Incident Comparison

The impacts of disasters differ with duration and strength. Disasters can be categorized into natural disasters and those caused by human action. Responses to disasters are affected by many factors including their type and the incumbent situation. The paper seeks to document the recent disaster incidents that have hit California. It shall compare a natural disaster and a human action disaster. Responses to these incidents will be considered in regard to the  situation. Interagency and intergovernmental coordination during responses to these situations will be assessed with respect to changes in public safety expectation.

Natural disasters

California Tsunami Waves – DR 1968

This disaster happened in March 2011. Scientists explained that the Tsunami waves resulted from an earthquake that originated in Japan. The earthquake that propelled it had an 8.9-magnitude. It ran through the pacific at 500 mph before hitting the West Coast. Damages included tearing away of wooden docks and the washing away of loose boats (Campbell, 2008).

Storms of winter 2011 – DR 1952

The incident took place on January 26, 2011. The storms and floods left a trail of damages in many counties, in California (Sassa, 2009).

2010 winter storms heavy   – DR 1884

This was a series of storms which started on January 17, 2010 and ended on February 6, 2010. During the storms, high winds and large amounts of precipitation hit California. Weather service reported that this was an El Nino oscillation moving from northern to southern California (Jones & Lubow, 2006). Damages included injuries, and excessive snow in several counties. Hardest hit counties include Calaveras, Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino.

Serious storms of 2005-2006 – DR 1628

The incident took place between December 17, 2005 and January 12, 2006. Severe storms, flooding, mudslides, and landslides left San Anselmo’s left downtown covered 4 feet under water and submerged in mud. Property worth about $100 million got damaged alongside many businesses and number of homes (Hogan & Burstein, 2007). Areas most affected include Solano, Sonoma, Alameda, Marin, and Contra Costa.

Severe freeze – DR 1689

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The freeze took place on January 12, 2007 and resulted from low system pressure dip from the Arctic in the far West. Extremely low temperatures led to snow accumulation (Hogan & Burstein, 2007).

San Joaquin Leeve Break – DR 1529

Evacuations followed floods in San Joaquin Delta. Damages included death of animals, flooding of 12,000 acres of crops and demolition of homes. Farmlands lacked their regular supply of water and drinking fouled (Rodriguez et. al., 2007). Estimated damages were between $121 and  $125 million.

Devastating Storms in California – DR 1646

In 2006, California received severe storms, flooding, landslides and Mudslide. This happened between March 29, 2006 and April 1, 2006.  These winter storms affected many areas including Alameda, Marin, Sonoma, and San Mateo.

Human action disasters

California Wildfires – DR-1731

The incident took place between October 21, 2007 and March 31, 2008 leaving a trail of destruction on people, homes and property. 20th October, 2007, saw the beginning of the first fire in Southern California. The fire was travelling at 100 mph propelled by strong Santa Ana winds. This resulted in 24 fires igniting in seven counties within few days causing massive damage.

California Wildfires – DR-1810

Wildland fires happened in Southern California on November 2008. Santa Ana winds, low humidity, and a prolonged drought propelled the three fires. Tea Fire was the first to happen on 13th November, 2008, and it originated from Montecito area in Santa Barbara. Tea Fire burned 1,940 acres and 210 residences. On 14th November, 2008, the Sayre Fire hit Sylmar in Los Angeles. The fire destroyed 11,262 acres and brought down 487 homes. 15th November, 2008 saw a series of small fires start and destroy property in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino. Freeway Fire started in Corona and quickly got Yorba Linda. Landfill fire started in Carbon Canyon area, and met the Freeway fire forming the Freeway Fire Complex Fire. It burned down and destroyed many acres and homes (Rodriguez et. al., 2007).

Shockey Fire – DR 5021

This fire incident happened in San Diego. It is suspected to have been started by human action. The fire destroyed around 20 homes and left many others in deplorable conditions. Many acres of land burned down, and many people fled their homes (Campbell, 2008). It started in Shockey Truck Trail and went as far as Boulevard and Jacumba.

Comparison of responses to California Tsunami waves (Natural disaster) and to Shockey fire (human action disaster)

The tsunami destroyed docks and boats on California’s coastline. The tsunami did not go deep into the mainland, and its impact largely remained on the shore. There was prompt communication between the federal and local government. The then Governor of California, Edmund G. Brown, on April 6, 2011, passed a request to the president for the declaration of a significant disaster declaration for California’s affected counties; Del Norte and Santa Cruz. He indicated that the counties were in need of public assistance. Preliminary Damage Assessment was done, and on April 18, 2011, President Obama declared a major disaster for California. Non-profit organizations worked to help the local governments attend the emergency and to repair damaged facilities.

On the other hand, the Shockey fire lasted four days. It took place in Campo area in San Diego destroying thousands of acres, several homes and claiming a life. The governor to California managed to secure federal financial assistance to help fight the fire on the same day the fire started. Evacuations were rather quick and timely. Fire management assistance grants were channeled to the local firefighters. Local agencies assisted the government cover 25 percent of the firefighting costs.

Analysis of the responses

The intergovernmental communication and the response was commendable for both of the events. The procedure for assessment for eligibility of both a states individual and public assistance is rather long and time consuming. A more flexible framework would help deal with emergencies better. The response by local agencies helped supplement the efforts of the local and federal governments.


California is affected by many disasters. These disasters are both natural and those caused by human action. Disaster incidents impact differently on their target areas. The coordination between local and federal government and the help of local agencies is instrumental in countering the effects of these disasters