An independent umbrella group that supports Palo Alto neighborhoods
ashakeout stories Allen Edwards
At the time of the Loma Prieta earthquake I was giving a presentation to visitors at Hewlett Packard, 1501 Page Mill Road. It was a small conference room. My coworker told everyone to get under the table and I stood in the doorway. I could see the pillars in the building sway back and forth gaining amplitude with each back and forth oscillation. It was amazing to watch. The window in the room shattered. After the shaking stepped, it soon became apparent that I was the highest level manager still at work as everyone at my level and above had gone home to watch the World Series.
The most interesting thing that happened was that a large acid tank used for producing printed circuit boards had spilled from the shaking. I knew that if you have an environmental spill, you need to report it. I called the fire department and was told “You are on your own”. The other issue was that the exhaust fan, needed to get the toxic fumes out of the building, was off and nobody knew how to turn it on. The maintenance foreman knew how to turn it on but he was home watching the game. He lived in the 408 area code and the phone company had all calls across area codes blocked. I used the HAM radio in my car and asked a HAM in the 408 area to phone him and solved the problem.
The HP building had been designed by someone who was ahead of their time and there was very little damage to the building itself. All the north-south facing bookcases had fallen over but that was about it. The east-west facing bookcases did not fall.
I was lucky at home as well.
When I designed the remodel of my house I had the engineer design it to withstand an earthquake so it was way above code. There was no damage. Even the iron that was still on the ironing board on the second story was still there. That iron usually falls over when I would gently brush against the ironing board. I was amazed nothing fell. My boss at the time lived in Sunnyvale. He said he cleaned his kitchen of broken dishes with a shovel. Everything broke.