Driving After Disasters

We Are Speeding Towards a Major Traffic Disaster in the Bay Area!

Estimates of road closures in future earthquake scenarios show that we have the potential for major traffic problems following an earthquake. We have had some experience with road closures and traffic disruptions in past earthquakes. In the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, the Bay Bridge was damaged, the Cypress freeway in Oakland had to be demolished and rebuilt, and the Central and Embarcadero freeways in San Francisco has to be torn down. Besides the inconvenience to residents that traffic problems can cause, closed roads make it difficult for utility companies to repair damaged pipes and power lines, firefighters and emergency workers will have trouble reaching damaged buildings and in the long-term workers will have trouble getting to work. For these reasons, it is essential that all of us – residents, parents, workers, employers, utility operators, and transportation providers – reexamine what our travel plans will and should be following a major disaster.

Potential Road Closures in Future Earthquakes

Source: Riding Out Future Quakes, ABAG 2003
Estimates and maps of road closures in future scenario earthquakes
Transportation word search fun
Emergency car kit word search fun

Think Ahead! Tips for navigating the transportation systems during and after an earthquake

Click on a question to view tips

What if you are driving when an earthquake or other disaster strikes?

Don’t run out of gas.
Run on the top half of the tank, not the bottom half.
Keep emergency food, water, a light source, first aid supplies/perscriptions, walking shoes and comfortable clothes, change, and a whistle in a spare back pack or bag as a “car kit.”
Kids and parents can have fun together with this Car Kit Wordsearch Game.
Slow down and tune in to your radio for emergency bulletins.
Does your child’s school have a list of other responsible people authorized to pick them up if you are delayed?
Do you have back-up plans for feeding and safety of pets?
Use ABAG’s Car Guide to help you plan!

What if you are stuck at work after a quake?

Do you have a 3-5 day supply of medications at your office?
Do you keep walking shoes at work?
Does your child’s school have a list of other responsible people authorized to pick them up if you are delayed? You can also keep a list of these contacts in your car using our Car Guide.
Do you have back-up plans for feeding and safety of pets?
Would keeping a bicycle at work help?

If the phones work: use the phone, not your car!

Change your voice mail message to state that you are safe.
Before the quake, make sure that all your family knows a single relative or friend who lives outside California that you can contact to say you are fine. This way, fewer calls are needed on jammed “in-State” phone calls.
You may have to wait a bit longer for dial tone after a quake. Be patient. Don’t just hang up and try again.
Keep change or a pre-paid phone card in your wallet.

Plan, don’t panic!

Check out additional information on earthquake issues.
Check out additional information on terrorism issues.

Want to do more?

  • Print out copies of the car guide and give them to your friends in English, Spanish, or Chinese.
  • As a business, you may want to reproduce this newsletter version of the Car Guide for your employees.
  • As a business, you may also want to use this checklist to identify other types of things you can do to help solve potential traffic problems. (If you decide to do this, please email us using the email us button below so we know! A “Word” version of this file is available on request.)
Last updated: 01.12.2016