One Strap at at Time

"Non Structural Mitigation" is a fancy term for doing what you can to prevent things like furniture, appliances, wall decor, etc. from falling or tipping over during an earthquake. This blog is an ongoing journal by DEM'ers (and SF72 enthusiasts!) first-hand incremental steps to prevent the big mess that the big one could cause. We'd also love to hear about anything you've done to Beat the Quake, so please share here! The first in this series of "One Strap at a Time" comes to us from Francis Zamora, DEM's Public Information Officer, Mirolama Park resident, and soon-to-be first-time dad.


1 Strap at a Time_1

We all have a little bit of “I should” in us.  I should get back to the gym or I should know what does and does not belong in the compost bin by now. For many of us, preparedness is no different: I should be more prepared for an emergency.  While getting back to the gym can be a challenge, there are a lot of quick wins when it comes to preparedness.

Case in point: For months, I’ve been saying I should really secure my TV.  Over the long weekend, I finally did it.  For $19.99, I bought a set of Flat Screen Safety Straps from Home Depot (Aisle 13). They’re also available on Amazon for the same price.

1 strap at a time_2

The next day, I took a quick look at the instructions and used the straps to secure my TV.  It was easy and took less than 10 minutes.  Now I have some piece of mind that I’ve done what I can prevent my TV from falling over during an earthquake, kid-quake, or pet-quake.

For more simple preparedness tips and ideas visit

1 strap at a time_3

20 Years Ago: The Northridge Earthquake

1994 Northridge Earthquake San Franciscans stand with our fellow Californians by remembering the 1994 Northridge Earthquake.  We remember the lives that were lost and those that were changed.  The magnitude 6.7 quake caused $25 billion in damage and was the costliest U.S. natural disaster at the time.  Northridge was a not so subtle reminder that we live in earthquake country (Universal City residents received a more subtle reminder this morning).  The 20th Anniversary of the Northridge Earthquake is also about saluting the resilient people that rebuilt their community and worked hard to return to normal life.

More Prepared

Whether you’re just starting out or a preparedness pro, gathering your emergency supplies and planning ahead is easy. A good rule of thumb is to have supplies for about 3 days, or 72 hours. You’ll be surprised at how much you already have. Take simple steps today on to prepare and plan for any emergency.

Ready for more?  SFDEM encourages you to work with our partners to get even better prepared as a household, neighborhood, or community.

American Red Cross Bay Area Chapter provides a variety of training including first aid, CPR, and how to prepare for emergencies.

Neighborhood Empowerment Network equips SF neighborhoods with tools and programs designed to create safe, clean, and economically resilient communities.

San Francisco Neighborhood Emergency Response Team teaches emergency preparedness and response basics through free hands-on training so you are ready to take care of yourself and others.

Finally, the Earthquake Safety Implementation Program is hosting an Earthquake Retrofit Fair to help people put some backbone into San Francisco's soft story buildings that can be vulnerable when the ground starts shaking.

What is Resilience?

Last month Rob Dudgeon, DEM Deputy Director, visited Haifa, Israel [see his first blog about the trip Notes from the Field: Haifa, Israel]. In this second installment journaling his experience there, Rob shares his perspectives on the fundamental meaning of resilience through the lens of Haifa's mayor who led his city's resilience to the Second Lebanon war in 2006 when hundreds of rockets rained down on Haifa for a month.


We talk about it all the time like it’s an unknown quantity. It’s not. People are naturally resilient and the evidence is right in front of us. In the past weeks I’ve had opportunities to see this in an up close and personal way. It’s not about disasters. It’s about the natural state of being that allows people to adapt and push through life’s adversities. Whether it’s the health of a family member, the end of a marriage or a tornado…often times the results are the same. We suddenly find ourselves in chaos, our world asunder, and all of our touch points suddenly absent. Or at least that’s how it feels.

City of Haifa's rooftops

Remarkably, we don’t generally cease to exist when this happens. We do what we need to do: some need space and time to quietly make sense of it all; some reach out to trusted friends; and others immediately spring into action – doing anything and everything to right the boat.

