PACKET RADIO: Notes from the '89 CA Earthquake

Part 4

Steve Wolf, W8IZ@W8IZ

(This text from the NO8M packet radio bulletin

board. It's formatted to fit a 80 character screen.)

                        *** SECTION F ***
Regarding cellular telephones, we are a large but poor chapter
and own none. During the first day of the disaster, our Chapter
Manager, Marian Wilson, was lent a cellular telephone by the City
of Oakland EOC. It didn't work well because of user interface
problems and lack of spare batteries, but it was helpful. Only
after the fifth day, were we able to get long term loans of
cellular telephones from local vendors and later from Western
Operations Headquarters. Again user interface problems, mainly
due to battery charging but also neglecting to leave the phone
"on" caused some problems. Obviously, if people were used to
operating cellular telephones on a daily basis, it would not have
been such a problem during a disaster.
On the fifth day, the cellulars were issued to the job director,
the disaster chairperson, mass care, public relations, disaster
volunteer coordinator, government liaison, damage assessment,
transportation, communications, supervisors, and other key
support people. Later when, the DSHR personnel arrived, new
cellulars were obtained and issued to them as well. 
As every disaster is "unique", this one had new shelters opening
up even 7 days after the original quake because of building
department condemnations of large hotels and apartments.
Although, I suggested the installation of permanent telephone
lines to be installed, the job director insisted on using
cellulars at a couple of shelters that didn't have existing
telephones. This worked "fair", depending if the shelter manager
knew how to use it. The City of Oakland OES picked most of the
shelters and ask us to "open" them. They did not take into
consideration the availability of telephones in their choices to
our detriment.   
The Oakland disaster operations took place in some of the most
economically depressed areas in the city. A few cellular
telephones did "walk away" despite "good" security. On a large 24
hour disaster operation where we use volunteers from "all over"
such a problem is difficult to prevent. A few times cellulars and
chargers were locked up so that "nobody" could get to them, hence
rendering the equipment temporarily useless. Theft at Oakland was
the worse I have ever experienced in any disaster, yet "the
spirit" still was high. 
Telephones in General
Loss of Power = Loss of Switchboard
When the earthquake struck, the Oakland Headquarters lost
commercial power for over 12 hours. We had an emergency power
generator that was SUPPOSED to plug into the electric grid.
However it had not been tested for years and we could not get it
working properly for at least 5 hours.  The Oakland center's
physical plant and telephone system had suffered from many
management decision changes that was not coordinated with
disaster services. Decisions had been made based on day-to-day
business cost effectiveness which wound up a detriment to
disaster services. As a result, the outlet that fed the
switchboard which was at one time served by the emergency power
grid (generator) had been moved and therefore the switchboard was
no longer on the emergency grid. The battery backup had long been
burned out and not tested.
Choice of Switchboards
But even after commercial power was restored, there were other
problems. The telephone systems for the Red Cross were almost
useless for the first week even though telephone service within
the disaster area on this earthquake worked fairly well even on
the first day. This dichotomy is explained because Oakland's poor
choice of switchboards (AT&T HORIZON PBX) which turned over
automatically to the next available number if the previous line
was in use. Thus the entire switchboard could be locked up
continually if the incoming and outgoing calls were of a
sufficient quantity. There were more extensions than there were
lines on the system by a factor of three to one. 
IN-HOUSE LINES "BUSY" Despite the Local Exchange Functioning
In other words, the telephone lines into the  Red Cross Oakland
Headquarters, where the East Bay Chapter had their EOC, were
continuously "busy". Outgoing lines were very difficult to find
as there were more extension handsets than there were actual
available lines. By the 3rd day, we were able to increase our
lines into the switchboard from 10 to 20, and install 12 new
private lines independent from the switchboard. But we were again
quickly over loaded. The only solution at that time was,
additional lines that by-passed the switchboard. However we soon
"maxed out" as the telephone company lines at the street could
not provide additional service into our area without stringing
larger cable from blocks away. It was poor planning on my part!
We were fortunate that the main telephone exchange grids were not
overloaded and dial tones were easily available anywhere in the
exchange but not from inside the Red Cross. Likewise calls into
shelters were almost always busy, because of heavy usage. Thus
ham radio and Red Cross radios were essential until the telephone
situation could be normalized.
We did have need to talk to outside chapters such as Golden Gate
(San Francisco), San Jose, and Santa Cruz as well as Western
Operations Headquarters in Burlingame. Communications outside the
East Bay Telephone Exchange to these nearby exchanges areas were
almost impossible due to constant "inter"- exchange overload
problems. Here ham radio linked up whomever we needed to talk to.
The nature of these communications were for the purpose of
redistributing excess supplies, centralizing the fund raising
efforts on a non-competitive basis, issuing joint PR statements,
Our most important users were the Job Director (Admin), Mass
Care, Disaster Health Services, and Feeding...maybe in that
order? Yet the heaviest users were Volunteers and Fund raising.
