useful material, sponsored many emergency preparedness drills and held numerous meetings with relevant government officials to help the commercial real estate community better cope with possible disasters of all sorts. Feel free to visit our website: www.bomasf.org/committee_view.php?idx=15

So ask yourself: What have I done to prepare for a large-scale calamity that could knock down bridges, damage roads, and force the closure of the building where I work? What have I done to prepare my business so that I can keep operating during the days immediately following a critical incident and to recover in the weeks and months following? The better prepared you are, the faster we’ll get San Francisco up and running again after a major disaster. Be a part of the solution, not part of the problem.

Marc Intermaggio is executive vice president of BOMA, San Francisco’s Building Owners and Managers Association.

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