On an individual basis we are resilient. We survive. We often thrive as we rebuild ourselves. The story of the Phoenix carries a lot of truth if you stop and think about it. As I write this I’m reflecting on a couple instances recently where people I care about very much are experiencing just that: rebirth, rebuilding, and recovery from adversity. I know that coming out the other end of the tunnel is a given. Because they are strong; they adapt; they are resilient.

Happy Haifa guy

So how does the resilience of the human spirit relate to resilience in terms of emergency management? Communities are people. In the mix of thinkers, talkers and action takers there is a crowd-sourced recipe for success. Even in the midst of war, unlikely networks and alliances emerge to help each other survive.  Communities recover together.  They adapt and forge ahead.

We spoke to the Mayor of Haifa about the rocket attacks his city withstood during the Second Lebanon war in 2006. For a month hundreds of rockets rained down on the neighborhoods injuring, killing and terrorizing the residents of Haifa. While watching the first rockets strike from the roof of a building all the while refusing to believe what he was seeing, the situation didn't sink in until a veteran of the First Lebanon War convinced him the flames were from a Katoush rocket, not a wildfire. Within 15 minutes, he was onsite of where that rocket landed and from then on, going to the scene of every attack within minutes became his signature action; a sign of his personal resilience and a message of commitment to his city.

Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav greeting the visiting San Francisco Emergency Management Delegation.

He led from front, putting himself in harm’s way to do his part.  His role wasn’t to put out the fires or treat the injured; it was to be the face of Haifa. He connected with the residents.  He consoled the grieving, shared their anger and spread his message that the community was whole and could not be fractured. When their enemies warned Arab residents of Haifa to leave, the Mayor took the airwaves and appealed to them as well – pointing out that Haifa belonged to all of them. Most didn’t leave. He threw away any notion that his city would fail. He knew the only weapon the city had was unity and he made bold decisions to preserve it.

The San Francisco Emergency Management Delegation and San Francisco-Haifa Sister City Committee members.

To get recovery moving the Mayor set up a line of credit for the city. On his own authority he arranged $20 million with a phone call. His advice to us? Don’t wait for the government. Do it yourself.  He pushed recovery efforts to the point that the national government got upset with him because Haifa didn’t look “war torn” enough. It was hurting their PR efforts. His resilience led the way for the community to follow. Within a month of the end of hostilities things were largely back to normal.

In the neighborhoods and hospitals they adapted. They learned how to operate in that hostile environment. New techniques and processes grew from necessity, after all it’s not a great idea to triage in the hospital parking lot when the hospital is a target (but that’s probably another post). In the aftermath of the war Haifa has seen many changes – Rambam Hospital is building a 2000 bed surge space that’s protected. The city is investing in declining neighborhoods to bolster small business. And they have initiated programs to help people cope with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), especially children.

Resilience triumphs in Haifa.

At first blush one might easily classify the PTSD programs for kids as an Israeli problem, but I wouldn’t discount its applicability in the US too quickly. Luckily we don’t live with the threat of rockets from a hostile neighbor, but we’ve got plenty of violence affecting children every day in this country. Haifa accepts the reality that an attack is likely any time, any day, and they have adapted by proactively helping residents cope with it. It’s unlikely to change in the near future, so the best they can do is adapt and carry on.

We can find similar stories of adaptation and resilience everywhere if we just open ourselves to it. From the Red River floods to any hurricane, earthquake or tornado there are literally dozens of stories of communities coming together. In Boston, Connecticut, Colorado and New York the fires of violence do not destroy communities, instead they forge stronger bonds. We suffer together and we recover together. Resilience is part of us. It’s our natural state. Think about your own circumstances and I know you’ll find that you are too. I have and I am.

DEM Deputy Director and author of this EM4SF Blog, Rob Dudgeon feeling Haifa's resilience.

Notes from the Field: Haifa, Israel

Occasionally, staff members at the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management (DEM) have an opportunity to travel abroad. They frequently write back with their observations. The following is the first of brief series of blogs journaling the experiences of DEM Deputy Director, Rob Dudgeon, who last week participated in a San Francisco emergency management delegation that visited Haifa, Israel.  The purpose of the visit: to exchange best practices on seismic strengthening programs, early warning systems, emergency preparedness and emergency management.


