San Francisco Department of Emergency Management
Accepts New Applications for 9-1-1 Dispatchers
Applications accepted beginning Monday January 9, 2017
San Francisco, C.A. – The San Francisco Department of Emergency Management invites all interested and qualified persons to submit an application for the opportunity to become a Public Safety Communications (9-1-1) Dispatcher. Dispatchers are the vital link between the public and police officers, firefighters, and medics during emergency situations. Interested persons may apply beginning Monday January 9, 2017.
“San Francisco’s 9-1-1 Dispatchers perform difficult and life-saving work to help people in emergency situations. This career requires a commitment to serving the community and the understanding that your work may involve personal sacrifice,” said Anne Kronenberg, Executive Director, San Francisco Department of Emergency Management (SFDEM). “This life is not for everyone. However, if you value public service you will find this career rewarding and we encourage you to apply.”
Dispatchers answer all emergency (9-1-1) and non-emergency (415-553-0123) calls in San Francisco. They also dispatch and coordinate police, fire, and emergency medical services over a two-way radio system using a computer aided dispatch system. This work is performed 24 hours-a-day, 7 days-a-week, 365 days-a-year. Dispatchers may be assigned to work various schedules, which include day shift, swing shift, night shift, weekends, holidays, and overtime. Dispatchers work 8-hour or 10-hour shifts, or longer, and must be willing and able to respond, report, and mobilize as necessary. The base salary for a Public Safety Communications Dispatcher begins at $81,558 annually.
Applicants must verify they meet the minimum qualifications and pass a performance and oral examination in order to be placed on the recruitment list for the Dispatch Academy. The minimum qualifications for a Public Safety Communications Dispatcher are two years of experience in a public contact position and possession of a High School Diploma, General Education Development (GED) or High School Proficiency Certification.
The performance exam measures an applicant’s ability to prioritize and multitask effectively in a fast-paced, high stress environment; recall facts, details and other pertinent information; and the ability to operate a computer terminal while typing at a minimum speed of 35 words per minute.
Those who pass the performance examination are invited to participate in a scenario-based oral examination. This exam tests oral and written communication skills, the ability to collect information and make sound decisions, aptitude to perform several tasks simultaneously, and interpersonal skills.
People who meet the minimum qualifications and pass both examinations are placed on the eligible list by rank. Candidates on this list must undergo extensive employment, character, and background investigations. Candidates must also undergo a polygraph examination, psychological evaluation, and medical examination prior to appointment to the Dispatcher Academy.
“San Francisco has an extensive screening process to ensure that people have the basic skills, temperament, ability, and integrity for the opportunity to become a dispatcher,” said Sandy Chan, Human Resources Manager, SFDEM. “It can take up to nine months to effectively screen applicants. For this eligible list the earliest a candidate could be appointed to the academy is September 2017.”
Prospective dispatchers must complete the eight week Police Officers Standards and Training (POST) Academy for public safety dispatchers where they must display mastery of subjects including police, fire, and medical procedures, radio codes, and geography of San Francisco. Upon graduation from the academy, dispatch trainees receive on-the-job training first by answering live 9-1-1 calls and then dispatching police, fire, and medical services. This training takes place under the watchful eye of a veteran dispatcher and may last up to nine months. It is during this phase of training when most trainees drop out or are released by SFDEM.
“People quickly realize they are dealing with real life while taking actual emergency calls and start sending first responders to an emergency,” said Robert Smuts, Deputy Director for Emergency Communications (9-1-1), SFDEM. “Becoming a dispatcher is a rigorous process designed to ensure you have the skills and emotional intelligence to help people on their worst days.”
To learn more about how to apply to become a Public Safety Dispatcher, visit https://www.jobaps.com/SF/sup/BulPreview.asp?R1=CCT&R2=8238&R3=073737
Tips on the Application Processes
· Be honest with yourself before you apply. Being a San Francisco Public Safety Communications Dispatcher is a rewarding career for those with a genuine passion for public service. Applicants should know a dispatcher’s work is demanding and difficult. Most junior dispatchers work nights, weekends, and holidays and this may continue well into your career. You may also be called upon to work overtime or come in your days off due to an emergency.
