After a disaster strikes, having a house that’s safe to live in is crucial to a fast recovery. Most regional housing is built to save lives in the event of a big shake up but not to remain habitable after a quake or a major flood. Few, if any Bay Area houses, are built of materials, or in ways, that make them flood proof. Most shoreline and lagoon communities, including those around San Leandro Bay between Oakland and Alameda, must rely on undersized or aging seawalls, levees, and urban drainage systems.

In 2015, a report examined the characteristics of Bay Area individuals and households that help or hinder their ability to prepare for, respond to, and recover from a natural disaster like and earthquake or extreme flooding. An expert panel came up with 10 socio-economic indicators of risk (groups with five or more of these indicators are shown in the table). Any one of us may fall into a higher-risk category by not owning a car, for example. Those who would struggle to understand emergency communications in English are also in danger, as well as households with elderly moms and pops or young children that may require extra assistance in any evacuation. People already struggling to pay rent or commute costs might also find themselves in trouble. The Bay Area already has a shortage of affordable housing, and a disaster is more likely to displace these kinds of communities permanently rather than temporarily.

Yet communities are far from helpless. The report also lists a variety of strategies, everything from strengthening building codes to coordinating shoreline management, which we can use to build buffers and resilience all around the Bay Area.