Coordinated Planning and Preparedness for Fire Following Major Earthquakes, PEER Report 2013-23


This report documents activities of a project entitled “Coordinated Planning and Preparedness for Fire Following Major Earthquakes” which built on a previous project entitled “Water Supply in regard to Fire Following Earthquake.”

Voluntary Performance Guidelines for post-earthquake reliability of water supply for firefighting were developed so as to focus the attention of high-risk urban regions on this problem while placing as little demand as possible on fire or other agencies. The Guidelines recommend that incorporated jurisdictions with population exceeding 100,000 and having significant seismic hazard develop quantitative estimates of the number and locations of fires that are likely to occur given the same pattern of earthquake shaking hazard as used in the California Building Code. The Guidelines also recommend that jurisdictions should also develop and maintain a written Plan for reducing, responding to and fighting such fires, with particular attention paid to supply of water from Normal and Alternative sources of firefighting water taking into account earthquake damage to such supplies.

Several interactions with the fire service were undertaken to highlight and disseminate the Guidelines – working with FIRESCOPE ha s proven most effective, and FIRESCOPE has taken this issue on as a task, with this project indicating its readiness to support FIRESCOPE in any way needed. A related issue is water supply reliability for California’s hospitals, which is currently of concern. The same PWSS technology that can enhance water supply for post-earthquake fires can also enhance water supply for hospitals following an earthquake. A meeting was held with representatives of the California Hospital Association to inform them of this project.

Fires following earthquake vis-à-vis carbon emissions were also examined. Carbon emissions are a significant factor in global warming, which is a concern for California. Fires in general produce almost 300 million metric tons of CO 2 per year. Major urban earthquakes in Southern California or the San Francisco Bay Area may result in CO 2 emissions approaching 4 million metric tons, or perhaps 15% of CO 2 production due to wildland fires in the same year.

In order to continue support and to foster actions to improve post-earthquake reliability of water supply for fighting fires and serving hospitals, a project is
recommended involving the convening of four workshops in 2014, two each in northern and southern California, in which the fire and water services, and perhaps the health service, would participate. The goal of these workshops would be to reach consensus on the Guidelines, for their implementation by the fire and water services.

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Charles Scawthorn
Publication date: 
September 5, 2013
Publication type: 
Technical Report
Scawthorn, C. (2013). Coordinated Planning and Preparedness for Fire Following Major Earthquakes, PEER Report 2013-23. Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center, University of California, Berkeley, CA.