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Recent Napa quake prompts better preparation in Oakland

on September 9, 2014

Customers looking for earthquake straps, L-brackets, and an item known as “quake glue” were still coming into Ellis Ace Hardware in North Oakland more than a week after a 6.0-magnitude earthquake shook the region.

“It shakes people up,” Ellis manager Rosemary Sawyer said. “Now they want to bolt things down.”

The August 24 earthquake, with an epicenter about 35 miles away in Napa County, helped remind many residents to prepare for the next one that strikes bigger and closer to home.

Sawyer said the post-earthquake rush happens every time a temblor strikes in the Bay Area.

At Laurel Hardware at 4024 MacArthur Boulevard in Oakland, owner Jenny Balhstrom said she’s noticed “definitely a little bit of an uptick” in customers. Last weekend, she said, customers were asking for earthquake straps and automatic shutoff valves for gas meters.

At the Ace Hardware on Grand Avenue at the Piedmont border, paint department employee Phil Maldewin said this earthquake, and others, remind people to get prepared. In the days since the quake, he said, customers have been buying flashlights, shelf straps, and earthquake putty, among other items.

He said the store has a year-round emergency display at the end of an aisle, which helps customers put together an emergency kit with items ranging from boxed water to MREs, or Meals Ready to Eat. Maldewin described MREs as “giant granola bars” that should be eaten more for survival than enjoyment.

Howard Cook, owner and founder of the Albany-based retrofit company Bay Area Retrofit, said his team has received noticeably more calls since August 24. “People are starting to wake up,” Cook said. “Because the Hayward Fault could split.”

He said this week he has three crews heading to homes and apartments all over the Bay Area – some jobs are as far away as Cloverdale in the North Bay and San Jose and Campbell in the South Bay.

Before the 6.0-magnitude quake struck, Cook said, his contractors were working on three to four retrofits a week. “It’s going to go up,” he said, predicting that the extra attention to earthquake proofing will last for a few more months following this bigger-than-usual quake. “As soon as someone feels an earthquake it becomes real,” he said. “When it becomes real, they start to do something.”

The Oakland-based Quake Busters earthquake retrofitters have also been busy since the earthquake. An office manager said calls and emails have skyrocketed with requests for estimates and contractors to work on home improvements following the shaky reminder. The company has a full schedule for the next three weeks, evaluating homes in the East Bay and nearby area.

Following the quake, the U.S. Geological Survey produced a “shake map,” which shows where residents felt the earth moving. In the East Bay, the vibrations and movements were reported as “weak” to “light,” while those in the Napa and other nearby cities received the brunt of the shaking and associated damage.

The Hayward Fault runs through Oakland, while the August 24 quake was centered near the West Napa Fault.

Oakland appears to have emerged unscathed from the quake, with no reports of damage or injuries. It was a different situation in Napa, where the quake sent 120 people to the hospital, including three in critical condition. One of those was a child, city officials said the day after the quake in a news release. After the shaking stopped, about 15 buildings were deemed unsafe to enter because of structural damage, and gas leaks and water main breaks were reported throughout the city.

Dena Gunning, program coordinator at Communities of Oakland Respond to Emergencies (CORE), a free disaster response training program offered through the city’s fire department, said in the past two weeks more than three times the usual number of residents are signing up for emergency preparedness and response classes.

She said workshops and trainings that usually have about 15 attendees have shot up to 50 participants. Nearly three dozen people signed up this week for a weekend training at East Oakland’s Allen Temple Baptist Church, she said.

It is typical for the CORE program to receive more attention following a major earthquake or disaster – especially when one occurs less than 50 miles away, Gunning said. “When something happens it raises people’s awareness,” she said. “It’s a motivator for them to do something. It’s nice to have a subtle reminder.”

Some East Bay residents said in streetside conversations that their distress over the weekend earthquake had not yet prodded them into more preparation. While walking out of a Berkeley hardware store, Berkeley transplant Akshay Yadav, 28, who recently moved to the Bay Area from India, said he had not thought to buy supplies for an emergency kit. Instead, when his house shook on August 24, “I was not prepared,” he said. “I just ran out. I didn’t grab any valuables.”

Jude Bell, 63, of Berkeley, said the house shaking in the middle of the night woke her up. “I’ve done no preparation at all,” she said while carrying her small dog, Bindi, as she walked onto an AC Transit bus in downtown Berkeley. She said she doesn’t have emergency supplies set aside for herself or her pet. A friend in Vallejo, who Bell said is dealing with temblor-induced damage, has prompted Bell to consider having a disaster plan for her home.

At Oakland’s MacArthur BART station, Walnut Creek resident and Bay Area native Kevin Cummins, 47, recalled childhood earthquake drills and huddling under doorframes. Now, though, Cummins said he only stores a week’s supply of canned food in case of an earthquake. “I was more prepared for earthquakes as a kid,” he said.

While waiting for a ride near the downtown Berkeley BART station, El Cerrito resident and Napa native Sam Tallerico, 23, who lives with his grandfather, said his house is well stocked with an emergency crate filled with water, canned food, a radio, flashlights, a generator and other provisions. “We have enough supplies for the entire neighborhood,” he said. “My grandpa is on top of his [expletive.]”

Yonatan Horowitz, 37, said it was his own wife, not the shaking ground, that woke him up early that Sunday morning. She felt the earthquake and immediately worried about the couple’s two young children, 3 and 1 and a half, asleep in another room in their Albany apartment, he said.

Horowitz, waiting in Berkeley for a shuttle into Albany, said he has water bottles set aside, but no other provisions if a larger earthquake rattled the region. He said there is limited space in his apartment to store emergency supplies. “I think if something devastating happens, nothing will help,” he said.

Sonia C., 34, who asked her last name not be used, recently moved to Berkeley from Spain. In front of a Berkeley frozen yogurt shop, she said earthquake and other disaster preparations are “stressful.” She said she tries to live in the present, and “I don’t want to have that place in my home” for emergency supplies.

“In this country there is a lot of fear,” she said. Instead of being scared about the shaking, she called the latest quake a “hello from the earth.”

She said she doesn’t think any amount of preparation will make a difference when disaster strikes. “If something really happens, what can we do?” she asked.

The CORE program offers three levels of classes—CORE I, II and III—for basic home and family preparedness and neighborhood response, with hands-on skills taught by Oakland firefighters, and culminating in a simulated earthquake scenario.

CORE is hosting a preparedness workshop September 20 at Oakland’s Emergency Management Services Division building at 1605 Martin Luther King Jr. Way. The free workshop held with San Francisco-based nonprofit organization United Policyholders, will provide information and tools to help residents inventory and insure property before disaster strikes and destroys homes and possessions.

Read more about how local hospitals are preparing for the next quake here.


  1. […] Read more about how local homeowners are also preparing here. […]

  2. Ann Barnard on September 12, 2014 at 9:27 pm

    I live in north Oakland and the Napa quake woke me up. A downspout from my front gutter came loose. And I see a crack in the stucco of a neighbors chimney. So although the news says “no effect” in Oakland, in fact there was enough shaking to cause nuisance damage.

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