As I sit in that strange place between here and there—that place that happens on airplanes when the cabin is dark in a simulated night but the sun outside is bright—I finally have time to reflect on the journey of which I am a part: Israel.

It’s been a few busy weeks since I was asked to join a group headed to Haifa. The ensuing weeks of chaos saw a statewide emergency exercise, the Bay to Breakers run, countless daily distractions and all the usual challenges of coordinating a trip overseas.  Somewhere in all of that we managed to develop a program for an all-day symposium on disasters.  Only now, as I fly over Europe, on the last leg of my journey have I been able to stop and think about the mission beyond the obvious and the opportunities before us.

Our delegation is an interesting cast of characters: San Francisco city officials representing public works, public health, and emergency management joined by the Chair of the Haifa Sister City Commission, the San Francisco Fleet Week Association and a world renowned orthopedic surgeon.  Each of us brings a unique perspective and diverse curiosities.  Some have been to Israel several times while for others it’s our first visit.

Why are we in Israel you may be asking yourself? It all started three years ago when Haifa’s Mayor Yahov, while on a tour of San Francisco City Hall, met San Francisco Department of Public Works Director of City Infrastructure and City Engineer, Fuad Sweiss. The two spent hours discussing building codes and infrastructure, and within days San Francisco received an invitation to visit Haifa and share knowledge.  And now here we are, quite literally on the eve of fulfilling that request.

Tomorrow we share what we know about disaster medicine, emergency management and infrastructure that is built to withstand earthquakes.  We’ll also talk about San Francisco’s unique partnership with the military and the San Francisco Fleet Week Association.

Haifa at Night

At first blush, I wondered why Haifa is asking us about disasters. If anything we should be asking them. I mean after all, they’ve seen more mass casualties and emergency events than I can count. Multiple wars and terrorist attacks force a society to live in a state of heightened readiness.  It’s an unfortunate reality of the world today. Building codes that include safe rooms for missile attacks; hospitals with huge surge capacity; and even a medical center with an underground garage that converts to a 2000 bed hospital are all part of daily life in Northern Israel.

Then I got to thinking—they’ve had years preparing for, practicing and ultimately experiencing acts of violence, but the damage done by terrorist attacks is localized to the specific targeted region. Infrastructure may be compromised in the surrounding areas but is generally restored relatively quickly. While the events and after effects are incredibly traumatic, they impact a small percentage of the region’s overall population. An earthquake, on the other hand, impacts wide swaths of a region and the second, third and fourth order effects can be felt globally if major economic or political centers are impacted. So, upon further analysis: there is indeed plenty to share.

Port of Haifa

Out of necessity Israel thinks of disaster response in terms of response and recovery to an act of violence; whereas, we spend our time thinking, studying and preparing for catastrophic events. In a few short hours we’ll meet and begin a journey of discovery that will undoubtedly make both cities more resilient. But for now, my new friends and I on the plane sit and doze while we fast forward 10 hours to Israeli time, trying to convince our bodies to ignore the blazing sun peeking under the cabin’s window shades.

Iron Dome standing watch above Haifa – stark reality of where we are and the lessons learned by the people here


More about the Author:

Rob HeadshotRob Dudgeon is a Deputy Director in San Francisco’s Department of Emergency Management.  In this role he runs the Division of Emergency Services, which is responsible for coordinating the city’s multi-disciplinary response to emergencies, developing emergency plans, managing the city’s exercise program and building community resilience. For the past eight years the division has led the nation in changing the way emergency preparedness is messaged; engaging the whole community emergency management preparedness, response and recovery; and, embracing the power of social media to both build connections and to use during response operations. With three activation teams in rotation, the division is always ready to manage local emergencies or deploy to assist other jurisdictions, which they most recently did during Superstorm Sandy. 

A Quick Look at Golden Guardian in San Francisco

How we prepare now, before a disaster, dictates how we react, respond and recover during the real thing.  A mock 7.8 earthquake in San Francisco seems like a good test! We'll go into more detail later about what went on when DEM and our partners were put to the test.  For now check out our photo gallery and our coverage in the San Francisco Chronicle and Emergency Management Magazine!

