Monthly Archives: March 2014

Getting the Word Out

Outdoor Public Warning System

We call it the Outdoor Public Warning System. What do you call it?

Today is Day 1 of San Francisco’s 3-day tsunami exercise and we’re practicing the City’s alert and warning procedures.  Say what?!? It’s how we get the word out in an emergency- in this case a tsunami.  For City leaders and top emergency officials, it’s reviewing the decisions needed to send an alert and even call for an evacuation of coastal neighborhoods.  For the emergency operations center staff, it’s executing pre-planned measures to ready themselves and the public for an impending tsunami.  While we won’t actually send alerts to the media, sound the sirens, push text messages, or dominate your Twitter feed- we will practice doing so in a simulated environment.

In a real emergency, we use a number of tools to help get the word out to you. Here’s a rundown of some of tools we have in San Francisco:

The Outdoor Public Warning System 

It has many names- the Burrito Call, the Tuesday Noon Siren, or Charlie Brown’s teacher but the San Francisco’s Outdoor Public Warning System is there to alert residents and visitors of the City about possible danger. Specific emergency announcements can be broadcast over any one (or more) of the 109 sirens which are located on poles and on top of buildings throughout all neighborhoods in San Francisco, Treasure Island, and Yerba Buena.

The sirens are tested at noon every Tuesday. During the weekly test, the siren emits a single 15 second alert tone, similar to an emergency vehicle siren. In the event of a disaster, the 15 second alert tone will sound repeatedly for 5 minutes. For more information visit http://sfdem.org/index.aspx?page=55

AlertSF

AlertSF is a text-based notification system for San Francisco’s residents and visitors. AlertSF will send alerts regarding emergencies disrupting vehicular/pedestrian traffic, watches and warnings for tsunamis, flooding, and Citywide post-disaster information to your registered wireless devices and email accounts. Registrants can also sign up to receive English-language automated information feeds and/or alerts targeted to specific areas of the City. To sign up for AlertSF please visit: www.alertsf.org

Twitter: @sf_emergency

@SF_Emergency is the Department of Emergency Management’s official Twitter account for emergency public information. In general we provide information on 1) what to do (e.g., avoid the area); and 2) what geographic area is impacted; and 3) whether the incident is related law enforcement, fire, transit, or traffic. Follow us at @SF_Emergency

Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA)

San Francisco can access the Wireless Emergency Alert system to send wireless phones and other enabled mobile devices geographically-targeted, text-like messages alerting them of imminent threats to safety in their area. Basically, if your wireless phone pings a cell tower in San Francisco, we can send you an alert message.  For more information visit: http://www.fcc.gov/guides/wireless-emergency-alerts-wea

SF72

SF72 moves beyond the concept of building a disaster kit — instead, it will provide accessible tools and simple steps to help San Franciscans connect with one another and support their communities, now and in the event of an emergency.

In an Emergency is the portion of the website that will provide up–to–date information on current emergencies, including a description of the emergency and instructions for any actions that the public should take (e.g., boil water, shelter in place, avoid the area around Civic Center, etc.). This section of the website will become the homepage of SF72 during a major emergency. To learn more visit www.SF72.org

The sirens, AlertSF, social media, WEA, and SF72 are just some of the resources we can use to help get the word out.  In the event of tsunami or other major disaster, police, fire fighters, volunteers, and community networks could also help get information to neighborhoods throughout San Francisco.  Finally, we’ll also push out information to the media so they can report what’s going on to you.

Press Release: San Francisco Hosts Emergency Exercises and Events to Prepare for Tsunamis

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 24, 2014

Contact:  Francis Zamora, 415-558-3830

 

*** PRESS RELEASE ***

 San Francisco Hosts Emergency Exercises and Events to Prepare for Tsunamis

March 23 -29 is National Tsunami Preparedness Week

 San Francisco, CA –  At the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management, we like to say we plan and prepare for everyday and not-so-every day emergencies.  A tsunami that could flood our coastal neighborhoods along the ocean and the bay?  That certainly qualifies as a not-so-everyday emergency.

“San Francisco plans and prepares for all emergencies,” said Anne Kronenberg, Executive Director, San Francisco Department of Emergency Management.  “Our tsunami risk includes neighborhoods along both the ocean and the bay. It’s important for both City government and our community to prepare.”

March 23 to 29 is National Tsunami Preparedness Week. San Francisco is hosting emergency exercises and community events to help City government and San Franciscans become better prepared.  Beginning on Wednesday, March 26 and continuing until Friday, March 28, the Department of Emergency Management is leading an emergency operations center exercise to practice San Francisco’s alert and warning procedures, response capabilities, and recovery operations before, during, and after a tsunami.  Dozens of city departments, community organizations, state, and federal agencies are participating.

On Saturday, March 29, San Franciscans, first responders, and volunteers will participate in the SF Tsunami Walk.  Like during an actual tsunami evacuation, walkers will move away from the coast and head to higher ground.  The walk begins at 10:30 a.m. at the Marina Green, Marina Boulevard and Scott Street, and ends at the Marina Branch Library on Chestnut Street and Webster Street.  A preparedness fair including a hands-only CPR demonstration and training will greet walkers at the library. The event is sponsored by Department of Emergency Management, San Francisco Neighborhood Emergency Response Team (NERT), American Red Cross Bay Area Chapter, and the Neighborhood Empowerment Network.