ISSUED IN THE MEDIA. If we had to do it over again, I would
suggest that donations and fund raising be set up in an
alternative building nearby, almost immediately. This would have
given the overloaded Oakland telephones a great breather for the
other services.  
After the sixth day the Red Cross disaster operations was moved
to Concordia School about 4 miles away. This was to allow
"National" to come in and turn the chapter back to "normal". At
Concordia, 30 separate lines were dropped, re-configurable at the
main office, utilizing a CENTREX SYSTEM. The CENTREX System
seemed to be very flexible and worked well. By this time national
had centralized the Bay area combined fund raising in San
Francisco so we were only concerned with Volunteers,
transportation, Mass Care, Health Services, Administration, etc.
Family Services was being run entirely at a different location. 
These additional operating centers did cause some problems to
communications, transportation, and feeding as well as Mass Care,
and it was the observation of most, that as soon as the move to
Concordia occurred, the quality of our services to the victims
degraded considerably.
Chronology/Afterthoughts/Specific Problems
In general most East Bay residents did not lose commercial power
nor telephone service within their exchange despite severe
earthquake damage to the Pacific Telephone's "OLD" Franklin
Street Headquarters in downtown Oakland (which was evacuated).
Dial tones were slow but available. "Key" numbers were
predictably and sometimes perpetually "busy". Calling outside of
the East Bay exchange to San Francisco, South Bay, and Santa Cruz
exchanges was at best "lucky" for first 5 days. 
After AC power was restored to the switchboard at the Oakland
Center Red Cross Headquarters, lines still remained hopelessly
overloaded and busy. Originally, less than 10 lines were
available to the entire building although there was a theoretical
capacity for 50 separate numbers. 
The lines to the Oakland Office of Emergency Services were
constantly "busy" and thus useless as well. Shelters
characteristically were placed in School Gymnasiums which for the
most part had no telephone service and when finally installed,
quickly became overloaded. Complications arose as to who was to
be the "interface" person with the telephone company between the
Disaster Administrator, the Communications Chairperson, and the
Chapter Manager. As Communications Chairperson, I bowed out of
the picture. As a result disaster communications functionality
suffered. There is a need for clearer lines of "command" to be
established before hand. 
It took 40 hours to get new telephone extensions installed to the
Horizon (AT&T) PBX and radically revise its operation. 10 new
lines and 5 new extensions were added to the Horizon switchboard
by AT&T. 12  new separate direct dial lines were added for direct
(non-switchboard use) by Pacific Telephone. Fortunately, we had
about 40 telephone handsets stored at the Richmond center and
much wire to help facilitate these new lines. As it turned out
Pacific Bell and AT&T donated their time and equipment free.
Despite this addition, lines into the Red Cross were continually
overloaded and "busy" and people inside the building were often
unusable to find a telephone anywhere in the building that had a
usable outgoing line. The pay phone in the lobby was also
constantly busy, normally used for personal calls by the many
volunteers who often numbered greater than 300 at any given time
(night or day) for the first five days!
After the first 6 days, the switchboard at Oakland became more
usable. However it was then decided to move the Red Cross
operations to 4 miles away to Concordia School near 64th and
MacArthur in order to get the Oakland Center back to normal. This
move was met with opposition by some who feared that such a move
would decrease our efficiency, be expensive, and further isolate
the decision making body from the operational arm, but the move
was completed by Tuesday October 24 with the installation of 25
phone lines at Concordia through a Centrex System which allowed
maximum reconfigurration flexibility. It should be noted that the
Golden Gate Chapter (San Francisco) never moved their operations
out of their Chapter Headquarters while apparently maintaining
good functionality.
At this time, the National Red Cross took over the operation as
is standard practice on a National Disaster and told our
Communications Section that they were no longer needed. We were
requested by our own Transportation and Mass Care personnel to
not remove the radios from our sites nor stop staffing Red Cross
Radios until certain re-adjustments had been made. Standard
operating procedure in such disasters is that as soon as normal
telephone service within the exchange has proven to be reliable
and as soon as additional telephone lines can be installed at
shelters and operating sites, radio systems should go back to
normal operations asap. 
By Thursday all hams and Red Cross radios had been pulled out of
service in shelters throughout Northern California except for
Oakland. Cellular telephones were made available by National Red
Cross to all key personnel but telephones still had not been
installed at all shelters even after repeated requests for this
to occur and even after it was obvious that the disaster had been
over subscribed to i.e., funds were available.
The Communications section was then given the date of Sunday
night, Oct 22 to close down the Red Cross radio system as
transportation was to move out of Oakland Red Cross to Concordia.
That move was delayed until Monday night, but then a new shelter
was opened at Martin Luther King Recreation Center in Berkeley
that same night, which had "questionable" telephones and the
radios were scheduled to be pulled on Tuesday, October 31, after
over two full weeks of radio service. The unique occurrence of
shelters being opened even into the third week of the disaster
was because the cities were still condemning buildings even two
weeks after the quake. 
One of course can not help to understand the interplay between
telephone systems and radio systems, one filling the void left by
the other. Desiring to pull the valuable and vulnerable radios as
soon as possible by establishing telephone communications, the
communicatiosn chairman was following what he thought was
standard and logical procedure.
