A Comprehensive Guide to Everything El Nino

Here at the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management (SFDEM) we’ve been planning for and talking about El Nino for a long time. We wanted to offer you a one-stop-shop of all things El Nino to help you feel more prepared and to assist you in sharing, educating, and empowering those around you with the same intel. We know this is a lot of information, but we hope that it answers some of your questions regarding what may come to be. Above all SFDEM encourages you to do five things:

  1. Make a Plan
  2. Gather Emergency Supplies
  3. Register for AlertSF.org
  4. Learn the difference between 3-1-1 and 9-1-1
  5. Follow us on social media
    1. Twitter: @SF_emergency, @SF72org
    2. Facebook: @SF72org, @SFDEM

For an in-depth guide please feel free to read away and share this valuable information!

El Nino


Why do I need to “prepare” for rain? This is ridiculous. Well…we know it might seem that way but rain can do a fair amount of damage. These tips, some easy and some more extensive will help you safeguard your family, your property, and your community.


Emergency Supplies

  • We recommend that you prepare your household (including furry friends) for 72-hours. The reality is city services might not be able to reach you until then, so it’s best to have everything you might need stashed away for a 72-hour period.
  • Visit SF72.org for directions on how to assemble items already found in your home, into an emergency supplies basket/back-pack/go-bag.
      • What does that look like? How can I get started?
  • Examples:
    • Water for 72-hours, 1 gallon per person, per day
    • Food, non-perishable items
    • Flashlights (more than one) with back-up batteries
    • First-Aid kit
    • Pet food and supplies
    • Any prescription medicine you might need
    • Good old-fashioned cash

Checklist Page


Make a Plan

  • This step is really about your family and your community, will Mrs. Smith on the corner who is wheel-chair bound need help during a large storm? Probably. Or what about other at-risk neighbors that are home-bound or disabled? If your house floods, what will you do? Who will you call?



  • Make a plan with your family: this will require thinking through what you would do in the event of a large storm. Or what you would do if your home flooded.
  • Do you have a family re-unification plan? Do your kids know who to call if they are struck at school? Design a plan that will make everyone feel safe.
  • Reconnect with your neighbors, you’d be surprised how many people are home-bound or disabled and might need an extra hand.
  • Start thinking about insurance…flood insurance. Most home owners policies do not cover insurance, check in on yours to see if it does.
  • Most flood insurance also takes 30-days to go into effect, visit: www.floodsmart.gov/before for tips on how to deal with flood insurance.

The National Flood Insurance Program is available and administered by FEMA.

Learn more about grant assistance for floodwater management here: http://sfwater.org/index.aspx?page=681

Make a Plan Page

Prepare Your Home & Your Property

  • You guessed it, heavy storms can wreak havoc on your property, but there are a few things you can do before to ensure minimal damage.
    • Have a professional come by and check your roof and windows for leaks.
    • If you have outdoor furniture, tie it down or bring it in.
    • Have your gutters cleaned, or replaced if damaged.
    • If you have trees on your property, have them trimmed.
    • Learn how to turn off your gas and your electrical power.
    • Make sure that your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are ready to go and you have extra batteries.
    • Clear out any ditches that you may have.
    • Find out if your property is prone to flooding, or in a low-lying area, if it is make sure that you have a flood plan.


  • If you find that you live in an area prone to flooding, pick-up free sandbags Monday-Friday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the Public Works’ operations yard, Marin Street/Kansas Street gate.
  • You can also make them on your own with old pillowcases and sand from a hardware store! 
  • Learn more on Department of Public Works website



  • Register for AlertSF.org
    • AlertSF is our city-wide emergency alert system that notifies people of safety-related incidents via email and text. It takes less than 2 minutes to register, and the information it may provide you one day might be life-saving
    • Make sure that your smart phone’s emergency notifications are turned ON to receive emergency alerts
  • Know the Difference Between 3-1-1 & 9-1-1
    • 3-1-1 is for non-emergencies, like a flooded storm drain
    • 9-1-1 is for life-threatening emergencies
  • Download the 3-1-1 App
    • Downloading this app allows you to make reports via your smartphone rather than dialing in
  • Follow Us On Social Media for Updates
    • Twitter: @SF_emergency, @SF72org
    • Facebook: @SF72org, @SFDEM
  • Sign-Up for Weather Alerts



Flood Watch = “Be Aware.” – Conditions are right for flooding to occur in your area.

Flood Warning = “Take Action!” – Flooding is either happening or will happen shortly.

Basic Safety Tips

  • “Turn around, don’t drown!” Avoid walking or driving through flood waters.
  • Just 6 inches of moving water can knock you down, and 2 feet of water can sweep away your vehicle.
  • If there is a chance of flash flooding, get to higher ground immediately.
  • If floodwaters rise around your car but the water is not moving, abandon the car and move to higher ground. Do not leave the car and enter moving water.
  • If water has entered your garage or basement, do not walk through it.
  • If you are asked to leave your property, disconnect all electrical appliances.
  • Avoid downed power lines, broken gas lines, and downed trees.
  • Call 3-1-1 for non-life threatening issues, and call 9-1-1 for life-threatening emergencies.

