Residents Urged to Prevent Home Fires during Unseasonably Warm and Dry Conditions

Amid the recent San Francisco apartment fires that left many families having to find new housing, and the unseasonably warm weather and excessively dry conditions, the City urged all San Franciscans to take measures to prevent residential fires.

At the San Francisco Fire Department Division of Training, the San Francisco Fire Department, joined by the San Francisco Department of Building Inspection, the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management, and San Francisco Public Works, City representatives delivered important fire safety and home fire prevention methodology.

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“The best way to manage fires is to prevent a fire from ever starting in the first place” says San Francisco Fire Chief Hayes-White.  “Knowing what has the potential to start a fire is the first step. From there, it’s a matter of being continuously mindful and observant to protect our homes and loved ones from fire.”

“Fires have potential to quickly become large-scale emergencies, as we experienced in the Mission and in other parts of the City last month” Said San Francisco Department of Emergency Management Executive Director, Anne Kronenberg. “The Department of Emergency Management’s role is to support all response agencies from the initial calls to 9-1-1 when we dispatch first responders to the scene of a fire, to the longer-term efforts associated with helping those impacted by fire to recover. But at the heart of the matter, knowing how to prevent fires is San Francisco’s collective responsibility.”

The City engages in many fire prevention practices, including using landscaping goats to control overgrown brush in areas such as Glen Canyon, Corona Heights, and other steep slopes.  San Francisco Public Works also stands at the ready to remove debris or other possible fire hazards and encourages residents to call 3-1-1 to report cases of this nature.  “We all need to work together to reduce the risk of fire,” said San Francisco Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru. “If you see an overgrown lot, contact 3-1-1 with the location and we will respond.”

The San Francisco Department of Building Inspection provides fire safety requirements to property owners, and strives to increase owner and tenant vigilance with regard to fire safety. “Following the recent spate of tragic fires in the Mission and Tenderloin neighborhoods,” said Tom Hui, S.E., C.B.O. and the City’s Building Official, “DBI inspectors are performing City-wide life-safety spot-checks, or routines, on older mixed-use apartment buildings and, where inspectors discover life-safety and fire-safety code violations, we are increasing our enforcement litigation referrals. We continue to urge residents to call 3-1-1 (or to call DBI directly: 415-558-6220) to report any suspected code violations— especially those related to life-safety systems within a residential building.”

During the home fire prevention demonstration, the San Francisco Fire Department delivered the following fire prevention messages that apply now, during warm and dry weather, and at any point during the year:

While some fire prevention tips apply year-round:

  • Never leave food on the stove or in the oven unattended
  • Never leave burning candles unattended
  • Keep combustible items away from heat sources
  • Properly dispose of smoking materials
  • Keep matches out of reach of children’s little hands
  • Do not overload electrical outlets

Other warm weather fire tips should be noted as well:

  • Check propane tank hoses & connections for leaks before lighting the grill
  • Douse hot coals or campfires with water before leaving the area
  • Dispose of barbeque coals in a non-combustible container such as a metal bucket
  • Keep a minimum clearance of 4 feet around the barbeque grill
  • Keep weeds and foliage trimmed and clear of fences, decks and homes
  • Fire Prevention PSA

Tsunami Preparedness 101

This week marks national Tsunami Preparedness Week and DEM wants San Francisco to know what to do in the event of tsunami hitting our shorelines.

Tsunamis are NOT like normal waves at the beach. When they approach land they are like a surge or fast flood. Earthquakes are nature’s warning for a possible tsunami, so if you are by the coast and the earth moves, first: Drop, cover, and hold on; second: When the shaking stops, get to high ground; and third: stay away from the coast.

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Sometimes it takes many hours for the first waves of a tsunami to reach the shoreline, and often times the first waves (or surges) are not the highest or most powerful.  Whether we are under a tsunami advisory, watch, or warning it is imperative that anyone in coastal areas listen to DEM’s instructions.  Our primary methods of issuing the notification are AlertSF, the Outdoor Public Warning SirensWireless Emergency Alerts, and @sf_emergency and @SF72org on Twitter. Tuning in to radio news (such as KCBS 740 AM or 106.9 FM) and TV also is a good way to get information about the tsunami.

