Haiti, the most impoverished country in the Western Hemisphere, was caught entirely off guard. California, on other hand, has long known that, being precariously situated on the San Andreas fault, it must be prepared through local organizations and have near-constantly updated building codes. Most of the thousands of earthquakes we experience each year are small enough to go unnoticed – 92 were recorded by the USGS in the California-Nevada region the same day as Haiti’s quake, but the undisputed fact that we live in earthquake county looms over every resident.
So it only makes sense that Californians have particularly felt the need to reach out to those affected by Haiti’s earthquake. “San Franciscans have a deep understanding of the devastation caused by natural disasters, and we stand ready to assist Haiti in providing relief to the residents in the difficult days and months ahead,” said Mayor Gavin Newsom on January 25.
The city of San Francisco has unveiled a way to make sure many employees don’t overlook the opportunity to help out. On Monday, Newsom announced a citywide payroll deduction program that enables city employees to donate money to the San Francisco Haiti Relief Fund directly from their paychecks.
Relief efforts have been difficult with organizations and governments around the world scrambling to help repair the already fragile area, and San Francisco has done its part to streamline its local relief funding by use of the payroll deduction program, a partnership with California-based Safeway, Inc., to place coin counting machines in city buildings to collect spare change for Haiti, and use of the city’s 311 as a resource for Haiti donation referral.
The reliability of rescue and relief efforts should disaster strike is important when living in an area so prone to natural disaster. According to the 2008 Uniform California Earthquake Rupture Forecast, compiled by the USGS, Southern California Earthquake Center and the California Geological Survey, there is a probability of more than 99 percent that in the next 30 years California will experience a quake of magnitude 6.7 or greater, and the Bay Area has a 63-percent chance of experiencing a magnitude 6.7 earthquake or greater within the next 30 years.
And it doesn’t stop at earthquakes. The yearly wildfires that occur up and down the state are a constant threat during dry seasons, and the winter prompt landslides and flooding, requiring California to be declared in a state of emergency. The tragedy of Haiti has reiterated the need for awareness, preparedness, and organization.
Listen to audio of a Commonwealth Club program on the centennial of San Francisco's 1906 earthquake.
--By Heather Mack