Then, the most contentious problem of the entire disaster arose
for me as Communications Supervisor and Chairperson. An over
zealous and distraught volunteer at Mass Care (but well meaning
we are sure) requested radio Communications to remain open
indefinitely. The reasons being in order received:
1) Radios are a psychological aid.
2) Radios can get us help (security) faster than telephones
3) There might be an after-shock and the telephones would fail.
4) The telephones are too busy or fragile
5) Communications can filter calls for "us" at Mass Care and make 
   minor decisions in regards to mass care, especially late at   
   night so that we don't have to be bothered.       
The responses that were given by the Communications Chairman
1) That is a health services/psychological problem not
2) Dialing 911 is faster than calling Communications who would
then have to dial 911 in any case. Security police were stationed
around the clock at each shelter in any case.
3) An after shock could occur at "anytime", but keeping the
radios going indefinitely was not practical. A large aftershock,
if having occurred, may render existing freeways useless and
cause damage to other parts of the chapter whose radios now were
in Oakland and would thus also be compromised. Indeed, the
experts were looking for an even bigger quake now on the Hayward
fault which would have impinged more strongly on other parts of
the chapter whose supplies and communications equipment were now
severely compromised by the Oakland and Berkeley operations.
4) Additional telephone lines could have been installed by now
and be sufficient to handle all situations at all shelters and
feeding operations..
5) The cardinal rule in training communicators is not to
"filter", but to be transparent to the process. A recent bulletin
from the State Office of Emergency Services to all Communicators
"As far as the end user is concerned the means of communication
are normally invisible and should be so. The goal of the system
is to move information and/or data as rapidly as possible,
neither adding nor subtracting anything in the process." from
William L. Musladin, Chief State RACES Officer, Office of
Emergency Services, State of California, Sacramento.
The request by this over zealous Mass Care volunteer, although
well meaning, violated the basic principles that communicators
are trained to effect, and thus was something that I could not
agree to. It would needlessly delay and alter messages if this
plan were approved as the shelter managers would call
communications first, then write the message down, and then call
Mass Care. Here the extra middle man relay can introduce errors
and certainly delay communications. A poor communications
principle and one that I could not endorse. 
This was clearly a mass care problem not a communications
problem; but this volunteer was not going to "let up" and went to
the head of Mass Care for the National Red Cross effort in
Oakland and the Communications Assistant Supervisor who agreed to
support her proposal despite my "logical" opposition, even though
"Communications" was no longer on the Disaster Flow Charts, and
was excused by the National Red Cross job director almost a week
earlier; and this function was not on the communications job
As Communications Chairman, I hesitatingly agreed to allow Mass
Care use of the communications facilities, communications
equipment, and communications recruits as long as it was clear
that the operation was strictly and entirely under mass care, not
communications and operators would answer as being "
Mass Care. Although MAss Care agreed to call it Mass Care at that
time, later it came to my attention that they answered as
"Communications" when called. 
The Disaster Services Chairman  was informed as to the situation
as the ultimate responsibility of the safety of the equipment was
his and my job function was under him. He said he would
investigate and get back to me; and I stepped back as an
observer. We were then into the third week of radio
communications, where in my opinion, telephones could have taken
over 99% of the communications by the end of the first week as
they did in San Francisco and Santa Cruz earthquake operations.
What ensued was a misuse of "Communications" as a buffer for Mass
Care was predictably "inefficient". I observed frustrated shelter
managers call in for towels, vegetarian meals, medical
transportation, special needs, etc being given negative responses
from radio operators who answered as communications where the
appropriate channel to deal with these requests would have been
mass care. In most cases, the "communications" person would call
up the mass care person on duty and receive a "no we can't
provide". Obviously the communications person couldn't/wouldn't
argue with the mass care person. Then the communicator would pass
this information back to the shelter manager. Obviously, it did
not do the shelter manager any good to argue with
"communications" as they didn't make the decision. 
Obviously, this was a good way of isolating mass care from the
shelter managers and putting a "buffer" in between. There is
another "word" for this type of buffering, which is called
shirking responsibility, and that doesn't get the job done, but
would sure to put the blame on communications. Regardless, this
method only made more people mad at communications and decreased
the quality and speed of service and by definition decreased the
quality of communications. It was predictably a bad idea.
One may say that I, as communications chairman should have
acquiesced, as I had been able to avoid similar potential
problems in the past by doing so; but in this case I felt that
this was a misuse of Communications in which I could not
participate. I expected more support from my supervisors on this.
Basically not receiving it, it was interpreted by myself as a
vote of no confidence of my judgement regarding the use of Red
Cross Disaster Communications..
What further discouraged the communications chairman about this
contentious "finale" as Communications Supervisor with this
disaster is that the Disaster Chairman was not able to respond in
anyway as to a resolution/closure leaving the situation dangling
as to roles and responsibilities with over $4000 worth of
equipment in the field, despite repeated calls to his office,
home, and written communications.