· Applications for City and County of San Francisco jobs are only accepted through an online process. Visit http://www.jobaps.com/sf to register an account (if you have not already done so) and begin the application process.
· For those without online access at home, computers are available to the public to file online applications 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday in the lobby of the Dept. of Human Resources at 1 South Van Ness Avenue, 4th Floor, San Francisco.
The San Francisco Department of Emergency Management (DEM) leads the City in planning, preparedness, communication, response, and recovery for daily emergencies, large scale citywide events, and major disasters. DEM is the vital link in emergency communication between the public and first responders, and provides key coordination and leadership to City departments, stakeholders, residents, and visitors. For more information visit www.sfdem.org.
San Francisco receives more than 1.2 million emergency and non-emergency calls per year or an average of more than 3,400 per day. Since 2011, San Francisco has experienced a 37 percent increase in call volume with dispatchers answering 1,000 more calls a day than they did five years ago.
The San Francisco Department of Emergency Management (SFDEM) is committed to increasing the number of 9-1-1 professionals answering calls and dispatching emergency services. In Fiscal Year 2013-2014, the Department of Emergency Management began a hiring initiative to keep pace with increased call volume. Last year, we hired 23 new Public Safety Communications Dispatchers.
This is an exciting time for DEM, this week we are upgrading our entire 9-1-1 telephone system! After 16 years, our old telephone and trunk system is well beyond its useful life. Not only is the phone system outdated, the current system has limited technical support and much of its replacement parts are no longer available. Can you imagine using the same phone today that you had in 2000? Cell phone or landline, technology has far surpassed the abilities of the system we’ve been waiting to retire.
Why is the 9-1-1 telephone cutover important?
Hopefully you’ve never had to call 9-1-1, but if you did I bet you’d hope that the phones were up and running! Not only is the new system more reliable, it prepares San Francisco for Next Generation 9-1-1 once the State of California Office of Emergency Services finalizes their roadmap for migration.
Next Generation 9-1-1 allows the 9-1-1 system to keep up with communications technologies used by the public. For instance, how do you communicate these days with friends and family? Do you like to text? Do you ever send videos? Maybe you prefer sending pictures. Next Generation 9-1-1 will allow us to accept emergency calls, videos, texts and pictures. Having this capability within the new 9-1-1 telephone system ensures that we’ll be able to keep up with the people that are the most important to us, you!
What have we done to get ready for the upgrade?
Ensuring that the 9-1-1 system is available for anyone that needs it in San Francisco is our top priority. This is why we have conducted extensive testing since the beginning of the summer. This is also why we’ve made sure that extra personnel and resources will be available to manage the transition. This includes technical support staff and additional dispatchers to manage emergency calls should the need arise. If an issue develops that may potentially impact public safety, contingency plans are in place to ensure that the 9-1-1 system remains online. Our contingency plans may include reverting back to the old system or using our backup 9-1-1 telephone system.
What can people expect when they call 9-1-1?
The first set of 9-1-1 callers may experience a brief echo at the beginning of calls as the phones calibrate to the new system. However, after that people calling 9-1-1, the dispatchers answering phones, and police officers, fire fighters, and medics responding should not notice any difference during or after the 9-1-1 telephone system upgrade.
The San Francisco Department of Emergency Management coordinates the response to everyday and not-so-everyday emergencies. Our 9-1-1 public safety dispatchers answer the phone and send help when there is a police, fire, or medical emergency. The 9-1-1 system is the critical lifeline between the public and city’s first responders.
The 2016 California Wildfire season has seen more than 6,700 fires which have burned more than 560,000 acres. For many people, this means the loss of a home, property, or livelihood. As local emergency managers, it’s our responsibility to not only coordinate the response but to help our communities recover. In Monterey and Lake Counties local emergency managers were there for their communities but were often left wondering if their own homes had made it through. When we had the opportunity to provide them some relief so that they could check on their homes, our team was happy to lend a hand. This year we sent staff to both Monterey County for the Soberanes Fire and Lake County to assist in the Clayton Fire response and recovery efforts.
