First Responders Enjoy Successful Disaster Drill In Ferry Building Waters

Divers went into the water near the Ferry Building in San Francisco Monday afternoon as part of a disaster drill that got postponed because of the federal government shutdown last month.

The drill, involving the U.S. Coast Guard, San Francisco police, the Port of San Francisco and other local, state and federal agencies, simulated the response after a catastrophic earthquake in the Bay Area.

The divers checked and cleared the area so relief supplies could be delivered by boat without running into any underwater obstructions.

Coast Guard Capt. Tom Crabbs said the drill “makes us much better prepared” by allowing the various agencies to meet before an actual catastrophe.

This particular drill was important for a city like San Francisco that is surrounded on three sides by water and could require the need for large container ships bringing in supplies, Crabbs said.

“It’s the path of least resistance for relief,” he said, noting that similar circumstances occurred after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, where ships came carrying supplies and cruise ships even accommodated some people displaced from their homes.

A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers boat also stood by during this morning’s drill and would likely be responsible for getting an obstruction out of the water using a crane, Crabbs said.

Lewis Loeven from the San Francisco Fleet Week Association said although the drill did not happen as previously scheduled because of the federal shutdown in September and October, the military members and local first responders insisted on postponing rather than canceling the event.

“Everybody feels the interagency training is absolutely important,” Loeven said.

The joint training has taken place during Fleet Week since 2010 and will continue next year, when the Blue Angels, a U.S. Navy flight demonstration team, is also expected to resume its shows in San Francisco.

The Blue Angels canceled shows nationwide earlier this year because of federal sequester cuts, but announced last month that the shows would resume in 2014.

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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