The critique of the Telephone Communications Section here ends
with a negative, but hopefully instructive experience, that is
in-house communications is also difficult in a dsiaster. One way
to avoid difficulties is to have frequent staff meetings for
everyone to air their frustrations and to have the overall
personell supervisor bring up about resolution. This is
particularly difficult in a disaster where staffing is 24 hours a
day and where spare time is short. It was the only real personnel
problem that Communications faced that had an unsatisfactory
outcome, but it is well worth bringing up as it may be relevant
to future leadership preparation.

                    ****** SECTION G ********
The purpose of this critique is to target areas for future
improvement by analyzing the events of the 1989 Northern
California Earthquake operations at the East Bay Chapter
It has become more increasingly clear that the Red Cross
functions best as a community focus point for Disaster Services.
It should provide training and structure in order to provide
services for victims of disasters. We should be judged solely on
our efficiency and quality in providing these services. Our great
task therefore must be to create a structure in which the
resources of the community can "plug into" the Red Cross to
facilitate this goal.
During the Loma Prieta Earthquake, it appeared to this observer
that we functioned best when we allowed for the community to
become activated through our structure. Quality service fell off
sharply when we failed to serve as this focus/function.
Larger Quake: What If?
We were lucky, the quake was a terrible disaster, but our
existing resources managed to get the job done. People were fed
and housed, albeit sometimes inefficiently and slowly. All the
various functions were facilitated. But if the quake is a little
larger, we must expect a different scenario and be prepared. We
must identify the areas in which we need improvement and at the
same time attempt to extrapolate the further problems that did
not show up in this one.
In a larger earthquake, obviously more trained volunteers would
be required as well as shipments of supplies from distant places.
Fuels, water, sanitary facilities, means of transportation and
communications will be strained as well.
The general format of this section is in three parts i.e.,
Problem (that needs improvement):  Overall Lack of Efficiency
Discussion and Background: The East Bay Chapter of the American
Red Cross did not have an active disaster committee as per
national guidelines. A Disaster Advisory Committee, however did
exist consisting solely of the Disaster Chairman, Vice Chair, DAT
Coordinator, and the sub-committee chairpersons so appointed by
the disaster chairman. 
This Advisory Committee was a poor substitute for an active
disaster committee.
The Advisory Committee refused to discuss a large disaster
greater than 200 families despite numerous recommendations by the
Communications Chairman. 
The Advisory Committee spent 95% of its time discussing issues of
format, "window dressing", social events, government liaison, DAT
matters, budget matters,, fund raising, education, training,
Disaster Plan, fire prevention, etc. Far too little time was
spent on nuts and bolts issues such as alerting and activation
procedures, emergency power, scenarios, testing, operational
procedure, shelter preparation, i.e., real disaster planning for
a large disaster. No time was given toward earthquake planning.
The minutes of the advisory committee will bear this out. The
disaster advisory committee leadership consciously committed the
number one sin of earthquake planning; earthquakes were
considered an "if" not a "when".
The Advisory Committee repeatedly refused a chapter wide test and
even an arm-chair test despite recommendations by the
Communications Chairperson. An unwillingness by the Disaster
Advisory Committee to at least desk top test an earthquake or
large disaster and thus be able to identify staffing, alerting,
emergency power, communications, nursing, supply, and other needs
continually frustrated the minority. 
There was a continuing disregard in creating a Disaster Committee
to address these concerns and to interface with trained disaster
volunteers, community  organizations, local disaster agencies,
church groups, and other resources. Our local presence suffered
Much of the problems could have been solved before hand. The key
in disaster preparedness is planning. The responsibility for
planning falls to the Disaster Services Committee. 
Since the merging of the Berkeley West Contra Costa Chapter with
the Oakland South Alameda County Chapters into one big East Bay
Chapter from Livermore to Crockett, there has not been a disaster
services committee meeting nor has there been any serious attempt
to recruit the old members or keep them informed. I personally
have bumped into highly trained and experienced members of the
former B/WCC Disaster Committee who wish to help both planning
and operations of medium or large size disaster but whose life
styles preclude their participation with the DAT at the present
time, yet the existing advisory committee has for the past two
years not been able to "plug-in" these resources.   
The neglectfulness to appoint/recruit sub-committee chairpersons
in the important areas of damage assessment, family services,
health services volunteer coordination, records and receipts,
public affairs, supply, transportation, family services, disaster
welfare Inquiries, etc. at the time of the earthquake indicates
an extremely poor level of preparation.
At the time of the disaster there was no chairperson for the
following key positions: Damage Assessment, Disaster Health
Services, Volunteer Coordinator (paid staff), Coordinator of
Disaster Volunteers, Disaster Welfare Inquiries, Supply,
Transportation, Records and Reports, Government Liaison, Public
Relations,, etc. As a matter of fact only Mass Care,
Communications, and Education had chairpersons appointed and only
Communications had an active sub-committee despite having no
Not only was our planning abominable, but our in-House
communications was worse. Paid staff did not know what the
advisory committee was doing, nor their roles in a disaster. The
potential multitude of trained volunteers that would be needed in
a large disaster had no communication with current planning,
procedures, policies, or Red Cross in-house changes except if you
were a member of the DAT. 