Photos by Maurice Ramirez -

Commemorating Connection--Not Catastrophe

April 18th marks the 107th anniversary of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire. Although very few of us have a first-hand memory of what remains one of California’s most significant catastrophes, every April many of us think about the what ifs with regard to earthquakes. 

The thing to keep in mind is that you are more prepared than you think!  If the power goes out, you have a flashlight handy, and you know who can pick up your kids if you get stuck at work then you’re prepared. You adapt and move on. By managing everyday life you already have what it takes. So take simple actions now to make life easier when an earthquake happens!

Actual emergencies look more like people coming together than communities falling apart. Being prepared is not just about getting our supplies together; it’s about knowing our neighbors, lending a hand, and sharing our knowledge and skills to help our community. San Francisco is full of creative, diverse, and visionary minds: we don’t need to look far to become a better prepared city.  We just need to look to each other.

So as we think about what happened to our fair city 107 years ago, let’s commemorate by taking stock of our resources, and then adding a little bit to that stock. If you have a manual can opener and a supply of canned food, you are more prepared than you think (did you know the fluid in your canned beans is a great hydrator?). And lastly, take the time to meet your neighbors – at home, at work, or through social networks. After all, these are the people we rely on everyday no matter the crisis!

Top 4 Resources for Emergency Preparedness Information

  •  everything you need to plan for just about any emergency.
  •  be in the know about any emergency alerts, notifications and warnings impacting San Francisco by neighborhood via text message and/or email.
  • Twitter: For ongoing emergency information and preparedness tips, follow DEM on Twitter @sf_emergency (for emergency alerts) and @em4SF (for preparedness and resilience conversations).
  • the smart phone app that lets you test your preparedness know-how and earn superhero badges as you advance your emergency preparedness knowledge, skills, and abilities.

1906 Earthquake and Fire Commemoration Events:

April 18th: Lotta’s Fountain 1906 San Francisco Earthquake Commemoration Ceremony

 Join your fellow San Franciscans at 5:13 am at 3rd and Market Street as we gather around Lotta’s Fountain to mark the exact time of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

DEM dressed for last year's commemoration ceremony.

  • April 18th: Painting of the Golden Hydrant in Dolores Park

Following the Lotta’s Fountain commemoration ceremony, the gathering moves to Dolores Park to pay tribute to one of the only working fire hydrants during the fire that followed the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake.

The Golden Hydrant in Dolores Park, which gets a fresh coat of gold paint every April 18th to commemorate the 1906 Earthquake and Fire.

  • April 20th: NERT Citywide Drill

Neighborhood Emergency Response Team (NERT) members from all over the city will meet to put their training into action in this three-hour drill. At the drill, NERT volunteers practice search and rescue techniques, triaging injured victims, setting up staging areas, and other essential disaster response skills.  The drill will take place 8:30 am to 12:30 pm at Everett Middle School Yard on 17th between Church and Sanchez. To learn more about NERT visit

Team DEM at the Dolores Park to observe (and a few of us to participate) in the golden hydrant painting ceremony.

DEM Talks Tsunami Preparedness with KGO-7

Deputy Director Rob Dudgeon talks to the Bay Area's KGO-7 about Tsunami Preparedness. San Francisco plans for all emergencies including Tsunamis. For tips on how to prepare for tsunami or any disaster visit You can also see if you live or work in a Tsunami Inundation Zone.

DEM talks Tsunamis with a Reporter

Step Up (Literally!), San Francisco

Take steps towards community preparedness and join us for our first ever SF Tsunami Walk Saturday, March 30th at 10:00 am. Bring your family, invite your friends and meet your neighbors and find out what to do in case of a tsunami, which is to walk UP to higher ground.


Meet us at the intersection of The Great Highway and Lincoln Way.  As we would during an actual tsunami evacuation, we'll walk inland and away from the beach. The short walk ends at Francis Scott Key Elementary School which is the neighborhood’s Tsunami Evacuation Assembly Area. So, sign up here or just show up at 10:00 AM!


