Monthly Archives: April 2012

Who Are You Shopping For?

A few DEM Blogs ago, we wrote about spring being a Season of Preparedness (Tis the Season for Spring Preparedness). With the Christchurch, New Zealand Earthquake anniversary; the Tohoku, Japan Earthquake and Tsunami anniversary; Tsunami Preparedness Awareness week; and, the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire anniversary there are numerous reasons to highlight emergency preparedness in spring. In support of this Season of Preparedness, we wanted to leverage the heightened public awareness brought about by the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire anniversary to promote household preparedness. And thus the “Who are You Shopping For?” emergency supply shopping campaign was born.

From left to right, DEM Executive Director Anne Kronenberg pictured with Martha Asten and Terry Asten Bennett of Cliff’s Variety Store.

The “Who Are You Shopping For?” campaign kicked off April 16th and runs through April 30th and its goal is to increase awareness of what household items should be on hand during an emergency. The campaign targets the general San Francisco public and consists of signage displayed at local retailers, including Cliff’s Variety, Cole Hardware, Haji’s Hardware, Speedy’s Hardware, and Walgreens. We also created a post-card-sized comprehensive emergency supplies shopping list that also includes an “Events at a Glance” section listing community preparedness events taking place this spring.

Why “Who Are You Shopping For?”
The reason why we are calling this campaign “Who Are You Shopping For?” is because we frame our emergency preparedness messages around what people value to inspire emergency preparedness behavior. “Who Are You Shopping For?” is a question directed to those shopping for their household, which can include just about anyone (e.g., parents; children of aging parents; friends shopping for friends; or people who live alone and shopping only for themselves). Our goal is to motivate San Franciscans to purchase a few extra everyday household items that would be important to have on hand after an emergency or disaster.

Walgreen’s in-store “Who Are You Shopping For?” emergency supplies display.

The campaign also delivers DEM’s core preparedness message: you are more prepared than you think; a message intended to dispel the feeling of inadequacy often associated with emergency preparedness. It is also a message we firmly believe is true for ALL of us and one that is important to spread because it gets the ball rolling, so to speak, when we realize we already have many resources in place that support our emergency preparedness.

DEM Private Sector Liaison Jim Turner with Julia Strzesieski of Cole Hardware

DEM would like to express our appreciation to the retailers participating in the “Who Are You Shopping For?” campaign and helping San Franciscans along their preparedness journeys. We encourage all of our readers to visit and purchase their emergency supplies from our partner retailers:

Cliff’s Variety
Cole Hardware
Haji’s Hardware
Speedy’s Hardward

The Cherry Blossom Festival and Japantown’s Thoughts on Preparedness

The 45th Cherry Blossom Festival is taking place this weekend in San Francisco’s Japantown.  What great way to spend the weekend and enjoy one of San Francisco’s most beautiful neighborhoods.

This year’s festival will celebrate the 100th year anniversary of the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C. and will also pay tribute to the 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Military Intelligence Service comprised of all Japanese American soldiers receiving the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor. The highest civilian honor bestowed by the U. S. Congress. The festival will also recognize the one year anniversary of the Tohoku Region Earthquake and Tsunasmi.

The Details:


Festival: Saturday and Sunday, April 21-22, 2012
Grand Parade: Sunday, April 22, 2012, Starting at City Hall at 1 pm, north on Polk, west on Post, concludes in Japantown at approxismately 3 pm.


Festival: Japantown (@ Post & Buchanan Streets), San Francisco
Grand Parade: Begins at San Fsrancisco City Hall and ends at Post & Fillmore
Queen Pageant: Sundance Kabuki 8 Theater, Japantown

While you are there look for the Girlscouts Troop that will be distributing emergency preparedness kits. We are very proud of the troop for meeting with us to learn about emergency preparedness and spreading the message of preparedness and resilience!

We close this DEM Blog post with Person on the Street interviews about preparedness in Japantown; we love this neighborhood!

1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire: Recovery History Discovered

 As we commemorate the 1906 Earthquake and Fire, which took place at 5:12 a.m. 106 years ago today, we have a special DEM Blog written by the DEM Emergency Medical Services Administrator, Stephen LaPlante, sharing his personal story about finding a nugget of 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire history.

This photograph by Arnold Genthe shows Sacramento Street and approaching fire (from Steinbrugge Collection of the UC Berkeley Earthquake Engineering Research Center).


Stephen La Plante, DEM Emergency Medical Services Administrator

It was a chilly San Francisco spring night in 1993. I was, among other things, the Building Superintendent of the San Francisco Department of Public Health  (DPH) Central Office. I had issued a contract for asbestos removal the following day in a long forgotten basement storeroom. The room was filled with decades of payroll records for Laguna Honda Hospital. However, my gut told me that there were possibly other historically significant documents in the room.

My good friend, the City’s Asbestos Control Manager, warned me that the room was a serious hazard. Asbestos-filled pipe insulation hung in shreds from the ceiling. The removal method was complete destruction of everything in the room by dumping the documents into a water barrel. I only had this evening to act!

I put on a pair of disposable hospital scrubs and a surgical mask, and went in. No one else was working in the building. In the far corner of the room on the lowest shelf – there they were – bound ledgers labeled, “Pay Roll Log, 1906-1907.” These logs began in May, 1906, and listed the DPH employees working in 16 of the 26 camps set up around the City to house residents of San Francisco displaced by the quake and fire. DPH selected these 16 camps to establish daily medical clinics of various sizes with the following types of staff: surgeons, nurses, horse-and-wagon teamsters, foremen and laborers, pharmacists and night watchmen.

San Francisco Earthquake of 1906: Jefferson Square camp (circa April 1906). Picture courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.