Coupled with the fact that the advisory committee told us that
there was no budget for even a disaster services newsletter, we
had no way of plugging in, updating, or communicating with
trained and experienced (or interested) disaster volunteers who
could help out in a large disaster such as potential Nurses,
Shelter Managers, Damage Assessment Personnel, etc.instead of
just those who are active in the DAT. 
At the time of the disaster there was only one third paid staff
for disaster preparedness (Jeanne Nickaloff had to break up her
time between Social Services, Service to Military Families and
Disaster.) The assistant Emergency Services Director had still
not been hired to replace Lonnie O'Dell who had transferred to
Arizona. This is not enough paid staff dedicated to Disaster
There was a long time vacancy of the paid staff position of
Director of Volunteers despite the fact that disaster needed
In addition, the paid staff had no plan, procedure, nor mechanism
to plug into disaster operations. They did not know their roles.
In short, the "in-house communications" from the disaster
advisory committee to the paid staff was insufficient. 
Initial Response
Little occurred in the disaster that "we" had not expected; but
much occurred that "we" had no mechanism in place to effectively
deal with. The initial response was thus predictably chaotic (the
first 24 hours was poor). This was because;
There was a lack of planning for a large disaster despite the
existence of a small minority that pushed in the disaster
advisory committee to approach the subject of a possible
earthquake scenario which was never dealt with.
The advisory committee chairpersons did not share information
well and because of poor in-house communications there was little
depth. Because of this lack of in-house communications, the left
hand didn't know what the right hand was doing. This was mostly
due to lack of testing and preparation that could have been
prevented. Before the disaster, telephone calls would be left
unanswered time and time again. During the disaster there was a
tendency for administers to lock themselves in their offices or
"disappear" when decision making became extremely difficult.
Again there was no effective mechanism to share important
Orientation at shift changes were mostly incomplete and we
suffered from lack of continuity and follow-through. 
Action Item/Recommendation:
1) Implement at once local disaster committees who can have
direct contact with local community resources, organizations,
governments, shelters, volunteers, etc.  
2) Expend less time at Disaster Advisory Committee meetings with
"window dressings" and social issues and more time with nuts and
bolts issues.
3) Perform Chapter wide tests (or at least desk top walk
throughs) exploring all potential possibilities and target
problem areas. 
4) Test with other agencies and/or organizations whenever
5) Aggressively fill in open sub-committee chairmanships through
open publicity. Do not keep it a secret nor feel that the
candidate must already be highly trained.
6) Develope depth in all categories. Require all chairpersons to
recruit vice-chairs.
7) Ensure that paid staff vacancies that negatively impact upon
disaster services are filled promptly and if necessary lobby the
board in order that it is accomplished.
8) Demand adequate funding for disaster preparedness, and if not
funded, lobby the board for adequate attention. 
9) Improve in-house communications procedures through a disaster
services newsletter (at least twice a year) that goes not only to
the DAT, but to all disaster volunteers that still wish to be
"plugged in". Request donations for the newsletter from the
10) Improve in-house communications by promoting the policy that
information sharing is desirable (after all this is not a
competitive corporation). Create an organized system for
communications flow to and from the committees, agencies,
government, volunteers, paid staff, and all relevant players.  
11)  Increase Quality of Shelters  
Priority considerations should be given in choosing shelters that
have telephones and emergency power already available. 
From the standpoint of supply, communications, and feeding, fewer
larger shelters versus many small shelters are more desirable.
Choose shelters as soon as possible that already have reliable,
adequate, and accessible telephone service. This prevents delay
and errors from unnecessary relaying and prevents loss and damage
of installed equipment. It also increases the resource pool for
future shelter radios.
Update shelter lists more often with multiple and updated contact
people for accessibility to the shelters as well as maintenance
problems such as plumbing, power, etc. Information about the
shelter's telephone accessibility and emergency power should be
also noted.
Problem (that needs improvement):
Eliminate the DAT Reserve 
Discussion and Background:
The undermining of the Disaster Committee by the creation of the
DAT reserve. A large KRC can not function in a large disaster as
an over grown DAT. Lets put this idea to rest once and for all. I
repeatedly opposed the idea of the DAT reserve in lieu of a
functioning Disaster Committee, but repeatedly lost.
The Large DAT "Idea" Does Not Supplant a Disaster Committee. The
apparent low priority for emergency power was counter balanced by
an over emphasis placed on DAT matters, PR, window dressing, and 
involvement in other areas far removed from basic disaster
Thus too much time was delegated to matters other than large or
medium sized disaster preparedness. The DAT Reserve idea was a
poor substitute for an active disaster committee. 
There was severe resistance by the "Disaster Advisory Committee"
and the "Administration" to consider keeping in touch with
disaster trained volunteer resources other than within the
context of the DAT. Trained disaster people who were not on the
DAT did not know where to report and to whom? There was no plan
on how to report and to where for trained volunteers to be of any
help. In other words there was no alerting, activation, and
gathering plans for a large disaster. If you put this
responsibility to a DAT, you will never be able to focus on large
disaster issues.