The 101 on tsunamis:

Know the warning signs:

  • A strong earthquake
  • A sudden rise or fall of the ocean tide
  • A loud, roaring sound (like an airplane or a train) coming from the ocean

Take action:

  • Move inland to higher ground, or into a tall building immediately and stay there
  • Stay away from the beach until officials advise it is safe to return
  • Follow instructions from local officials (AKA us!)

Spread the word:

  • Once you have taken action tell family, friends, and co-workers to do the same (social media is a great way to spread the word)

Scientists Confirm: We Live in Earthquake Country

Today the U.S. Geological Survey released a new earthquake forecast that California will experience an earthquake 8.0-magnitude or greater within the next 30 years.  Aside from the specific geological explanation about what will happen when certain faults move, most of us already know that we live in an earthquake-prone region. But psychologically, the thought of a looming disaster that could happen in five minutes or nearly a third of a lifetime from now can feel scary, daunting, and…intangible.  So often times we push the thought out of our minds and focus on something that’s more pressing and timely, even though we know we should eventually get prepared for a major earthquake.

But here’s the thing about earthquake preparedness—we’re not trying hunker down in our bomb shelters as the zombie apocalypse destroys any vestige of our social structure; it’s really just about having enough food and water on hand to make nine meals, talking about what you would do in an emergency with your clan (download SF72 Make A Plan), and getting connected within your community so you can support each other when needed.

Plan Basics

Knowledge also gives you control over the impact an earthquake can have, so knowing what to do before, during and after an earthquake; AND knowing where to get emergency public information is key.  Check out the Seven Steps to Earthquake Safety for simple things you can do to make yourself safer.  Register for AlertSF and follow us @SF_Emergency for the emergency information DEM will be sharing so we all can get back to normal as soon as possible.

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Today’s USGS forecast also comes on the 4th anniversary of the Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami, which caused by the largest fault slip ever recorded. As we reflect upon what happened to our global neighbors in Japan four years ago today, let’s not wait until the next disaster to show how connected and prepared we are. Check out SF72.org to learn more about how to be prepared for any type of emergency; you’ll find you’re more prepared than you think. And when you’re ready for a deeper dive into emergency preparedness, consider taking the San Francisco Fire Department’s free Neighborhood Emergency Response Team training where you’ll learn hands-on disaster skills that will help those us responding to a personal emergency as well as act as members of a neighborhood response team.

More Prepared

Spring Forward (& How’s Your Stored Water Supply?)

Daylight Savings

It’s that time of year!  Where we set our clocks forward and lose that hour of sleep we wish we had on Monday morning. Daylight saving time also is a good time to make sure you have enough emergency water.

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One gallon of water per person per day is what you want to have on hand for emergencies.  This supply should be replaced every six months, so how about starting this bi-annual routine this weekend?

For more information on storing water visit the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

And while we’re checking on our water supply, how about checking your smoke alarm batteries (and replace as needed!), too? Here’s to a very SF72 (AKA prepared) spring and summer!

February 9-1-1 Public Safety Dispatcher of the Month: Lisa Lee

San Francisco Department of Emergency Management’s 9-1-1 Dispatchers manage more than 1.2 million emergency and non-emergency calls annually and are often the “first” first–responders whom San Franciscans reach when facing an emergency or are in crisis.

Every month a DEM Public Safety Dispatcher is recognized for outstanding service while assisting those in crisis. This month DEM Public Safety Dispatcher Lisa Lee is being recognized for the care she provided to a woman in distress.

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The San Francisco Department of Emergency Management has selected Public Safety Dispatcher Lisa Lee as Communications Dispatcher of the Month for February 2015 for her expeditious and compassionate customer service that she demonstrated during a 9-1-1 call from a woman who was audibly ill.  The caller told Public Safety Dispatcher Lee she was dizzy, and that she may be experiencing a heart attack or stroke.  Public Safety Dispatcher Lee immediately initiated a call for service with very limited information, while providing calming and comforting words of encouragement.

