Muscle Memory

Last week a 6.9 magnitude earthquake shook northern Greece and Western Turkey. The quake caused 266 injuries--mostly resulting from people rushing out of buildings. So, we're going to get up on our soap box (or under it, should the earth move) and remind everyone what to do during an earthquake. 13748

Quake Basics

  1. Fight the urge to run (and that includes running to get in a doorway!).
  2. Try to get next to an interior wall, away from windows, and drop (think: I'm not going to run any where because that's how I can get hit by flying objects or get knocked over).
  3. Make yourself as small as possible (think: I need to curl up into a ball to protect my vital organs).
  4. Hold on your head (think: I need to protect my head from getting hit by falling objects).
  5. If you are close to table, or something akin, get under it and hold on to a leg (but only if you are close to one; if you have to move a ways to even get to a table you're safer to drop where you and hold your head/neck).


If you or someone you know has an access and/or functional need, learn more about what to do during an earthquake here

Practice, Practice, Practice!

As we just saw in Turkey, many of us have an instinctual urge to run out of a structure during an earthquake. To fight this knee-jerk reaction, we need to practice the safest thing to do during an earthquake, which is to drop, cover and hold on. And by practicing, we create muscle memory: meaning, actually going through the motions in drills can teach your body to know exactly what to do in that moment when you feel the earth move.

Want to practice drop, cover, and hold? It's really easy to do: pretend you are experiencing  an earthquake, and get under a desk or table and hold on to a leg.  If you aren't close to anything you can get under, drop to the ground and make yourself as small as possible.  Cover your head and neck with your arms all the while thinking about trying to protect your head and vital organs as you curl into as small of a target as possible. Want to see exactly how to do it? See this video demo:


Doorways aren't your friend in an earthquake, especially in modern houses and buildings. That old myth comes from the time when homes were made out of things like reinforced adobe, and the doorways were actually the strongest parts of the building. These days, doorways are no stronger than any other part of the house, and you have no way to protect yourself from flying or falling objects. And while you are trying to get to said doorway is when you are most vulnerable to injury.

You might've heard of the "triangle of life" method, or finding shelter in the void space next to a larger object in an earthquake. DO NOT to follow the triangle of life advice, mostly because the greatest danger during an earthquake is from falling objects, and in a really big quake, you might not actually be able to run or crawl to find a "triangle of life" zone. Learn more about why the triangle of life is not safe.

For more myths, check out Southern California Earthquake Center's Earthquake Myths.

Getting the 4-1-1 After the Earthquake (or any Emergency)

In an emergency, don't call out on your phone, but if you have access, use text, Facebook, and/or Twitter to share your status and what's happening around you. Use the hashtag #SF72 in your post, which helps the city to be aware of and respond to the situation at hand. Follow @SF_emergency on Twitter to find out (and share) the latest updates.  We'll also let you know what's happening via our SF72 Crisis Map.

Become an Earthquake Preparedness Guru

Programs like the Fire Department’s Neighborhood Emergency Response Team (SF NERT) provides free training that will allow you take care of yourself, your family, and your neighborhood in the next disaster.

Spread the Word

Share this information with your loved ones and go to to learn how to be prepared for just about any emergency. And remember, you are more prepared than you think!



San Francisco, Open Your Golden Gates!

Every April 18th we commemorate the anniversary of the San Francisco Earthquake and Fire with a combination of tradition and ceremony. This year, we added one more element to the activities: connection.

The tradition component is demonstrated when we gather at Lotta's Fountain at five in the morning with our fellow San Franciscans (some of us in 1906 period attire) to mark the moment when the earthquake struck.

The ceremony includes a sing along of the universally well know "San Francisco" song as we prepare to change locations to the Golden Hydrant in Dolores Park, which gets a fresh coat of gold paint from native San Franciscans every April 18th at dawn.

And new to the mix this year is connection, when we announced the partnership between DEM and the private social network for neighborhoodsNextdoor.

Here's the photo recap of DEM's (and SF72's) commemoration activities, that always leave us with a renewed sense of San Francisco pride.


Connections + Information = Community Resilience

April 18th marks the 108th 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. DEM dressed for last year's commemoration ceremony.

But actual emergencies look more like people coming together than communities falling apart. And at the heart of the matter is being connected...connected in your affinity groups…connected in your community...connected in your neighborhoods.  And a connected and informed community is a resilient and strong community.