What triggers a staff deployment? The State of California issues an Emergency Management Mutual Aid request (EMMA). When a city or county has exhausted all of their resources (staff and assets) to respond to an emergency, they ask the State to reach out to the closest neighboring cities and counties for aid, be it fire trucks or staff.
Lisa Starliper, our Emergency Planning Manager and Tom Chin, our Response Coordinator had the opportunity to deploy to the Soberanes Fire in Monterey County. Additionally, Daniella Cohen with our External Affairs team assisted in Lake County for the Clayton Fire response. Here are some of Lisa’s and Daniella’s reflections on their experiences, with photos shared by Tom.
CalFIRE Air Operations conducted behind Tularcitos Elementary School. In partnership with the Monterey County Office of Emergency Services, CalFIRE held a community meeting at Tularcitos to provide information and answer questions for the residents of Carmel Valley.
1. Can you share with us what you know about the EMMA process?
Lisa: My basic understanding was that whenever another city or county needed assistance, a resource request would be initiated. Following, our department would ask for volunteers to support the request. The Operations Section within SFDEM has the “lead” on managing and monitoring EMMA requests. They work to put forward the name and qualifications of any employees that are capable and available to do the work required.
Daniella: The Operations Section within SFDEM manages the EMMA requests. Lake County Office of Emergency Services (OES) needed a Public Information Officer and someone to otherwise deal with press inquiries and public information in their Local Assistance Center (LAC). As a member of the External Affairs team at SFDEM, I jumped at the opportunity to assist our partners in anyway.
2. Please share what you knew about the fire going in and what you learned as you gained more situational awareness.
Lisa: I was aware of the basic information about the fire that was available from public domains. I also had access to daily situation reports, which provided a more in-depth analysis of the current situation.
Once I was actually working in the Emergency Operations Center (EOC), I was able to increase my situational awareness through attendance at briefings and meetings. I also was able to work directly with members from Public Health regarding disaster assessment team deployments and debris management. This experience was extremely helpful in gaining a greater understanding around the issues of recovery.
Daniella: Going in I would agree with Lisa in that you can expect to be briefed with basic information about the incident upfront. I was also lucky to receive daily situation reports from Lake County OES which helped me to better understand not only what was needed, but also what would be expected of me once I arrived.
After I arrived, I realized that we were operating in the field in the middle of downtown Clear Lake where fire damage was clearly seen all around us. My experience thus far has been working inside of an EOC. It was truly humbling to be able to assist community members in this environment.
CalFIRE held multiple community meetings in the days, weeks, and months after the start of the Soberanes Fire in Monterey County. Community meetings were held in partnership with the Monterey County Office of Emergency Services and included fire suppression and behavior experts to explain the tactics and science behind the firefighting efforts.
3. What is expected of you when you deploy?
Lisa: I believe my role is to be as supportive, helpful and respectful as possible. Being a solid representative of my department and the City and County of San Francisco is just as important. On the more tangible side of things, there’s an expectation of long work hours and alternative living conditions.
Daniella: I completely agree with Lisa, you are there to provide support and to be of complete disposal to local emergency managers. It presents an opportunity to not only be of service, but to learn from others around you.
4. What was it like when you first walked into Monterey County’s EOC or the Local Assistance Center (LAC) in Lake County?
Lisa: For me, it was a very positive experience. Tom Chin had done an excellent job of laying the foundation for my arrival, which made the transition from “newbie” to EOC staff member much easier. Monterey County’s EOC had a very professional atmosphere to it, which helped smooth the transition as well.
Daniella: The LAC is a hub for fire victims to seek services, initially upon my arrival the LAC was just opening for the day and naturally it was a bit overwhelming. As time wore on, a rhythm was found not only for LAC staff but for community members as well. Facing fire victims as they try to recover from enormous loss is difficult, but it was also heartwarming to see how communities band together in times of disaster.