Public Safety Dispatcher Lee’s compassion moved the caller to personally thank her, which she expressed in a letter to DEM stating “I will be forever grateful for the quick action of all involved who responded.”

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For more information about 9-1-1 in San Francisco visit www.sfdem.org/911

San Francisco's 9-1-1 Dispatch Floor

San Francisco’s 9-1-1 Dispatch Floor

What to Expect… When You Call 9-1-1

911 Dispatcher answering a call

Dispatchers are trained to pull and assess information from a caller so the right level of help can be sent quickly.

Calling 9-1-1 is serious business.  We want you to call 9-1-1 to receive help for emergencies, potential emergencies, or if you are not sure if it’s an emergency.  But happens when you call for help?  What should you say? What does the person on the other line need to know?  What if you forget something?

Dispatchers are trained to pull and assess information from a caller. Expect them to guide you with questions.  They know what information they need to get first in order to ensure the right type of help arrives in a timely manner, and the best way to get the assistance you need is to answer the questions in the order they ask them.

Here’s a quick guide to help us help you:

  • If you speak another language or dialect tell us right away. At push of a button, we can connect to a translator. San Francisco has translated 9-1-1 calls in more than 170 languages.
  • Let the dispatcher know what is happening. Is there a crime in progress? Is there a fire?  Does someone need medical help? This information lets our dispatchers know what type of help you need.
  • We want to know where the situation is occurring. Provide an exact address if you know it and don’t forget the floor and apartment number if you are in a building.  Unsure of where you are?  A nearby intersection or landmark will help.
  • When did the incident occur? It is important to know if this is an active situation so our dispatchers can prepare the first responders know what to expect.
  • Let us know who is involved. We want to know if it a family member, someone you know, or a stranger.  It also helps to know if there are multiple people involved and who they are.
  • If weapon was used then let us know. Telling a dispatcher about weapons helps keep the public and first responders safe.
  • Tell us if anyone is injured. If someone is hurt, our dispatchers will ask you a series of questions to determine what type of care is needed.  Our dispatchers are also trained to provide medical instruction until a medic arrives.

It is important to remember the type of response is based on the emergency.  San Francisco’s 9-1-1 call center receives more than 3,000 calls per day.  Not every call can or should involve emergency units traveling at high speeds with lights flashing and sirens blaring.  This type of response comes with inherent risk for the public and the first responders, but is rightly reserved for life-threatening emergencies.

We hope you rarely have to call 9-1-1.  But if you you or someone else is experiencing an emergency, then keep these tips in mind.  Our 9-1-1 dispatchers will help you get the help that you need in a timely manner.

911 Dispatchers answering phones

Call 9-1-1 to receive help for emergencies, potential emergencies, or if you are not sure if it’s an emergency.

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Need some help figuring out when to call 9-1-1 check out our previous post Burning Building? Call 911. Burning Question? Call 311.  

Burning Building? Call 911. Burning Question? Call 311.

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People dial 911 every day for all kinds of emergencies. At the Department of Emergency Management, our dispatchers are experts at sending the right kind of help to the right location – fast.

But sometimes people call 911 for things that are not emergencies. Like to ask for a Police Department phone number. Or to report stolen property. These non-emergency calls can tie up our 911 phone lines, and make it harder for real emergency calls to get through.

Fortunately, there’s a MUCH better number to call for non-emergency situations – 311. The expert staff at 311 can provide information on an amazing variety of non-emergency City services, both over the phone, and on the 311 app. And just like us, they are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and can provide the answers you need in over 176 languages.

In short: Life-threatening emergency? Call 911. No urgency? Call 311.

Still not sure which number to call? Here’s a primer:

Burning Building? Call 911.                                  Burning Question? Call 311.

Bike accident? Call 911.                                      Bike stolen? Call 311.

