Countywide : O.C. Rates a ‘Good’ in Quake Preparation

Orange County is generally doing a good job of preparing for an earthquake, according to a report issued Monday by the county. But in releasing the report, officials said that some agencies should consider shifting priorities to emphasize preparedness.

“We will never be perfectly prepared, trained or equipped to meet all of the varied emergencies that may occur,” County Administrative Officer Larry Parrish wrote in a cover letter attached to the 17-page report. “We are, however, well ahead of planning milestones of this effort. . . . “

The review of the county’s readiness to deal with an earthquake was requested by Board of Supervisors Chairman Thomas F. Riley after it was disclosed that Parrish’s office had failed to implement most of a $3-million plan approved by supervisors in February, 1987.


The report said that much of the county’s earthquake-preparedness plan is in progress or complete, although some of the steps taken may not appear as specific budget items. The county, for example, has bought some of the heavy rescue equipment recommended, has a reasonable substitute or has a standby order in with suppliers that could be called up in an emergency, county officials said.

“I think it’s a question of degree,” Sharon O. Lightholder, Parrish’s senior administrative manager, who prepared the report, said in an interview. “They’ve been working to meet those goals, but they haven’t always been done in the manner expected. . . . Some of it is impossible to complete because it’s an ever-changing world.”

The report also noted that the county is spending $16 million to relocate its communications center to a more modern building, $16 million to relocate the county’s vital records bank, and $28 million for a new forensics complex. While not part of the 1987 earthquake preparedness plan adopted by the board, each of the steps will enhance the county’s ability to respond to an earthquake, the report said.

Individual agencies, however, should review their budgets in the wake of the San Francisco earthquake to ensure that they are paying enough attention to the very real threat of an earthquake, Lightholder said.

“I think if I were one of these agencies, I’d use this opportunity to reprioritize,” she said. “That’s what the budget process is all about: shifting priorities, not just throwing money at a problem.”

The report made only brief mention of a survey of county fire stations, which concluded in August that a third of the 42 stations studied faced a “high risk” of partial or total collapse in the event of an earthquake. A county official said last week that the report would include a recommendation that at least one station be relocated.

Officials said Monday, however, that the study, conducted by an outside consultant, is still under review by county building and fire officials, and that they have not yet decided what recommendations to make.