Every morning a CalFIRE led Partner Brief provided a common operating picture among the 20 + participating agencies including the Monterey County Office of Emergency Services, US Forestry, US Fish and Wildlife, mutual aid fire agencies, California Highway Patrol, California State Parks, and the California Conservation Corps. The Partner Brief detailed the progress made overnight and the clear objectives for the upcoming day.
5. How did your roles develop, and what were your greatest lessons learned or takeaways from the experience?
Lisa: My role remained pretty constant during my time there. I was filling a technical specialist role within the Plans Section and worked on the Concept of Operations for Debris Management and Damage Assessments.
For myself, the greatest lesson learned was to see firsthand the response and recovery considerations that were required for a wildfire incident. My emergency management experience has primarily focused on terrorism, being a first responder and maritime search and rescue. All in all, it was a fantastic experience.
Daniella: Like Lisa, my role remained the same. I acted as a Public Information Officer while also providing community affairs assistance. The greatest lesson learned for me is that the field of emergency management and disaster response knows no boundaries. Regardless of jurisdiction, or city and county lines we are here to assist each other. Often times it is that team work that yields the best results, and helps communities to heal faster. I felt lucky to offer a small bit of assistance to our partners.
Eventually, the coordination to fight a fire as large as the Soberanes Fire needs technology to be efficient. A televised morning Incident Brief provided instruction to over 350 firefighting units, fire air operations, and fire safety in three (3) different locations. This Incident Brief provided a united tactical advantage to conduct safe and effective fire suppression.
Thank you to both Lisa Starliper, Daniella Cohen and Tom Chin for representing SFDEM in Monterey and Lake Counties, and assisting in their response and recovery efforts.
On October 3rd, the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management conducted our annual disaster exercise with San Francisco Fleet Week. This year the focus was on C-PODs, otherwise known as Community Points of Distribution.C-PODS are temporary locations where the public can go to get basic necessities, such as food and water, when everyday resources are not available due to a major emergency or disaster.
The goal of a C-POD is to prevent human tragedy after a disaster. Last Monday, we practiced setting up an entire C-POD site with over 100 staff and disaster survivor volunteers. The scenario was a magnitude 7.0 earthquake, and the aftermath left residents incapable of supplying food and water for themselves. A C-POD is a last measure resort, and one that we hope to never utilize. However, if we do, we’ve received some much needed practice. Enjoy our photo blog below:
Our biggest lesson learned from our annual exercise was that we could effectively and efficiently work with our partners to setup a Community Point of Distribution following a catastrophic emergency.
Check out the sights and sounds of a C-POD:
Than you to all of our staff, volunteers and participating agencies for your support and participation in this year’s exercise.
Today is the anniversary of the 2014 Napa Earthquake, and as per our custom to use relevant disasters as reminders to get prepared for them, we were going to post a blog about the most significant earthquake to have occurred in the Bay Area since the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989. But our plan changed in light of what happened in Italy. Just last night a powerful 6.2 Magnitude earthquake epicentered in Amatrice, Italy caused nearly 200 fatalities and immeasurable destruction.
Seeing the devastation Italy is experiencing today (and will for quite a while) is chilling, tragic, and heartbreaking. It’s only natural to think about the ‘what-ifs’ when it comes to a significant earthquake happening here at home, only to push those dark scenarios out of our heads and move on to the next most pressing to do. We are here to tell you it is okay to set those scary thoughts aside; but please don’t stop there. Do something constructive, productive, and proactive when it comes to being prepared for an emergency. Take stock of your supplies (and add to it if you can). Talk about your emergency plan with your family. Ask your neighbors what you all could do to respond and recover–together. Get creative. Keep it simple. Do what feels right for you and yours. It will feel good knowing what you have done before the earthquake will make a huge difference in the aftermath.
Please visit www.SF72.org to learn how to be prepared for just about any emergency. And as we take some time now to get prepared our thoughts, hearts, and prayers go out to Italy.
This DEM Quarterly Review captures DEM’s spring seasonal highlights–which was a very busy several months that included special recognitions, commemorations, and graduations.