Shots fired? Call 911.                                          Flu shots? Call 311.

Blocked airway? Call 911.                                   Blocked driveway? Call 311.

Building collapse? Call 911.                                Building permit? Call 311.

Car accident? Call 911.                                       Abandoned car? Call 311.

Person knocked out? Call 911.                           Street light out? Call 311.

Muni accident? Call 911.                                    Muni late? Call 311.

Need rescue after an earthquake? Call 911.      Need info after an earthquake? Call 311.

Need Police help immediately? Call 911.          Need a Police phone number? Call 311.

Escaped prisoner? Call 911.                                Escaped chihuahua? Call 311.

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Get the picture? For life-threatening emergencies, call us at 911, and we’ll get the Police, Fire Department, or an ambulance to your side as fast as possible. For everything else you need from the City, call our friends at 311, and save 911 for the real emergencies.

SBA Offers Disaster Assistance to California Businesses and Residents Affected by the Mission District Fire

Originally posted on Cal OES Newsroom:

SBA LogoSACRAMENTO – Low-interest federal disaster loans are available to California businesses and residents affected by the Mission District Fire that occurred on January 27, 2015, U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet announced today. SBA acted under its own authority to declare a disaster in response to a request SBA received on February 13 from Gov. Edmund G. Brown, Jr.’s designated representative, Mark S. Ghilarducci, director of the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.

 The disaster declaration makes SBA assistance available in Alameda, Marin, San Francisco and San Mateo counties.

 “SBA is strongly committed to providing California with the most effective and customer-focused response possible, and we will be there to provide access to federal disaster loans to help finance recovery for businesses and residents affected by the disaster,” said Contreras-Sweet. “Getting our businesses and communities up and running after a disaster is our highest priority at SBA.”

 “Low-interest federal disaster loans…

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Local Mission District Restaurants Come to the Rescue

This blog comes to us from John McKnight, Director of Emergency and Disaster Services for the Salvation Army SF Metro and Golden State Division and who is leading the charge to feed the many San Franciscans who lost their homes due to last week’s numerous fires. 

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The best restaurant in town may this week be at the Red Cross emergency shelter located, and hosted by The Salvation Army Mission Corps. An outpouring of generosity and support by local eating establishments in the Mission have filled up most of the meals scheduled for the Shelter residents. Initially, the Mass Feeding Coordinator, John McKnight of The Salvation Army, was put in contact with Vinny Eng of Tartine Bakery and Shakirah Simley of BiRite who began rallying and coordinating all of the good will in the area, on top of delivering meals from their restaurants through the week. Tartine has taken on all of the shelter’s breakfasts, and BiRite has given us the materials to make lunches for the children whose lunches we pack daily.

To date our meal plan includes fine foods from Tacolicious, HeyDay, Sprig, and more eateries are lining up to help. “I must tell you what a wonderful treat it is to be feeding the people of this shelter with such fine foods,” says John McKnight..”They have been through so much, and this generosity by local restaurants is giving the survivors healthy food to eat, and great meals to share together as a community.”
Salvation Army_Feeding Blog

Salvation Army Lunches

Salvation Army Dinner

Salvation Army Dinner Prep

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And in the spirit of the how food can bring us together during an emergency, check out our SF72 story from Charles Phan of the Slanted Door:

San Francisco Comes Together to Help Survivors of the Mission Fire

San Francisco, CA – At 6:30 p.m. this evening the City and County of San Francisco, the American Red Cross, and the Salvation Army will open a temporary emergency shelter to help the survivors of this week’s 4-Alarm Mission Fire.  Sixty-seven San Franciscans including 15 children lost their homes and all of their belongings.

“The devastating Mission Street fire tragically took a life, destroyed many homes and small businesses,” said Mayor Ed Lee. “We are working closely to rapidly rehouse displaced residents and support small businesses as they recover.  Confronted with the challenge of rebuilding their lives, we will continue to support them.  We call on neighbors, friends and partners to assist the families and small businesses to help them recover from this tragedy.”