Meanwhile, next week kicks off Tsunami Preparedness Awareness Week (March 24-30, 2013).  Tsunamis are a very real risk to San Francisco; in fact, we have many tsunami inundation zones along the city's coastlines.  And two years ago we had a tsunami warning in San Francisco, which was caused by the Tohoku, Japan earthquake.

Throughout Tsunami Preparedness Week we’ll post preparedness tips on our blog and @EM4SF on Twitter.  And remember, you’re more prepared than you think!

To learn more about emergency preparedness in general, visit our preparedness web site

Fear Factor

A volcano in the city. Nothing grabs headlines like fear.  In some circles, yesterday’s earthquake in Southern California was cast as a foreshock to the apocalypse.  Cue the scenes of a volcano erupting in Los Angeles and an asteroid hurling towards earth. Somebody better call Tommy Lee Jones and Bruce Willis because we need a hero!

Are we scared yet? Okay, now let’s all take a step back from the ledge.

Yesterday’s 4.7 tremor?  A simple reminder we live in earthquake country– instead of believing the hype, let’s take small steps towards individual and community resilience.

A shadow puppet

You are more prepared than you think! If the power goes out, you have a flashlight handy, and you know who can pick up your kids if you get stuck at work. You adapt and move on - disaster averted! By managing everyday life you already have what it takes.  So take simple actions now to make life easier when an earthquake happens!

72 hours is a great starting point for preparedness – it’s the first step in preparing yourself and your family for a disaster. Simple tips include keeping a bag of stuff to get you by for 3 days, having an out-of-state contact, and making sure your  family has a safe meeting spot.

So what about heroes? Who is going to save the day?  You will - and so will your neighbors.

In the event of an emergency, communities come together. Past disasters – from Sandy to Fukushima – have proven resilience because of people helping each other.  Being prepared is not just about getting your supplies together; it’s about knowing your neighbors, lending a hand, and sharing your knowledge and skills to help your community.

Neighbors handing out food to others

Take the time to meet your neighbors - at home, at work, or through social networks.  After all, these are the people we rely on everyday no matter the crisis!

For more small steps and ways to get connected check out:  You can also check out our SFHeroes app for mobile devices!

How We Learn from Each Other

By Anne Kronenberg, Executive Director, Department of Emergency Management Anne Kronenberg's Name Tag at the BCEM Conference

On the East Coast it was a super storm, in the heart of Texas it was a gathering of elite athletes, and thousands of miles away it was lessons learned from years of conflict.   As the Executive Director of San Francisco’s Department of Emergency Management (DEM) I have the honor of working with talented and dedicated individuals responsible for managing every day and not so every day emergencies.   One of the most important things we can do to become a more resilient San Francisco is to learn from the experiences of others.

Emergency Managers Coming Together to Exchange Ideas and Learn from Each Other

Last month, San Francisco hosted the Big City Emergency Managers (BCEM) Conference. This bi-annual conference brings together emergency managers from big cities throughout the nation.  Over the course of three days emergency managers from New York, New Jersey, Chicago, Houston, Dallas, Seattle, Los Angeles, Denver, San Diego, Boston, Philadelphia and Miami shared experiences, innovations, and best practices.  All of us Big Cities have been working to improve our emergency logistics systems.  At the conference, we learned how the systems were put to the test during Superstorm Sandy.

Emergency Management Doesn’t Always Mean Managing Emergencies

Houston was the center of international attention during the NBA All Star Game.  While not an emergency in the traditional sense, emergency managers coordinated resources to ensure both residents and visitors were safe and could enjoy the festivities. In San Francisco we also activate our emergency management systems in support of city-wide special events.  Hearing how Houston handled the NBA All Star Game was particularly insightful and will help us refine and hone our own practices.

Emergency Officials at BCEM Conference

During the conference, we shared with our colleagues the unique and beneficial partnership that exists between the San Francisco Bay Area and the Fleet Week Association.   Over the last three years, we have conducted disaster humanitarian assistance exercises and seminars with the armed forces.  Taking place as a preamble to Fleet Week celebrations, these exercise and seminars include our men and women in uniform as well as local and state officials.  We strive to better understand each other’s roles and needs should the San Francisco Bay Area experience a catastrophic event.