National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week: Honoring Our First, First Responders
National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week is an opportunity to highlight their outstanding work. Although every dispatcher is honored during this week, we take this opportunity to recognize stellar performance through the following awards:
Dispatcher of the Year
Natalie Elicetche was recognized as Dispatcher of the Year for fielding a call from a San Francisco resident who reported the possibility of multiple murders in Tennessee. Natalie contacted local authorities in Tennessee which led to the arrest of the murder suspect. This was an incredibly complex situation, yet through it all Natalie exhibited compassion, strength and initiative which resulted in justice for the victims of this horrendous crime.
Toni Hardley Award
Janice Balodocchi is this year’s recipient of the Toni Hardley Award for Excellence in Supervision–an award dedicated to the memory of Toni Hardley, a beloved supervisor of DEM who is remembered for her calm, cool, and collected nature. As one supervisor remembers her “She was the supervisor everyone aspired to be.” Janice was awarded for her outstanding commitment to leadership, guidance, and support to her staff. She is revered on the 9-1-1 dispatch floor, and we commend her for her service to our dispatchers.
9-1-1 Heroes Awards
The 9-1-1 Heroes Award gives us the opportunity to recognize children who called 9-1-1 for family members in peril, and the dispatchers who answered their calls. This year we honored Allessandra Esquivel and Janaia McKinley who called 9-1-1 for family members experiencing medical emergencies; and DEM Dispatchers Celia Velasquez and Burt Wilson who helped them to save their loved ones.
About the Calls:
Allessandra had to assist her non-English speaking parents when calling 9-1-1 because her baby brother was choking. DEM Dispatcher Celia Velasquez assisted Allessandra by instructing her to perform CPR on her infant brother.
Janaia called 9-1-1 to report her grandmother’s heart attack. DEM Dispatcher Burt Wilson directed Janaia until an ambulance and paramedics were on scene.
A Morning of Ceremony, Community, & Connection
Every spring DEM joins our fellow San Franciscans to commemorate the Great San Francisco Earthquake and Fire that took place on April 18, 1906 at 5:12 a.m. The early morning setting is stepped in years of tradition with revelers dressed in turn-of-the-century attire. Through song, speech, and a little spray paint we reflect on what happened that morning many, many years ago; and we celebrate how San Francisco rose from the ashes to become the resilient and beautiful city it is today.
DEM personnel at Dolores Park where the ‘Golden Hydrant’ (one of the only working fire hydrants after the 1906 earthquake ) gets a customary fresh coat of gold spray paint every April 18th.
San Francisco Emergency Services Week: Recognizing Paramedics, EMTs, and Hospital Providers
This May we celebrated our San Francisco paramedics, EMTs and hospital providers with various events during National Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Week. For the first time City Hall was lit in EMS colors, as San Francisco joined the ranks of other major cities like Boston and New York that light iconic city structures in the EMS colors during National EMS Week.
We also honored our EMS community by hosting San Francisco’s EMS Day at Civic Center Plaza where ambulance service providers, EMTs and paramedics gathered to share apparatus displays and educational information with the public. San Francisco City College stole the show by exhibiting hands-only CPR skills and encouraging public participation.
Also a component of San Francisco’s EMS Week is the EMS Awards–annual awards program that recognizes outstanding emergency medical services delivered to San Francisco. The awardees are nominated by their peers for a variety of emergency medical services including: emergency medical dispatch; field medical response; hospital medical service; community service; and the Raymond Lim Excellence in EMS award.We were thrilled to see DEM’s very own Dawn Mahoney awarded with the EMS Dispatcher of the Year award.
Welcome Our Newest Dispatchers
Congratulations to the POST 51 Academy, DEM’s newest group of dispatcher recruits who graduated from academy training. We wish you the best of luck in the next phase of your journey to become one of San Francisco’s Public Safety Dispatchers!