The temporary shelter located The Salvation Army’s Mission Corps Community Center at 1156 Valencia Street will serve as a place where survivors can stay until housing can be found for them.  At 10:00 a.m. Saturday, the American Red Cross will open a Service Center at the shelter, where survivors can meet one-on-one with Red Cross case workers to assess their situation, create recovery plans, navigate paperwork and locate help. Other agencies and non-profits will be available on site to meet with residents to determine their housing and resource needs.  San Francisco’s Human Services Agency (HSA) will work to facilitate mid-to-long term housing matches.

“The Salvation Army, in partnership with the Red Cross, will provide the Mission Fire survivors with both shelter and a place of respite within their own neighborhood,” said John McKnight, Emergency Disaster Services Director for The Salvation Army’s Golden State Division. “The Salvation Army Mission Corps has been a part of the Mission neighborhood for over 90 years and it’s our privilege to serve alongside the City of San Francisco, its residents and partner agencies to help rebuild the lives of those affected by this tragedy.”

The best way to help fire survivors and rescue workers is to make a financial contribution. Monetary donations allow disaster responders to immediately meet the specific needs of disaster survivors. The American Red Cross and The Salvation Army have established mechanisms to accept donations.  At this point, in-kind donations are not being accepted.  Used clothing and used furniture are seldom required during an incident. While well intentioned, in-kind donations such as clothing, furniture, and food can hinder the response effort.

“Financial donations allow us and our partners to be flexible in the help we provide and ensure that we can give our diverse communities the help that is most appropriate for their needs,” said Mark Cloutier, Regional Chief Executive Officer of American Red Cross. “We appreciate the offers to provide clothing, food, and other materials but each disaster is unique and so are the needs of its victims. It takes time and money to sort and distribute donated items whereas financial donations can be accessed quickly and put to use right away.”

A number of business owners were also affected by the Mission Fire. The Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development  will be at the Mission Police Station Community room on Friday from 10:30 a.m. -1:00 p.m.  assisting businesses with filling out disaster declaration forms so that an application can be made to the State of California  as part of Small Business Administration approval requirements.  Staff will be available to answer questions from business owners and outplaced employees that were impacted by the fire. For direct assistance, businesses can contact Francis Chan at (415) 816-3816. For outplaced employees, contact Carmelo San-Mames at (415) 701-4848. Or visit www.oewd.org/missionfire to learn more about available resources and services.

“In an event like this, where the needs of the displaced resident are so great, they are best served when all of the responding agencies are coordinated. A response like this would easily challenge the resources of one agency, and the services required need to come from various programs. Only through a coordinated effort can all of the multiple resources be brought to bear, and that is the role of the San Francisco Human Services Agency,” said Benjamin Amyes, HSA Disaster Response Manager. ‘Our role is to be sure that all of the needs are met as efficiently as possible by bringing together all of the responders and directing the residents to the services that best fit their needs.”

How to Help:

American Red Cross
All Red Cross disaster assistance is free, made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from the American people. Help people affected by disasters like the Mission Fire and countless other crises by making a gift to American Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to, and help people recover from disasters big and small. Visit redcross.org/donate, or call 1-800-REDCROSS.

The Salvation Army

The Salvation Army’s Emergency Disaster Services program provides a number of services to meet the needs of each unique disaster, whether a house fire or major earthquake.  Some of these services include food service, shelter, donations management, emotional care, and disaster case management. Salvation Army assistance is free, funded entirely by donors, and is provided to disaster survivors without discrimination. The Salvation Army uses 100 percent of all disaster donations in support of disaster relief operations. To help, please visit http://salar.my/ewNl69 or call 1-800-SAL-ARMY and mention “The San Francisco Mission Fire” when you give.

While the Salvation Army is not accepting in-kind donations for survivors of the Mission Fire, gifts of gently-used household goods, clothing, etc., support the day-to-day work of the Salvation Army in the community. Please consider giving these items to your local Salvation Army Family Thrift Store.

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