Action Item/Recommendation:
Eliminate the DAT Reserve and institute real a real disaster
committee with real planning, activation, alerting, testing, etc.
Problem (that needs improvement): 
No East Bay Chapter Picture ID cards at the time of the Disaster
Discussion and Background:
We spent months (far too much time) designing the format and
requirements of a Red Cross ID card. At the time of the
earthquake, we still had not issued Red Cross Disaster I.D. cards
nor decided on the requirements. The disaster advisory committee
over my objection had decided  that all Disaster Volunteers that
are issued IDs should have a Current basic First Aid
certification and have taken the Introduction to Disaster
Services course. Current First Aid certification still seems to
be not necessary especially if we are recruiting volunteers who
are specialists in such unrelated fields as damage assessment,
communications, fund raising, etc. We were lucky that the police
did not further hassle our volunteers as much as they did but
certainly in a larger disaster this would have been a greater
problem, especially for our communicators who may be our leading
source of information. Of course we should have on store more Red
Cross IDs than we did for the Loma Prieta Earthquake as we know
we ran out of IDs by the second week.     
Action Item/Recommendation: 
Issue picture IDs to all registered disaster volunteers (not just
DAT members) who are active and who have taken Introduction to
Disaster Services. Do not require current First Aid certification
for specialists like communications, damage assessment, DWI, etc
for qualification of picture IDs. Authorize the Communications
Chairman to issue picture IDs to "qualified" communicators. Keep
on stock a greater quantity of temporary IDs than previously.
Problem (that needs improvement): The Establishment of an
Emergency Operating Center Plan
Discussion and Background:
Available telephone and emergency power lines were not easily
accessed. Worse, in-house communications were poor owing that
each department had separate rooms with closed doors and the
resultant isolation. Decisions were being made on out-of-date
information and/or false/inaccurate information. The number one
problem in this disaster was in-house communications. An
intelligent EOC structure (of which there was none) would have
greatly solved this in-house communications problem. Once the
location and physical structure of the in-house EOC was
established then telephone jacks, emergency power, appropriate
signs, etc could be prepared and place in standby readiness. Even
though, during a large disaster we would attempt to move the EOC
to a location outside the chapter house, in practical reality,
this may not be practical for a week or two especially if the Bay
Area were to suffer a large earthquake on the Hayward fault.
Action Item/Recommendation:
The Emergency Operations Center should have emergency power,
multiple line telephone jacks already installed (with telephone
hand sets stored in the communications room), a status board, job
station placards, etc. Tests should be run out of an EOC
structure utilizing a structured EOC.
Problem (that needs improvement): Lack of Organization at the
Operations Site/Facility
Discussion and Background:-  Because the disaster advisory
committee never walked through an earthquake scenario nor even a
medium sized disaster, we never even discussed the creation of an
emergency operating center, where it would be located in the
building, the needed power and telephones for its operation, how
it would be organized, or how it would "work". The resulting
chaos on the first day was chiefly due to this lack. 
The ongoing lack of continuity and repeated mistakes occurred
because no one was assigned the task of site manager/facilitator
or ACTION FACILITATOR. Such a job title would be to smooth out
difficulties in the operational flow at the Red Cross EOC
(Emergency Operating Center) in regards to physical plant
operation, location of special departments, security, truck and
yard operation (to be coordinated with transportation and
supply), logistics, operational site problems, in-house
communications problems, etc.
Security became a problem at Oakland and shelters without an
adequate plan. A site facilitator (or site operations supervisor)
would not only alleviate a considerable burden from the job
director but would be needed even after the EOC moved from the
Chapter House to the out of chapter EOC for National Operations,
to arrange the new site (with the approval of the new job
Action Item/Recommendation: Create a job title and function of
action facilitator or EOC manager, to facilitate the Red Cross
EOC site problems, layout, in-house communications problems,
security problems, logistics, etc. Such a person would work as a
valuable aide to the job director. 
Problem (that needs improvement): 
Discussion and Background:
This was mostly due to the lack of a structured Red Cross EOC,
the lack of tests, the lack of a site facilitator, and the lack
of a message center. There was a tendency for fatigued volunteers
who were already overloaded to lock themselves up behind closed
doors or to "hide". Information was not shared in a closed office
structure. Out of date and/or false information was posted on
walls or acted upon because no one was charged in updating all
key personnel in all departments.
Action Item/Recommendation:
The creation of the site facilitator, the structured EOC, and the
message center should help. An effort will have to be made by the
volunteer leadership to share information and to create depth of
Problem (that needs improvement): 
Lost Messages at the Oakland Service Center. 
Discussion and Background:
Although radio and/or telephone communications to all sites and
key agencies were maintained around the clock throughout the
disaster many departments claimed that they were not getting
their messages. After investigation, the problem was found.