Medical Training in Israel

Looking Abroad for Innovation in Resilience

We can even learn from our partners abroad.  Through Harvard’s National Preparedness Leadership Initiative, I joined a delegation of officials from the United States to visit our peers in Israel.   We examined issues related to mass casualty events and population resilience.  For example, patient tracking in Israel involves sharing photos of patients on a common hospital system to help families reconnect with injured and wounded loved ones.  This may not work in the United States but it gets us thinking how we reconnect families separated by disaster.

Bringing Lessons Learned Home

As San Franciscans we enjoy all that comes with living in the Bay Area from our wonderful weather to the diversity of our culture.  We also share the responsibility of caring for one another and doing all we can to prepare for disaster.  This includes learning from the experiences of others and figuring out how we make it work at home.  The lessons we learn from our peers around the country and around the world help us become a more resilient San Francisco.

Anne Kronenberg is the Executive Director of the Department of Emergency Management (DEM). She oversees a department over 250 employees providing emergency communications, emergency services and grants management. Anne previously served for 16 years as Deputy Director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health. In that role, she was responsible for disaster preparedness, pre-hospital emergency medical services, medical surge, multiple casualty incidents and mass prophylaxis planning.

Austin or Bust!

binary2_01Sure, the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management (SFDEM) is a government agency, but that doesn't mean we aren't into social innovation. As early adopters of social media, we hold true to a cultural value that technology and how we as a society use it, should be integrated into the principles of emergency management  methodology (to meet the masses where they are). This principle is why we are are going to Austin where we will participate in THE place for technology meet ups--the SXSW Interactive.  And this year SFDEM is hitting the Austin streets to stage our own meet up.

On Sunday, March 10 - SFDEM staffers will host Sh*t Happens: Technology and Disasters Meet Up. It's an opportunity to catch the eye of technologists interested in civic technologies that aid populations during disasters. And don't worry if you can't make it - send us a tweet @em4sf or @UrbanAreaAlicia, use #diztech or just drop a comment on this post. We are happy to bring your thoughts to the group at large.  And be sure to let us know if you will be going, too!

Thank you for making this an opportunity to share and grow in the intersection of technology and disasters.

Notes from the Field: New York, Day 2

It is day 2 of the DEM team's deployment to support the Westchester County Department of Emergency Services. In this em4SF Blog our Deputy Director, Rob Dudgeon, shares his sentiment about two of the guiding principles of emergency management: step in where needed and support each other; and always learn. _______________________________________________________________________

On one hand, things are on the mend here in Westchester County, New York. On the other everyone is waiting for the next storm to hit before they relax.

Another night shift here in the Westchester County EOC. I’ve been asked several times what we’re doing…what’s the mission. It’s simple really, the locals have been going at 24 hours a day for a week or better so we’re here to give them a break. We’re doing basically the same job we do at home: writing operations plans, coordinating efforts, filling resource requests and generally helping to solve problems. It’s not always exciting, and the pace is pretty slow at night. But that’s not why we’re here. By being here we make it possible for locals to get some rest, do some laundry, see their kids, and maybe, just maybe clean up and repair their own storm damage.

It’s pretty easy to forget that those in the middle of setting things right are also survivors of whatever calamity struck the community. All the people that have been working have the added stress of personal loss. In this job there’s a toll on your personal life, and we’re all pretty much OK with that. It’s not like we didn't know this when we signed on, so don’t get me wrong, they are not complaining. In fact it makes me want to be here all the more because they would just keep going if nobody came in and said “just stop a minute and catch your breath, we got this for a bit.” In some cases it’s even worse; case in point: the Director of this department is obviously neck deep in the local incident, but her husband is a firefighter in FDNY- so he’s been mandated on extra shifts too. If the situation were reversed they’d do the same for us. I know that without question.

We’re also here to learn. The best way to really understand what it takes to get the power back on, get roads cleared, people sheltered, and work with FEMA is to just do it—at the same time (for 12 hours, on back to back shifts). Only then can one really get what the challenges are and be able to plan for them.

