While disaster preparedness is a key responsibility of any city, it is especially important in the San Francisco Bay Area, home to several earthquake fault lines. The City of Fremont, California, which sits along the powerful Hayward Fault Line, is no exception. As both the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and the 1993 Northridge earthquake made clear, water mains can rupture during a quake, making a city extremely vulnerable to the fires that often follow a large earthquake. Recognizing that the City of Fremont needed a way to quickly establish an above-ground water supply in an emergency, Fremont's Fire Chief approached the city's waste contractor, Browning-Ferris Industries (BFI), with a proposal for an innovative public-private partnership that takes advantage of BFI's large fleet of roll-off trucks and trained drivers.
As a first step to implementing the partnership, the City and the county water district purchased several large (40 cubic yard) metal containers, similar to those used at construction sites, which can be carried on BFI's roll-off trucks. The containers cost approximately $3,000 each and have hooks on top so that they can be transported via helicopter if the roads become impassable. Each of the containers is painted "fire engine" red and has the three agencies' logos as well as the motto "Working Together for Disaster Preparedness" painted on its sides. By putting the logos on the containers, the City ensures that Fremont residents are aware of BFI's and the water district's generous contributions.
Each container holds 2,200 feet of five-inch fire hose, portable hydrants, and the fittings needed to connect a neighborhood that has a working water supply with one that doesn’t. In the future, the containers will also be stocked with cots, blankets, drinking water bags, medical supplies, nonperishable food, and other items needed after an earthquake or other disaster.
The containers are stored at fire stations throughout the city so that they can be monitored and maintained by the Fire Department. When a disaster occurs, or a water main breaks and leaves residents without water, the Fire Department dispatches a BFI roll-off truck to pick up the container and move it to the affected neighborhood. Once at the site, firefighters work with water district staff to determine which hydrants need to be bridged, then lay enough hose to establish an above ground water supply and restore water for fire fighting and drinking purposes.
While the City has not had a major earthquake since the Disaster Preparedness Container Program began in 1995, the containers have been deployed in Fremont and its neighbor, Union City, after water main breaks. In each case, water was restored to the area within 20 minutes of the container's arrival at the scene. Without the use of BFI's fleet of trucks and skilled drivers, the City would have been unable to respond to the water main breaks as quickly and efficiently.
In conclusion, the Disaster Preparedness Container Program is an innovative, simple solution to the problem of providing water and emergency supplies to those in need. It is one more way a caring city can take care of its customers.For more information, please contact:
Scott Morey, Facility Manager
J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
1620 Eye Street, NW, Washington, DC 20006
Telephone (202) 293-7330, FAX (202) 293-2352