DEM’s 2016 first quarter Winter was a whirlwind for DEM: Super Bowl 50 (the Super Bowl of Super Bowls) came to San Francisco and our multi-year planning and preparations for this world class event came to fruition with a nine-day Emergency Operations Center activation. Concurrently, DEM coordinated the City’s preparations for and response to the extreme weather that the most significant El Nino on record brought to San Francisco. Along with these two major initiatives, DEM’s day-to-day operations and projects continued without disruption and this blog captures some of this past season’s highlights.
Meanwhile, DEM looks forward to a spring season that includes National Public Safety Dispatchers Week, the 1906 earthquake anniversary, the 150th anniversary of the San Francisco Fire Department, and the National Emergency Medical Services Week (stay tuned for more information about these exciting events in the weeks to come).
On January 30th, we began a nine-day Emergency Operations Center (EOC) activation in support of the Super Bowl 50 (SB50) events taking place in San Francisco. Joined by fellow City departments, and our regional, state, and federal partners, DEM led the City’s coordination and resource management for the exciting events (and City’s regular, day-to-day activities) taking place in the nine days leading up to the big game.
In the months leading up to the extended activation, The Division of Emergency Services conducted many city-wide planning meetings; organized a series of exercises that tested our City’s emergency plans and our ability to work with our community, local, regional, state, and federal partners; and conducted an immersive “EOC Bootcamp” for DEM staff and fellow City departmental staff to help everyone feel prepared and comfortable for the SB50 extended activation.
Getting ready for SB50 also included efforts from Administrative and Information Technology staff who prepared our systems, ensured our building’s facility was at optimal functionality, , along with making sure the Department’s day to day operations ran without disruption.
And even with numerous, City-wide events and the influx of many visitors into our City, 9-1-1 call response times were met thanks to our dedicated dispatchers who worked extra hours to keep up with increased call volumes
Our participation in Super Bowl 50 public safety operations was the result of a multi -year planning effort, and required intense execution for the entire staff. The Department of Emergency Management showed it was capable of handling an event of this nature to the world, so much so that rumor has it we may be seeing the Super Bowl again. Click here to watch us in action.
Congratulations to a successful Super Bowl 50!
Thanks to our emergency planners Amy Ramirez and Edie Schaffer, the City and County of San Francisco Tsunami Annex is officially close to completion! The Tsunami Annex contains plans City officials will use to guide our response efforts in the event of a tsunami. The next step in the process is to familiarize San Francisco communities that could be impacted by a tsunami with this Annex, along with tsunami preparedness education, beginning with Treasure Island. This spring we will be working in partnership with the Treasure Island Development Authority (TIDA) to help Treasure Island residents know how to prepare for a tsunami, and what to do when confronted with one.
To learn more about tsunamis, read our blog post in honor of the 2016 California Tsunami Preparedness Week.
Recently UASI participated in an exciting event known as Bay Area IV. Unlike most emergency exercises this operation involved 28 agencies and more than 600 participants. Bay Area IV is an annual exercise hosted this year by Golden Gate Ferry. The objective was to test the emergency preparedness and security of ferry operators, the USCG and other maritime first responders. Multiple-scenarios took place in the waters east of Treasure Island and the Jack London Ferry Terminal. UASI staff participated in the planning and execution of this exercise. Great work!
Welcome to our newest dispatchers to the Department, the POST 51 class! These individuals are in for some intense training in the months to come. Have you ever wondered what it takes to become a 9-1-1 dispatcher? To learn more visit our blog detailing the extensive training that dispatchers receive.
In March we were visited by the Mayor of Taipei, Taiwan and his delegation. They were interested in learning more about how San Francisco, a sister city, plans for and responds to emergencies. The delegation was very interested to talk to DEM staff to learn as much as they could about our approach to emergency management. Along with Mayor’s entourage came very dedicated (and numerous!) Taiwanese media as seen in this photo of the Mayor being interviewed in force by Taiwanese reporters.
Awards and Commendations:
Robert Smuts received a 2016 SPUR San Francisco Good Governance award earlier this month for his work overseeing operations and the administration of the Division of Emergency Communications. He is being commended for bringing in Google analysts to assess the 38% spike in call volume to the 9-1-1 call center, as well as his efforts to improve the 9-1-1 call center response times, among many other things. Congratulations Rob!