Single messages written on a single message form but that were
addressed to more than one department were being taken to the
first department and dying there. In other words a message from a
shelter manager requesting transportation, a nurse, relief for
oneself, more liquid refreshments, 20 towels, shampoo, and a head
count for the next meal may well go to the supply department
first and die there with the other departments not being copied.
This problem was ameliorated by the creation of a message center
and a message center manager; but because of shift changes of
runners and managers this system never functioned perfectly. 
Action Item/Recommendation:
Investigation has suggested possibilities of utilizing a xerox
machine at communications for messages, NCR paper message forms,
or training of communicators and shelter managers to give
separate messages for each department. All of these solutions
have certain draw backs. Further tests will have to be run to
find the message center format most suitable for the Red Cross
operation. Certainly the establishment of the Message Center
Manager job description, the establishment of a Message Center, 
and the establishment of an EOC will greatly help.
Problem (that needs improvement): 
The move to Concordia School ushered in a decisive lack of
service to our clients.
Discussion and Background:
The move of family services to Concordia School (64th and
MacArthur) reflected a growing tendency in some of the leadership
to "remove" or isolate themselves from the disaster. The move of
"operations head shed" to a location away from (instead of
toward) the operational sites so far removed from the rest of the
operations (approximately 60 blocks from the closest shelter,
interview site, or feeding center) added unnecessary strain to
both communications, transportation, and operations staff. Not
only did the physical location of Concordia necessitate site
supervisors and support staff to expend extra time for travel,
but tended to create a "gulf" and an appearance of aloofness
between the troops in the field and the "head shed". Services to
the clients noticeably began to deteriorate when the structure
was tightened up on the first Sunday, but after the move to
Concordia service to clients dramatically deteriorated. How much
of this was due to the structured "aloofness" by the new
structure and supervisors from national (who were perceived by
some locals as being "cold")  or due to the organizational
structure of and physical location of Concordia can not be
adequately discerned. Because the Oakland Chapter Headquarters
building is very large and is earthquake proof, it may have been
suitable to continue "selective" operations from that location
more efficiently from the standpoint of communications,
transportation, supply, records and reports, etc. This would also
be more cost effective as well. 
Action Item/Recommendation:
1) Choose "Head Shed" closer toward actual operations as long as
transportation, communications, and telephones are reliable and
2) Consider (like Golden Gate Chapter did) to not move "the head
shed" from Chapter Headquarters. Move instead volunteers, fund
raising, family services, and DWI but keep transportation,
supply, communications, mass care, disaster health services, and
records and reports at the Chapter Headquarters.  
Problem (that needs improvement): Location of Communications Room
Discussion and Background:
At the onset of the disaster communications was located centrally
at the Red Cross Chapter Headquarters in the lobby. Although far
from ideal, it was central and was immediately available for
access for key personnel. By Sunday, the move of the
Communications Center to the Communications Room was completed.
This temporarily freed up the lobby for "other" operations, but
quickly in-house communications suffered. The Comm room is
physically over 200 feet from the operations room and requires a
runner to go up and down stairs. Runners were not always
available thereby requiring the communicator a long walk away
from the radio to deliver a message. Its location created
considerable additional fatigue to at least this communicator.
Key personnel could not easily converse with personnel in the
field. Many people had difficulty in finding the Communications
There are different theories as to where a communications room
should be located, but it is not good to isolate it in a corner.
It should be sufficiently out of the way so as not to create a
disturbance or undue "noise" but not so far away as to hinder or
delay communications.
Action Item/Recommendation:
It is suggested that the Communications Room be moved to a more
central location, perhaps in the room in back of the switchboard,
through a new partition in the lobby, or perhaps a physical
addition to the building but more centrally located than the
Problem (that needs improvement):  
Not Enough Functioning Communications Equipment 
Discussion and Background:
As Communications Chairman, I could not get the Disaster Advisory
Committee or its chairperson to back me for a budget more than $0
over the past two years for Communications Committee despite many
requests for a budget. It was thus apparent that the committee
was not serious about maintaining its 2-way radio system or
updating its telephone systems, when I was repeatedly turned down
for any budget whatsoever which then forced the Communications
Chairman to pay for the repairs, mailings, and communications
committee meetings out of his own pocket. At the same time many
members expected our communications system to work like that of a
full time business whose budget was $50,000 a year or more for
communications alone. This was a difficult situation to be
responsible for.
If the disaster were any larger, which may well be the case,
given a large quake on the Hayward fault, much extra
communications equipment would be needed for the additional
shelters, and volunteer communicators would be in shorter supply
given that governmental agencies would make greater use of them
as well. 
Action Item/Recommendation: 
If a disaster Committee wants professional and reliable
communications it must be willing to give its Communications
Chairman a yearly budget based on goals, realistic maintenance
needs, and priorities.