Finding Information


  • Tune into local TV stations or radio stations (740 AM , 810 AM, 740 AM, 106.9 FM)
  • Keep your eye on social media as well, follow us on Twitter: @sf72org, @SF_emergency
  • Visit our website: SF72.org to find information and view our crisis map exhibiting updated information around the city.

Power Outage Steps


  • If your power goes out, the first step is to check your fuse box. Often times the power outage could be limited to your own home and can easily be fixed by resetting your circuit breakers.
  • Check to see if your neighbors are also without power, if so report the power outage by calling 1-800-743-5002
  • Turn off all electrical appliances and lamps, but we recommend leaving one lamp on so that you can tell when the power has been restored.
  • Be sure to keep your refrigerator and your freezer closed.
  • Stay far away from sagging or downed power lines, and report them by calling 3-1-1.
  • Do not bring a generator inside of your home (if you have one), and be sure to never use candles in case of a fire.
  • Never use gas ovens as a source of heat! Or BBQs to cook inside of your home.


Food Safety


  • Freeze refrigerated items that you may not be using immediately; leftovers, milk, fresh meat and poultry. This will keep them at a safe temperature longer.
  • Purchase/make ice packs and group food together in the freezer to keep it cold longer.
  • Be sure the freezer thermometer is at or below 0°F and the refrigerator is at or below 40°F. This will help you monitor if the food is safe. Keep refrigerator/freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain temperature.
  • The refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4 hours if unopened.
  • A full freezer will keep temperature for about 48 hours if unopened and 24 hours if half full.
  • If food temperature rises above 41°F for 2 hours or more you should discard it. When in doubt, throw it out!

Human Waste Disposal


  • If water is cut off, but the sewer lines are unaffected you can flush your home toilet by adding water manually to the tank. This water doesn’t need to be drinking water quality.
  • If sewer lines are broken, but toilets are reusable you can line your toilet with plastic bags.
  • If toilets are not reusable you can use a 5-gallon bucket with a lined plastic bag as a substitute.
  • If you’re near general public toilets and the sanitary sewer system is still functioning there, a visit to one of these locations is also an alternative.
  • Examples:
    • Schools, community centers, and/or public buildings.



Check on elderly, homebound, or disabled neighbors.

Beware of Hazards

  • Avoid direct contact with flood water, it may be contaminated. Wear heavy clothing and gloves to avoid contact.
  • Do not eat fresh or canned foods that have come into contact with flood water.
  • Flooded buildings or homes should be pumped out, disinfected and dried ASAP to prevent mold.
  • Do not handle live electrical equipment in wet areas, and call to have them checked before.
  • Check for any remaining damage from the storm such as: loose power lines, damaged gas lines, foundation cracks, collapsed porches or overhangs, unstable trees and downed trees.
  • If you smell gas or a hissing noise immediately call 9-1-1 and PG&E at 1-800-743-5000
  • Keep children and pets away from floodwater, which may be contaminated or contain unknown objects.
  • If you come into contact with floodwater make sure that your tetanus immunizations are up to date.
  • If you have flood insurance, file a claim as soon as possible.


  • Wear protective clothing, including rubber boots, gloves, and a hat.
  • Prevent mold by drying out building interior with fans and dehumidifiers and removing wet items immediately. Wet carpet, furniture, bedding, and any other permeable items may develop mold within 24-48 hours. For more information to report a mold complaint please call 311 or visit: https://www.sfdph.org/dph/EH/Complaints2EH/default.asp
  • You can also download and use the 3-1-1 app to file reports/ask for assistance
  • Clean any impervious surfaces, including the refrigerator and freezer, with soap and disinfect with a 10% household bleach solution (1 cup of bleach per 1 gallon of water). Do not mix cleaning solutions together (especially bleach with other products that contain ammonia) because they could produce irritating or potentially toxic gases.
  • Beware of animals that may have entered your garage or basement with the flood waters.
  • Be aware of potential chemical hazards during floods. Flood waters may have moved hazardous chemical containers, solvents, or other industrial chemicals from their normal storage places
  • If you need to hire a water and/or mold remediation company be a wise consumer. Be sure to do the following: check references, check their reputation, check to see that they are certified, get estimates and compare, ask if they have liability insurance, ask for a service guarantee, check the full extent of the service.


Winter may be coming, but it won’t be so bad if you prepare your family and your property. Take good care, and remember that we are here 24/7 monitoring the weather and working with our partner agencies and utility companies to ensure a safe winter.


If you need help getting started on gathering your emergency supplies or making a family plan please visit: SF72.org

 Additional Resources & Information:

















You can sign up for those alerts at www.sf72.org and www.AlertSF.org.



Join Our Family Time Preparedness Campaign

Family Time_2 Happy almost Thanksgiving! The holiday season is upon us and here at the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management we are rolling out our annual SF72 Family Time Preparedness Campaign. This campaign is all about preparedness, connection, and family time. While you’re visiting with the ones that you love over the holiday season, join us in participating in this campaign.