As part of the Spring 2016 CCSF and MEA Leadership Development Program, Michael Dayton and Mitch Sutton completed a three month course designed to build skills to successfully engage with key stakeholders, colleagues, team members, and executive management.
Working as a cohort, they took part in a workshop series to practice models for communicating in a variety of situations in order to learn valuable skills, develop relationships with other City leaders, and receive coaching from program peers and alumni.
Congratulations Mike and Mitch!
The San Francisco Neighborhood Emergency Response Team’s (NERT) Disaster Corps Unit has won California’s 2016 Governor’s Volunteering and Service Award for the Disaster Volunteer Program of the Year for their work on the Valley Fire.
Dispatchers of the Month:
January 2016: Jeffrey Lee
For command of the police service radio channel after an armed suspect led police on a foot chase that took a turn for the worse when the suspect stole a police vehicle resulting in pursuit.
February 2016: Monica Martinez
For command of the police service radio channel during a pursuit with an armed suspect that lasted an hour and spanned several districts of the city. Her decisive voice and confidence radiated the airwaves as she assisted officers to safety.
March 2016: Kayleigh Hillcoat
For her command of the police service radio channel while working two different emergencies simultaneously.
San Francisco has its very own Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (VOAD) group, but a lot of individuals and organizations don’t know what that means. We’ve summed up what that means for you and your community.
What’s a VOAD?
VOAD = Voluntary Organizations (like the Red Cross, Salvation Army, faith-based group, food bank, box store, etc.) acting because they want to help (not because they are legally bound to) Active (responding to requests from their community) in Disasters (like a flood, earthquake, storm, fire, etc.)
A VOAD is a coalition of nonprofits and businesses that meet the unmet needs of local, state, and federal emergency responders, communities, neighborhoods, and other organizations. They are basically a group of organizations that have access to either goods, services, or buildings that can support during an emergency in case the community has an urgent need.
How do they work?
VOADs are typically formed by organizations like a faith-based group, Salvation Army, or the American Red Cross because their community is at risk for a disaster. VOADs can be formed before, during, or after an emergency happens. Some VOADs have formal internal structures with an Executive Committee or Board, bylaws, and formal meeting structures, others meet on an ADHOC basis. VOADs can exist at the local level like the San Francisco VOAD, County, State (California has a Northern and Southern VOAD and they can be multistate), and a National VOAD.
VOADs organize in order to respond to emergencies and to communicate during emergencies the needs of the community. For example, in San Francisco during a large neighborhood fire, the local VOAD was requested by a shelter to help find more items of clothing for the survivors. It’s as simple as finding a need, and working with a partner organization to meet that need.
Will the VOAD come knocking on my door during an emergency?
VOADs are not first responders, they will not put out fires, respond to crime, or put themselves in harm’s way during an emergency. They typically begin working after the emergency has ended and the community needs to recover. These recovery efforts could look like cleaning up homes after a storm, providing emotional support or counseling, identifying food and clothing, managing donations and volunteers, delivering necessities to community members, or providing assistance with lost animals.
How can I join the local VOAD?
VOADs are open to all official organizations (private, public, NGOS, etc.), but sadly not to individuals. If you want to help out in an emergency, but are not affiliated with an organization with a response role, we highly recommend joining your local Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT or NERT in SF).
If you are part of an organization that could serve a response function to the community in a disaster it’s as easy as signing up here www.sfvoad.org
and getting involved at the next VOAD meeting.
Where can I learn more?
Guest Blog by: Edie Schaffer
How do you write emergency plans that work at zero dark thirty hours? DEM’s Lead Emergency Planner, Amy Ramirez, and I have been invited to speak on this topic at the International Association of Emergency Managers Annual Conference in Savannah, Georgia during the week of October 17, 2016. Consider this blog a preview of coming attractions, and a summary of some important lessons I’ve learned from Amy since I joined DEM in 2013.