Problem (that needs improvement): 
Emergency Power at Oakland
Discussion and Background:  
The committee gave a low priority to obtaining emergency power at
Oakland despite their insistence that we use Oakland as
headquarters for any disaster in the chapter. A poor policy that
proved made the first few hours of the disaster chaotic and
Given a larger earthquake on the Hayward fault for instance, we
would not have adequate fuel for generators or automobiles
because many fuel tanks would rupture and the electricity
necessary for fuel pumps would not be available. Fuel would have
to be brought in from outside and this would take at least 48
hours to effect placing a burden on the local chapter to operate
generators and vehicles as best they could.
Action Item/Recommendation: 
Obtain the services of a professional emergency power specialist
for the Oakland site as soon as the Emergency Operating Center
plans have been solidified for Oakland Disaster Operations.
Secure adequate fuel storage facilities for at least 24 to 48
hour operation and implement agreements with the City of Oakland
for additional emergency fuel for vehicles and generators if
commercial sources are not available.
Problem (that needs improvement):
Red Cross leadership often appeared as being short tempered,
heartless, crass, and "mean" to raw recruits. The lack of
"positive" leadership on some occasions.
Discussion and Background:
A funny problem occurred after a few days. We witnessed
supervisors on more than a few occasions when they were tired
lose their patience with new volunteers who "messed" up or who
did know the ropes. As time went on, most of the supervisors who
were over-worked were having less and less fun. Instead of acting
as a patient job supervisor and trainer to the endless line of
well intentioned but raw new recruits, overworked supervisors
tired of past mistakes and the restraints imposed upon themselves
by the disaster, often appeared "heartless" in rendering
decisions that impacted negatively (at least on the surface) in
regard to the needs of victims. Of course these new recruits did
not understand Red Cross policy, nor the other mechanisms that
may have been in place to deal with the particular need. Never-
the-less, Red Cross supervisors in more than a few occasions
became quick tempered and "appeared" unnecessarily heartless in
actions in front of new recruits.      
It is easy when things are not going "easy" during a disaster to
let one's ego go and blame others for not having it together. It
takes a mature person to realize that such behavior is
counterproductive during the disaster and that the expedient
response is to transcend "blame" into "what do we do now"? It
absorbs extra energy to weed out those who are embedded in the
negative aura of blame and authority and to "educate" them or
relieve them as the situation demands. 
In a disaster strong leadership skills are valuable. One finds
some people making decisions that they are not supposed to make,
stepping on toes, and/or deriding others. Because large disasters
are not common place these manifestations WILL manifest in events
such as these; and they  must be identified and handled by the
leadership at first gently; but if continued it must be met
decisively. Skills and approaches used in commercial management
must be modified and/or re-educated to "volunteer" management
motivation approaches. Leadership that have been working long
hours must learn patience with new volunteers and must avoid
appearing mean, crass, or angry at the many "foul ups" that
untrained volunteers will surely create. 
Action Item/Recommendation: 
Create as much depth as possible to give leadership personnel
more rest and recreation. Train leadership on how their image may
be not suffer adversely when making in-house decisions or
implementing Red Cross policy. Investigate alternatives to
official Red Cross policy that may not be providing needs of
victims and allow for their implementation through another
Some general problems to report that I have no "easy" answer to.
A) There was no Health and Welfare effort engaged upon by our own
staff. We were greatly understaffed and worn out to even consider
that. Perhaps with a DWI Chairperson this job could be
accomplished via computerized systems.
B) There were many times when a shelter had to get by without a
nurse. This happened many times. Obviously, with a Chairperson of
Disaster Health Services this would might have been prevented.
The truth is that we are not utilizing the resources of the
community well as the nurses are there and available but we
continuously fail in supplying the structure for them to plug in.
Lack of Nurses
C) Likewise the quality of the food drastically suffered after
the 5th day. There was little flexibility for those with special
diet needs, despite that the disaster was over subscribed and
that Golden Gate had procured professional caterers and special
diets for those who needed it.
D) There was a lack of "means" to provide needed special
supplies. With the order not to issue disbursing orders, special
needs not covered by on-hand donations could not be filled. MAny
needs come up at shelters besides basic comfort kits, medical
supplies, food, and blankets, not the least are transportation
needs, recreation, etc. This problem is compounded in earthquakes
where people are not issued disbursing orders for alternative
shelter (if available), and are housed in shelters for two or
more weeks continuously. 
Some staff seemed more intent in saving money than in providing
services, even though adequate donations had been collected.
E) Psychological counseling needs would be more acute in a larger
quake on the Hayward fault. During this disaster many suffered
from post traumatic stress. Earthquakes with the ever present
possibility of "Aftershocks" accentuate this problem. Many more
trained disaster health services personnel capable of such
counseling will be necessary.
F) Many well trained volunteers who were under utilized or turned
away at the beginning were not called later when they were
severely needed.
We had severe manpower shortages starting the first Sunday night
and continuing every night there after at the Oakland center.
Services gradually deteriorated in quality and timeliness as the
disaster went on. Mass care service became increasingly more
impotent, disorganized, crass, less relevant, and rigid mostly
due to poor organization and not enough staffing.
For a discussion of the operations of Red Cross radios, telephone
systems, and other communications topics see the additional
Donald Simon, Communications Supervisor EBAY Chapter, Loma Prieta

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