For example, generators are always in high demand after disasters. We know that and have done some planning for it…what we didn't spend a lot of time studying was that there’s a large variety in generators, from the power output to the connections. Turns out, NY State Office of Emergency Management has a request form that asks all the right questions so we can make sure the right kind of generator gets requested for the situation. The form is coming home with us.

Now, about this nor’easter coming in tomorrow. The area is under a high wind warning with gusts in excess of 40 mph possible. Normally not a reason to staff an EOC, but on the heels of Sandy with so much of the infrastructure already damaged and fragile, it’s something to worry about. Sandy knocked down more than 500 power poles and 190K customers were left without power. While they’ve got power restored to all but 41K customers, repairs made at this pace almost always require some temporary fixes until there’s time for a more extensive repair. That leads to the obvious question: “will they hold?”Add to that the unknown number of damaged—but not fallen tree limbs—and the impact the wind (and fallen tree limbs) can have on restoration efforts.

In the meantime we watch the weather radar and talk to the locals – learning from their insights and building friendships that will last a lot longer than the wind tomorrow.

The Fall Season of Emergency Preparedness Is Upon Us!

"ShakeOut is a great way to practice mental and muscle memory so you know what to do the next time the earth shakes" Kate Long, California Emergency Management Agency Earthquake and Tsunami Program Deputy

With September being National Preparedness Month and October being the 24th anniversary of the Loma Prieta Earthquake, this fall the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management encourages you to take these reminders as incentives to build upon your preparedness and resilience. Whether by visiting to develop your emergency plan; downloading SF Heroes ( to your smart phone to test your preparedness know-how; registering for, DEM’s text-based message system that delivers emergency information to cell phones and other text-enabled devices, as well as email accounts—there are many simple and often immediate ways to enhance your preparedness and resilience. DEM also highly encourage you to become a trained member of your local San Francisco Neighborhood Emergency Response Team ( 


The good news is that you are more prepared than you think. Being prepared isn’t necessarily about buying an expensive earthquake or emergency kit. It’s about having basic items gathered and ready at hand. It’s about talking with your family about where to meet after a disaster or making sure everyone knows where your emergency supplies are. It’s about knowing to drop, cover and hold on during an earthquake.


While on the topic of knowing what to do during an earthquake, this October marks the 5th Annual Great California ShakeOut, California’s state-wide drop, cover and hold on drill. We hope you will participate and help to spread the word about registering and participating in the drill planned for Thursday, October 18th at 10:18am. The purpose of the ShakeOut drill is practice and preparation: knowing what to do before, during and after an earthquake and preparing our homes, workplaces and schools for any type of an emergency.

How to Participate?

Register yourself, your household and your workplace for the drill at and join the rest of California on October 18th by practicing drop, cover and hold on at 10:18 am. Additional ways to participate include posting ShakeOut posters in your organizations public areas and/or handing out post cards to promote awareness of, and participation in the drill. Finally, tweet about your ShakeOut experience (#shakeout)!

San Francisco is a great place to live, work and play and it’s important we all do what we can to be prepared for any kind of emergency, small or large.  





Read More

An EM Lesson from NASA

Unless you've been living under a rock for the last week or two, you've likely  noticed that Curiosity has landed on Mars. Curiosity is NASA's latest Mars Rover designed to look for signatures of life on the Red Planet. It's quite a different mission than Shuttles throttling through space, but it is still consistent exploration into the beyond. A little history...

NASA was established in early 1958 in direct correlation to The Cold War with the Soviet Union. Perhaps the heyday of NASA was during the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations when Astronauts traveled to the moon. But the nature of the world slowly changed, even in the 1960's, major television news failed to cover launches and landings unless there was some degree of unforeseen danger. Apollo 13 is an excellent example of the lack of media coverage until a crisis erupts.

Move into the Shuttle program, which began in 1981 and ended in 2011 with the final landing of Shuttle Atlantis. In between there were several launches, landings and heart wrenching accidents. Kids applied to Space Camps and eagerly studied the images of the Hubble Telescope, but for the most part the many NASA programs progressed in some degree of obscurity.

Enter Social Technologies...