So, how do we write emergency plans that actually help people in the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) quickly understand what they need to do to coordinate information and resources in support of field responders during a disaster? Emergency planners here at DEM use this question as both a spur and a touchstone.
When deciding what to include in an emergency plan, we literally ask: Will it help us get the job done at 0200 hours? Is this information something emergency managers need to know to do our jobs in the EOC after a severe earthquake or other major incident? If not, why include it? Similarly, when deciding how to organize an emergency plan, we ask: When I walk into the EOC at 0200, what do I need to know at a minimum to successfully coordinate this incident? Answering this question has led us to reorganize DEM’s emergency plans to include, up front in Section 1, what we call our “Critical Action Guide.”
Traditional emergency plans begin with a purpose and scope section, a list of assumptions the plan author made in writing the plan, and other introductory material. But after talking with the people who use our plans—other emergency managers—we realized the tools plan users need to hit the EOC running shouldn’t be hidden in the middle of a plan. They should be front loaded for easy access; this is the purpose of the Critical Action Guide.
The Critical Action Guide is an abbreviated version of the plan, designed to function as a tear-away resource for San Francisco EOC and Department Operations Center (DOC) personnel. For example, a Critical Action Guide for a hazard-specific plan (e.g., an earthquake or tsunami plan) typically includes an overview of possible actions needed to successfully coordinate the incident; a critical decision matrix to assist users making significant decisions (e.g., do we evacuate the tsunami inundation area or not?); an event coordination task list of critical steps to take to coordinate the incident; and a roles and responsibilities table showing hazard-related duties of each department or agency involved.
Speaking of agency and departmental involvement one of the most important aspects of emergency planning is something we might miss if we focus only on the words on the page. It’s the people who work together to develop and maintain the plan. It’s the partnerships we forge as we work together on the plan. It’s the challenges we face together as we finish and implement the plan. Without input and support from our partners, our plans are paper tigers. When they embody the collective knowledge, expertise, and experience of the departments and agencies involved, our plans become an essential blueprint for how we’ll work together to protect and restore San Francisco after disaster strikes (even in the middle of the night).
Edie Schaffer joined the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management as an Emergency Planner in 2013. Since then she’s revised San Francisco’s Hazard Mitigation Plan and Tsunami Annex. She’s now working on a revision of our Disaster Debris Management Plan. Edie’s favorite thing about her work is going home at night with the feeling that she’s done something to help make San Francisco safer and stronger.
Learn more about San Francisco’s Emergency Plans by visiting http://sfdem.org/plans-0
San Francisco Pride is the pinnacle of all Pride celebrations. It draws the largest gathering of the LGBTQ community and allies in the nation. It is a weekend dedicated to love, equality, and diversity. Sadly, the recent attack in Orlando has cast a dark shadow of sorrow and fear over our beloved SF Pride celebrations. As someone who has dedicated her entire adult life to LGBTQ advocacy, this angers me. Greatly. However, as the department head of the organization responsible to coordinate a safe and secure San Francisco Pride weekend, this invigorates me.
Beginning the Friday of Pride Weekend through Sunday night, my team will run the City’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC). We will be joined by many other City agencies with a role in Pride operations. Should the unspeakable happen, we will be poised and at the ready to provide situational awareness and meet any resource needs. We activate the EOC a lot—for both planned events like Super Bowl 50, and unplanned events like a five alarm fire. We know how to manage emergencies. As Executive Director of the Department of Emergency Management, providing this kind of support to our City’s Pride celebrations adds a dimension to my LGBTQ activism, because I am a part of the system dedicated to the safety and security of all who will be celebrating the culture and heritage of pride in the days to come.
I can’t wait to see San Francisco become electric with Pride this weekend as we welcome all who believe in the LGBTQ ideals to celebrate with us, stand with us, but most of all defy those who use hate as a weapon.
San Francisco Department of Emergency Management
Anne Kronenberg (standing to the left of Mayor Ed Lee) on the front steps of the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management following the the SF Pride Weekend City-wide coordination meeting.