Earthquake Preparedness and Emergency Response

By Raymond Lui, Chair, SEAOC Disaster Emergency Services (DES) Committee​

Safety Assessment Program

Do you ever wonder how you can help after a major disaster?  Donate money.  Help with Red Cross relief efforts.  Or volunteer to perform safety assessments of buildings and structures using your structural engineering expertise.

The Safety Assessment Program (SAP), managed by the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES), utilizes mutual aid resources and volunteers to assist local governments in post-disaster building evaluations.  The program brings professional engineers, architects, and certified building inspectors together to help communities respond and recover from major disasters caused by earthquake, wind, floor, and blast.  The evaluation of buildings and structures is based on the ATC-20: Procedures for Post-Earthquake Safety Evaluation of Buildings

SEAOC is proud to be part of the program from the beginning and has been providing this training to our membership over the years.  As a result, we have developed a list of volunteer evaluators nearing 1,000 members.  To become a volunteer in the SAP, you must attend one of these training seminars and become certified by Cal OES.  Not only does certification enhance your professional development, it protects you with general immunity and worker’s compensation upon deployment through Cal OES.

Upcoming SAP training seminars include:

SEAONC                  May 21, 2016, Location: Mills College, Oakland, CA
SEAOSC                  June 11, 2016, Location: TBD
SEAOSD                  September 21, 2016, Location: San Diego Environmental Services Department

For more information on the Safety Assessment Program, visit

For more information on getting involved or upcoming training seminars, contact your local DES Chairs:

                  SEAOCC                  Steve Hiner at
                  SEAONC                  Joanna Chang at
                  SEAOSC                  Doug Litchfield at
                  SEAOSD                  Henry Barton Hill at

Be Prepared

After a severe earthquake or other disaster, city services can be greatly impacted.  A basic rule of thumb is for people to be able to take care of each other for 72 hours before help arrives.  Essential items include water, non-perishable food, manual can opener, first aid kit, flashlight with extra batteries, and fire extinguisher.  Additional items that can be stored away to make the first 72 hours more comfortable include warm clothes and sturdy shoes, sleeping bags or blankets, radio, mobile phone charger, tools, and cash.   Finally, personal items such as prescriptions, personal documents, sweet or salty treats, children’s toys and games, personal hygiene and sanitation items, and pet supplies.

Make a plan now for getting in touch with people – family, friends, and neighbors – after a disaster.  First, identify the group of people you want to get in touch with if something happens.  Then, select an out of area contact who can serve as a hub for information if you cannot reach others in your local area.  Finally, agree on a place to meet such as a park or landmark in case your house is damaged and/or inaccessible.

If you become a certified SAP Evaluator, be ready with a go-bag.  The go-bag should contain essential items for a deployment including clothes, medication, field manuals (ATC 20-1 and ATC-45), earplugs, gloves, flashlight with extra batteries, hand sanitizer, hard hat, clipboard, pens, tape measure, pocket multi-tool.  For a more comprehensive list, go to the Cal OES website noted above and click on the Job Aid for Safety Assessment Program Evaluator for a pdf document.

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