Family Time_3

Essentially we believe that by capturing your preparedness moments and sharing them we can inspire, connect, and learn together. Not only is preparedness easier than you may think, you can find most of the emergency supplies you will need right in your own home. By sharing these family moments you can show others that it can be done, sometimes you just need to get the ball rolling!

Familt Time_4

We wish you the happiest of holidays with your families and friends. We hope to see your hash tags and tags on social media documenting one of the most important conversations you’re bound to have this holiday season, how to prepare!

Happy holidays from the folks who always have your back, the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management // SF72.org.

For more ideas and tips on how to get started, visit us: SF72.org






Are you ready for the 4th of July? Some preparedness tips and celebratory gunfire myths...

american-flags With so much activity in San Francisco lately it's hard to believe the 4th of July is around the corner! As we've seen in the last few days the Bay Area is being greeted with quite the heat wave and with the 4th just this Saturday we wanted to share some preparedness and safety tips that will be sure to contribute to your wonderful weekend.

How to prepare your family for the 4th of July:

  • Remember to replenish your first aid kits
  • Stay hydrated
  • Wear sunscreen
  • Wear layers
  • Remember to handle fireworks with care
  • If you or your loved ones are faced with an emergency, give us a call! (9-1-1)
  • If you see suspicious behavior, contact authorities- we want to work together to make sure our communities are safe!
  • Lastly, have fun!

In addition to basic safety tips, the 4th of July always seems to bring out excitement in our communities. One thing to be wary of are the dangers of celebratory gunfire. We've all heard it...but sometimes we catch ourselves thinking, was that really gunfire or just a firework? You might feel like this is an ode to the past, that celebratory gunfire is rare-or simply doesn't happen anymore. Yet, just early this year during a New Year's Eve celebration a man was killed by a falling bullet while watching fireworks.

Unfortunately celebratory gunfire is still somewhat common, and we wanted to take this time to dispel a few rumors and myths regarding the celebratory shots:

  • It's not illegal.
    • Not only is it illegal, its been upgraded to a felony charge.
  • Injury from celebratory gunfire is rare.
    • In fact, the possibility for fatalities are much higher (close to 30%), due to the bullet's speed while falling straight down and the impact from directly above, rather than another angle.
  • Bullets shot up simply disappear.
    • Well unfortunately, they do no such thing. What goes up must come down...
  • It is not preventable.
    • If you see suspicious behavior, contact authorities...sometimes people simply aren't aware of just how risky and unsafe celebratory gunfire can be. 

We want you to have a fun and safe 4th of July while knowing how to keep your loved ones and your community out of harms way. With that said, we hope you've dusted off your BBQs and are ready for a weekend of celebrations!


#LoveWins Preparedness Tips for Pride

By: Daniella Cohen San Francisco is buzzing this morning as we gear up for a historic Pride weekend on the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right. What a day and weekend indeed to be in this great city!


This year for the 45th Anniversary of San Francisco Pride the Warrior's President and COO Rick Welts has been chosen to raise the flag as the Celebrity Grand Marshal. Rick Welts is most recently known for leading the Golden State Warriors to a historic landslide victory in the NBA Finals (their first title since 1975!), but he is also known for being America's first prominent, openly-gay sports executive. Historic celebrations abound this weekend as San Francisco braces for a gathering of up to half a million people this Sunday for the annual Pride Parade.


Pride brings many things to mind: colors, sights, sounds, music, and unforgettable celebrations. But it also reminds us the importance of being prepared for a fun Pride weekend!


Some important preparedness tips include:

  • Stay hydrated
  • Wear sunblock
  • Utilize public transportation
  • Wear layers
  • If you see something suspicious, notify authorities

We advise that you tune into our Crisis Map on our website SF72 for updates on traffic closures, "avoid the area" notices, medical assistance tents, first aid, and other emergency closures or messages.

Most importantly, have fun and be safe!

pride 1

Happy New Year, San Francisco!

Isn’t the New Year inspiring? Who doesn’t love a chance to start fresh and really focus on what you want to accomplish—with a whopping 365 days to do so. We have a hunch that preparedness may not be number one on most New Year’s resolutions lists, but in its most boiled down state, preparedness is easier than most think.  And by taking stock of your preparedness, you are doing something now, before an emergency, that will make a big difference after. More Prepared

So, here are a few simple ideas to help jump start meeting a preparedness New Year’s resolution:

  • 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.

Plan Basics

  • Print and fill out the Make a Plan card, take a picture of it,  and text the image to your out of area contact.
  • 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. Check out SF72’s supplies for more ideas.

Supplies_Prepare_Standard-1 (2)

  • Know what to do. Watch SF72 videos and learn how to get prepared from a few of your fellow San Franciscans. They’ve got lessons and advice to share from their experiences in the local community and in disasters.
  • Register for San Francisco’s text-based notification system AlertSF
  • Look into becoming a trained member of San Francisco NERT
  • Follow@sf_emergency for alerts, notifications and warnings and @SF72 for preparedness and resilience conversations

And whatever you do to prepare, we hope you will share that your family and friends. Hearing it from you can really inspire preparedness.


Happy New Year from all of us at the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management and wishing you and yours a prepared 2015!