Today SF72 announced a partnership with Nextdoor, (, the private social network for neighborhoods. With Nextdoor, San Francisco residents can join private neighborhood websites that make it easy to connect with neighbors and communicate about crime and safety, local service recommendations, lost pets, and emergency plans. SF72 will use Nextdoor to share emergency preparedness tips and help connect neighbors before San Francisco faces an emergency situation. SF72 also can share emergency alerts to affected neighborhoods through Nextdoor.

Each San Francisco neighborhood has its own private Nextdoor neighborhood website, accessible only to residents of that neighborhood. Neighborhoods establish and self-manage their own Nextdoor websites, and the City will not be able to access residents’ websites, contact information, or content. San Francisco residents interested in joining their neighborhood’s Nextdoor website can visit and enter their address.

So as we think about the 1906 earthquake and fire, let’s commemorate by taking 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!

15628__234HR ©Michael Mustacchi


Shake Up Call

Last night’s magnitude 6.9 earthquake off of the coast of Eureka, California was reminder that we live in earthquake country.  Thankfully, there were no reports of injuries or damage and the ocean tremor did not generate a tsunami. [youtube=]

Judy was in Tokyo, riding the train to the airport, when the 8.9 Tōhoku earthquake struck. Her immediate reaction was simple: to reach out to her digital networks, and let them know what was happening. Tomorrow, March 11 is the 3rd Anniversary of the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami.

Earthquakes can happen at any time with little or no warning.  That’s why it’s important to take simple steps now so we’re ready for any emergency.

Get Connected: When disaster strikes, we come together to help each other. Getting prepared is about knowing your neighbors, saying hi to the regulars at the local market, and staying in touch with family and friends—both digitally and in person.

Gather Supplies: Whether you’re just starting out or a preparedness pro, gathering your emergency supplies 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.

Make a Plan with your People: A little foresight can go a long way—make a plan now, so you know how to find and get in touch with your people when something happens. The same connections that are important in everyday life—with friends, family, neighbors, and communities—are even more crucial in a crisis.

For more information visit  SF72 is your hub for emergency preparedness. You’ll find information about what to do in an emergency, simple steps to get connected, and useful guides to help you get prepared.

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.

Emergency Preparedness Redefined: SF72

It's been a big week for San Francisco's emergency preparedness: The 24th anniversary of the Loma Prieta Earthquake; the Great California ShakeOut; and is launched! Sequence 01.Still018

What is SF72?

SF72 is your hub for emergency preparedness. You’ll find information about what to do in an emergency, simple steps to get connected, and useful guides to help you get prepared. Share SF72 with a friend—and help your loved ones and your city get prepared.

sf72 supplies

SF72 is for us, by us. 

Our mission is to enable San Franciscans to get prepared. SF72 was created by the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management, with feedback and ideas from the people of San Francisco. The best way to do this is for us to get connected to each other and share resources.

SF72 is about connection.

When disaster strikes, we come together to help each other. Getting prepared is about knowing your neighbors, saying hi to the regulars at the local market, and staying in touch with family and friends—both digitally and in person. shares ideas about how we can connect before an emergency so we're more resilient in the face of an emergency.

SF72 Stories Screen Shot

Experience SF72 for yourself.

We hope on a day when reflect upon what happened to the San Francisco Bay Area 24 years ago that you'll visit to learn how to be ready for just about any emergency--small or big.

And let us know what you think!


Reflections of Loma Prieta: Then and Now

Tomorrow marks the 24th anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake. Although this earthquake may not be one of recent memory, it still remains one of the most significant disasters to have occurred in the Bay Area (and California at large).  Here are a few stories about the Loma Prieta earthquake and how this disaster helped to shape us into a more resilient San Francisco.  We also hope you'll participate in tomorrow's Great California ShakeOut: the statewide drop, cover and hold-on drill taking place at 10:17 am.

Then and Now Loma Prieta Earthquake Reflections from Mayor Art Agnos


Then and Now Loma Prieta Earthquake Reflections from San Francisco NERT Member, Edie Shaffer


Then and Now Loma Prieta Earthquake Reflections from PG&E Regional Gas Superintendent, Joe Corona


10 Years Ago Today: The Great Northeast Blackout

Ten years ago today was the great Northeast Blackout of 2003, which spanned eight states and two countries (United States and Canada) and left more than 50 million people without power. We've compiled some iconic images of blackout. Although, a decade ago and a continent apart, we can't help but see San Francisco in in these photos and if something similar were to happen here, that we would come together--not fall apart. We also encourage you to think about what you would do in the face of a major power outage (cue: grab some extra batteries and make sure you've got a flashlight, or two, in the house!).

Photo by Jonathan Fickies (Getty Images)



Photo by Matthew Peyton (Getty Images)

Photo by Matthew Peyton (Getty Images)

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.