City Congratulates Itself on Quake Response : Government: The report says officials reacted ‘with remarkable creativity, commitment and adrenaline’ to the disaster.
In a mostly self-congratulatory report, Los Angeles city officials Thursday detailed their response to the Northridge earthquake, relating how they used creative tactics such as video cameras on sleds to inspect damaged sewer lines and “reassurance teams” to persuade terrified residents to stop camping in parks and return to their homes.
Saying they responded to the daunting problems caused by the quake “with remarkable creativity, commitment and adrenaline,” officials said they put up 1,000 detour signs near the quake-closed Santa Monica Freeway in a single night and continue to clear 10,000 tons of quake rubble a day from city streets.
The thick report, prepared by Mayor Richard Riordan and the City Council’s ad hoc earthquake committee headed by Councilman Hal Bernson, is a compendium of eye-opening statistics that illustrate the scale of the quake damage and the city’s efforts to cope with it. The report is expected to be presented to the full council next week.
With tens of thousands of residences, offices and public buildings wrecked or damaged, the city fielded an army of 1,100 inspectors and engineers who evaluated 118,000 structures, red-tagging 1,750 as too dangerous to enter.
City transportation officials re-striped nearly six miles of surface streets used for detours around quake-shattered freeways. Engineers reprogrammed traffic signals at 156 intersections on the detour routes, allowing for longer green lights and higher traffic volume.
City-chartered buses carried doctors and nurses to care for displaced residents camped at city parks and shelters. Commuter Express and Dash buses were used to take residents to Federal Emergency Management Agency offices and elsewhere.
In the first three days after the quake, city officials were overwhelmed by an influx of more than 20,000 people who sought refuge at local schools, parks and shelters. But by Jan. 23 they had met the demand, housing 14,000 people at 44 shelters and tent cities erected by the National Guard, the city report said.
Many displaced people fled their apartments and houses because of the seemingly endless series of aftershocks. Among the displaced were a large number of immigrants from countries where earthquakes and aftershocks have caused massive devastation, and some of these victims were reluctant to return to their homes even though the structures were undamaged.
To overcome that problem, the city borrowed a strategy used after Hurricane Andrew struck Florida and Louisiana in 1992. It set up “reassurance teams” composed of crisis counselors, interpreters, clergy members, public health workers and building inspectors. The teams succeeded in getting many people out of parks and schoolyards and into more permanent dwellings, the city report said.
Using 361 private contractors, the city has removed more than 2 million tons of broken cinder blocks, splintered wood and other quake debris from the streets since the quake. City Hall operators have fielded 116,534 phone calls from residents requesting debris removal.
Another lingering problem has been the 17 “ghost towns,” neighborhoods where tenants fled badly damaged apartment buildings and other structures and were replaced by squatters, drug dealers and prostitutes.
The report said city crews put up more than 146,000 feet of temporary chain-link fence around 934 damaged properties. Also, the city has demolished 187 badly damaged buildings and is preparing to knock down another 110 structures.
City workers responded with a number of innovative solutions to thorny problems, the report said. For instance, crews used a large crane to hold up a fallen electrical transmission line and Los Angeles Fire Department trucks pumped water around breaks in city water pipes.
Faced with hard-to-pinpoint damage to underground sewer pipes, city workers lowered small video cameras mounted on sleds into maintenance holes and inspected more than 1 million feet of lines.
The report said city emergency response and reconstruction efforts cost nearly $800 million, but most of that will be reimbursed by state and federal government. The city, however, will still have to absorb about $96 million on its own, about two-thirds of it from lost tax revenues.
City officials said they are still pushing for state and federal legislation to accelerate depreciation incentives to invest in quake-damaged properties and to provide a onetime 100% write-off for the cost of repairs to quake-damaged buildings.
Officials also said they hope to have completed all quake-related repairs by July.