Cal OES Continues to Coordinate Rapid Recovery Following Humboldt County Earthquake


A Disaster Declaration Submitted, Nearly 600 Structure Assessments Complete, and Local Assistance Center Opened

Just 10 days after the December 20 Humboldt County earthquake near Ferndale, the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) has worked quickly to provide local communities with the resources needed to get on the road to recovery.

Assessing Damages

Cal OES has continued to coordinate with Humboldt County officials and state agency leaders, including California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), the California Department of General Services (DGS), and the Division of the State Architect (DSA), to conduct structural safety assessments on buildings that sustained damages during the earthquake. This response led to one of the largest inspection efforts in recent California history.

The first step in recovery is to assess the impacts from a disaster. To accomplish this, the 7-member team of Cal OES Safety Assessment Program (SAP) trained evaluators, led by the Cal OES Fire and Rescue Branch, worked through the Christmas weekend to conduct nearly 600 structure assessments. Getting as many survivors as possible back into their homes quickly is key giving a local community the confidence and hope for a full community recovery.

In addition to SAP-trained evaluators, the DSA deployed a specialist to inspect multiple schools in the area. The DSA provides design and construction oversight for K–12 schools, community colleges, and various other state-owned and state-leased facilities to ensure that they comply with all structural, accessibility, and fire and life safety codes.

Cal OES also worked with the Caltrans to assess and repair the Fernbridge along State Route 211. Caltrans issued $6 million in emergency funding to conduct assessment and emergency repairs to the bridge, allowing the lifeline to be reopened to traffic less than 48 hours after the earthquake struck and made the bridge unsafe for vehicles.

California Requests Small Business Administration Physical Disaster Declaration

Due to the structural damage to homes, business, and private non-profits, Cal OES, on behalf of Governor Gavin Newsom, requested the U.S Small Business Administration (SBA) to declare Humboldt County a disaster area. If approved, the SBA offers disaster assistance in the form of low interest loans to provide homeowners up to $200,000 for repair of a primary residence, up to $40,000 to homeowners and renters for the repair/replacement of personal property, and up to $2,000,000 to businesses for the repair/replacement of real estate, machinery/equipment, inventory, and/or working capital to continue operations.

To speed up the SBA disaster declaration process, Cal OES, in partnership with Humboldt County, conducted virtual validations of the damages with the SBA before submitting the declaration request. Without these virtual validations, the disaster declaration process would have been delayed by at least two weeks.

Local Assistance Center

Humboldt County and Cal OES, in partnership with local, state, and federal agencies, opened a Local Assistance Center (LAC) to aid earthquake survivors in Humboldt County.

The LAC is at Monument Middle School, 95 Center St. Rio Dell, CA 95562 on Friday, December 30, 11am to 5pm. And Saturday, December 31 from 9am to 5pm.

LACs are activated following major disasters to support survivors and businesses suffering disaster-related losses or damages. Replace lost or destroyed vital documents such as identification, financial information, and more. And to get connected with support services.

About the Earthquake

On Tuesday, December 20, at 2:34 a.m., a 6.4 magnitude earthquake occurred approximately 8 miles west-south-west (WSW) of Ferndale in Humboldt County. Cal OES immediately deployed resources and emergency management professional to help with the response, assessment, and recovery efforts.

In response, Governor Newsom proclaimed a state of emergency.

Over the following days, hundreds of aftershocks were recorded, including four aftershocks of magnitude 4.0 or greater.