NASA is the king of creative social media. They are a bureaucratic, federal agency, yet some how find the way to be real, transparent and gain support via new media solutions. Mainstream TV doesn't broadcast landings or launches anymore - gone are the days of the Apollo missions, yet more and more people are intrigued, interested and dedicated to NASA's success. Curiosity was named in a social competition, by 12 year old Clara Ma, they have educated and made a fans for life with various launch and landing Tweetups, Astronauts have logged into Foursquare from space, and absolutely breathtaking photographs from the likes of @AstroRon have been tweeted from the International Space Station, to name just a few.

Social has undeniably impacted NASA. Stephanie Schierholz, NASA's first Social Media Manager, notes, "The real value of NASA's use of social media can be seen in the level of engagement and the communities that form around them. It is called social media because our fans and followers have a reasonable expectation that their questions may be answered and their comments heard. By responding and interacting with them, NASA has the opportunity to educate, inform, and inspire."

Can EM learn from NASA...

If you're a space nerd, like me, having real-time, personal access to all things NASA is pretty damn cool. But what's the practical application for the field of Emergency Management? While watching the live UStream of Curiosity's landing (here's a play by play), it occurred to me that the operations center looks largely like an Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and while we may hesitate to open up EOC operations to the world via live streaming video, we could easily open portions of our work to better educate and prepare the public we serve.

In the previous blog, SFDEM told Twitter followers, We Hear You. We lifted the kimono a bit to explain why we do what we do and how we will try better to bridge the gap between information and overwhelm. It's a first step, but it cannot stop there. If emergency management, as a field, desires to create a culture of preparedness and build resilience it has to be more than simple one-way messaging. NASA cannot expect to create fans of space exploration by simply showing the latest launch, photo or tragedy on television and likewise emergency management cannot assume that the images of the latest disaster, or directions to make a kit or pick a meeting place will create a more resilient and responsive community.

NASA has proven that it takes interaction. Concerted, direct conversations, unique, engaging opportunities to educate, inform and inspire generations, both old and new, to the wonders of science and space. Can the field of emergency management do the same for preparedness and resilience?

Alicia D. Johnson is the Resilience and Recovery Manager at SFDEM. She is a strong advocate for innovation in disaster and human resilience. She can be reached on Twitter – @UrbanAreaAlicia.

In the Wake: Resilience

The flag stands as a sentinel over a landscape strangely desolate. This is not the neighborhood I remember. Several years ago, a preverbal lifetime in fact, I lived within feet of the Mountain Shadows community - the neighborhood destroyed in the wake of the Waldo Canyon Fire. Upon a recent trip back to Colorado, I asked my family to take a detour through the community ravaged by the wildfire. Days after containment the smell of acrid smoke lingered in the air and the devastation was gut-wrenching.

Disasters are indiscriminate, yet they do not always take everything in their path. Some homes are left untouched, while neighboring properties are razed to the ground. There is no rhyme and no reason to what is left. This is the first lesson of all disasters. The impact of the Waldo Canyon Fire was no exception to the rule.

As we continued our drive, the clouds moved in and I was struck with dread - this community which has already been through far more than most, will experience yet another hazard before the summer is through. Thunderstorms are par for the course throughout the Colorado summer and without vegetation the rainwater has no where to go, but downhill, directly into the impacted neighborhood.

Disasters rarely come alone. Wildfires are often followed by risks of flooding. Earthquakes can be following by risks of fire or at the very least a few days without electricity and running water. This is the second lesson of all disasters.

Knowing this, the risks and the rewards of their community, neighbors were out in force inspecting, cleaning, clearing and rebuilding their lives.

Preparedness is a cultural value. So is resilience. Whether we live here in San Francisco or in another community, we prepare because we want to build our lives there, even after a disaster. We anchor ourselves in a community in the hopes of coming back stronger and smarter than before. That is the essence of resilience.

Each of us, like the flag on the mountain, stand as a sentinel, guiding, guarding, protecting and preserving our community because it is our home.

Alicia D. Johnson is the Resilience and Recovery Manager at SFDEM. She is a strong advocate for innovation in disaster and human resilience. She can be reached on Twitter – @UrbanAreaAlicia.