In August, 1906, emergency sanitary surgeons were added at a salary of $100 per month. It is likely that these personnel were closer to the modern health inspector. By January, 1907, camp surgeons were added at $150 per month. Because of infectious disease issues, such as the plague, the role of assistant bacteriologist was added in September, 1907. These camps operated until the last one closed on June 30, 1908.

Camps set up in Fort Mason.

These logs were in handwritten cursive using India ink. The penmanship was perfect. Adjacent to these logs were the Board of Health minutes from May, 1906, through 1912. I gingerly placed approximately 15 of these books in a cardboard box and sealed it. I called Dave Rizzolo, the Asbestos Manager, the next day to confess my crimes and beg forgiveness. He graciously agreed and arranged for the asbestos contractor to carefully remove the asbestos from all the volumes. I then notified the City Archivist at the San Francisco Main Library, Susan Goldstein, who was absolutely thrilled. She said that they knew about the camps, but not about the exact work of the Health Department. They remain in a temperature-controlled room at the San Francisco Main Library in perpetuity.

It felt good to fill another hole in the history of the 1906 Earthquake and Fire, and to illuminate the fine work of a group of dedicated civil servants.


We conclude this DEM Blog with a prevention and preparedness message: though earthquakes are unavoidable, fires can be extinguished in the beginning stages. Having a fire extinguisher on hand (and knowing how to use it) will be vital to San Francisco’s ability to mitigate the vast and significant damage San Francisco experienced in April 1906.  Becoming a trained member of San Francisco NERT is a great way to know what to do before and after a disaster, including but not limited to how to put out fires, provide first aide, and conduct light search and rescue. And establishing your household’s emergency plan and having extra supplies on hand will not only help you recover from a disaster, but the entire City and County of San Francisco. Visit to learn more about how to be prepared for just about any emergency.

Temporary housing/shacks built in the Richmond District.

SF Hero: 9-1-1 Dispatcher of the Year Stephen Golden

During last week’s San Francisco Board of Supervisors meeting at City Hall, 9-1-1 Dispatcher Stephen Golden received a commendation for being DEM’s Dispatcher of the Year.   Stephen was selected for this honor based on his outstanding work during a 9-1-1 call from a visitor to San Francisco, who needed to send medical aid to her family residence in Columbia, Maryland.  The caller explained she was visiting San Francisco to speak at a symposium and that when she called home, her three year old son answered the phone and told her his father was lying on the floor in the closet.  She also had a one year old son at home.

Stephen accepting his commendation presented by SF Board of Supervisors President, David Chiu.

Stephen made attempts to locate a telephone number to notify Emergency Services in Columbia, but to no avail. He asked the caller to tell him the largest nearby city, and she said Baltimore.  Stephen continued to gather information from the caller, including her home address, husband’s name, neighbor contact information and even where a spare key to her   home could be found.  The neighbor and Baltimore Emergency Services were able to go the caller’s home and respond to the situation.

Stephen also asked the caller if she had a work colleague traveling with her, which she did, and Stephen was able to contact the colleague who could be with her.  “I believe that contacting the colleague was particularly important,” said Stephen while accepting his commendation.  “No one should be told of a loved one’s death, then be alone.”

Stephen sharing his account of the 9-1-1 call to the SF Board of Supervisors.

Emergency Services in Maryland ultimately confirmed that the caller’s husband had passed away, but both children were fine. Stephen remained on the phone with the caller for 39 minutes (well exceeding the average 9-1-1 call length of two minutes), providing comfort and solace. “I stayed with my caller because I sensed what was coming,” Stephen shared with the Board of Supervisors during the meeting.

Although the outcome of this 9-1-1 call was tragic, it was Stephen’s focused and effective work that sent emergency services to the caller’s home on the other side of the country, while at the same time providing compassion and support to the distressed caller.

Stephen pictured with DEM Division of Emergency Communications Director, Lisa Hoffman

About the DEM 9-1-1 Call Center

DEM serves as the 9-1-1 call center for Police, Fire and Emergency Medical Services. The center handles approximately 1 million calls annually. Of these calls, 80 percent are for police matters, 14 percent are for emergency medical Services, and 6% are for fire suppression. Seventy percent of the 9-1-1 calls DEM receives are from cellular phones. In 2000, DEM became the first agency in California to accept wireless calls, instead of receiving transfers from the California Highway Patrol (CHP).

The center is the third busiest Public Safety Answering Point in California, behind Los Angeles and San Diego (not including CHP call centers). The average answering time for 9-1-1 calls is three seconds. DEM has the ability to translate calls into 173 different languages and dialects; Spanish and Cantonese are the top two most commonly translated languages.

Making Our Homes Safe Enough to Stay

A few weeks ago DEM posted about our experience visiting the Safe Enough to Stay exhibit at the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR). The exhibit is free and available to anyone interested in learning how to make their home safe enough to stay after an earthquake. The last day the exhibit is open is April 18th, which also marks the 106th anniversary of the Great San Francisco Earthquake and Fire.

The goal of the exhibit is to help visitors of the exhibit visualize themselves staying at home after an earthquake (as opposed to leaving their homes and going to a shelter); plan the tasks needed to make our homes safe enough to stay; and inspire visitors of the exhibit to conduct and complete these tasks—therefore making our homes safe enough to stay a reality.

For those of us who may not be able to visit the exhibit in person, take a video recorded visual tour of the exhibit with the Neighborhood Empowerment Network (NEN) Director Daniel Homsey and Laurence Kornfield, Program Manager for the Community Action Plan for Seismic Safety with the City and County of San Francisco General Services Agency and under whose leadership Safe Enough to Stay was created.

Thanks to NEN for capturing the Safe Enough to Stay exhibit for posterity!