Since 1850, over fifty tsunamis have been recorded or observed in the San Francisco Bay. The most recent event was during the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami, which registered three to four foot waves in parts of the bay and resulted in approximately $100 million in damage statewide.  According to the U.S. Geological Survey, San Francisco’s tsunami risk includes neighborhoods along both the ocean and the bay.  San Francisco’s tsunami inundation zone map can be found at www.sfdem.org/tsunamizone.

###

Three Years Later: Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami

Today marks the third anniversary of the Tohoku, Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. The earthquake was a magnitude 9.0 and was the most powerful known earthquake ever to have hit Japan. The earthquake triggered powerful tsunami waves that reached heights of up to 133 feet and traveled up to six miles inland. 

Immediately after the earthquake, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Pacific Tsunami Warning Center and the West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center both issued tsunami warnings for Hawaii, the U.S. West Coast, Alaska and the island territories in the Pacific. A tsunami warning is the highest level of alert so DEM got to work, gathering in the early morning hours at our Emergency Operations Center and began issuing public alerts and warnings about the tsunami expected to hit the California coast line. Thankfully, the tsunami caused little damage. We were lucky.

While the tsunami generated by the Tohoku Earthquake which hit Hawaii and the West Coast caused relatively minor damage, it reminds us of the need to be aware of how tsunami alerts and warnings are issued. There are various alerting tools available, including the City’s Outdoor Public Warning siren system (Tuesday Noon Sirens); Wireless Emergency Alerts; and AlertSF, our text-based message system that delivers emergency information to mobile phones and other text-enabled devices, as well as email accounts. DEM also issues public alerts and warnings on Facebook and Twitter (@sf_emergency). In an emergency, the SF72 Crisis Map will also serve as San Francisco’s real-time information hub.  You’ll find official updates, reports from our partners, and crisis map to navigate city resources.

SF Tsunami Walk

The last week in March 23-29 is National Tsunami Preparedness Week and San Francisco is hosting our annual tsunami preparedness walk. The SF Tsunami Walk begins on Saturday March 29 at 10:30 AM at the Marina Green (Marina & Scott).  For more details visit www.sfdem.org/tsunamiwalk.

In addition to the Tsunami Walk, the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management is conducting a three-day (March 26-28) tsunami exercise to practice with City’s alert and warning procedures, response capabilities, and recovery operations in a tsunami.

For information on how can you become better prepared visit www.sf72.org.

Shake Up Call

SF72

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

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

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

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

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Telling Our Story in DC

L-R: Oakland Director of Emergency Services Renee Domingo, Santa Clara County Fire Chief Ken Kehmna, and Bay Area UASI General Manager Craig Dziedzic at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security headquarters in Washington, DC.

L-R: Oakland Director of Emergency Services Renee Domingo, Santa Clara County Fire Chief Ken Kehmna, and Bay Area UASI General Manager Craig Dziedzic at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security headquarters in Washington, DC.

When the next big disaster hits the Bay Area, will our first responders have the right equipment, training, information, and public warning systems in place?  To make sure that we do, the Bay Area relies in part on an annual federal grant from U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) called the Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI), to help prepare our region for a major disaster.  While the grant is focused on terrorism, the planning, equipment, training, and exercises funded by the grant can be applied to most major disasters, from earthquakes to tsunamis to wildland fires to zombie apocalypse, as well as every day emergency response.

We make sure to stay in touch with our friends in Washington to let them know what we’ve accomplished with our UASI grant, and what our ongoing needs are.  Last week, six emergency managers from around the Bay Area did just that, traveling to the nation’s capital to tell our story to DHS to Congress.  Our group included Bay Area UASI General Manager Craig Dziedzic, DEM Policy and Legislation Assistant Amiee Alden, and partners from Oakland, Alameda County, Santa Clara County, and the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center (NCRIC).

Keeping in Touch

L-R:  NCRIC Director Mike Sena, Bay Area UASI General Manager Craig Dziedzic, Alameda County Undersheriff Rich Lucia, Congressman Eric Swalwell, Santa Clara County Fire Chief Ken Kehmna, Oakland Director of Emergency Services Renee Domingo, and San Francisco DEM Policy and Legislation Assistant Amiee Alden, in Congressman Swalwell’s Capitol Hill Office.

L-R: NCRIC Director Mike Sena, Bay Area UASI General Manager Craig Dziedzic, Alameda County Undersheriff Rich Lucia, Congressman Eric Swalwell, Santa Clara County Fire Chief Ken Kehmna, Oakland Director of Emergency Services Renee Domingo, and San Francisco DEM Policy and Legislation Assistant Amiee Alden, in Congressman Swalwell’s Capitol Hill Office.

Our Bay Area emergency managers met with officials from DHS and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to discuss how our UASI grant has helped us get ready for the next disaster.  We met with freshman Congressman Eric Swalwell (D-Dublin), and with staff for several members of the Bay Area congressional delegation, including Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, and Representatives Barbara Lee, Anna Eshoo, Zoe Lofgren, and Mike Honda, as well as staff for both the House and Senate Homeland Security Committees.

How Has the UASI Grant Helped the Bay Area?

  • Interoperable Communications – We are over 50% complete with a project to upgrade the radios used by police, fire, and other first responders, enabling them to communicate with each other throughout the Bay Area.
  • Training and Exercises – UASI funds the annual Urban Shield exercise, which trains 4,000 first responders from the Bay Area and across the country in scenarios like urban search and rescue.  First Responders from Boston trained with Urban Shield, and credited this exercise with teaching them critical skills that made a difference during the April 2013 marathon bombing.
  • AlertSFPublic Information and Warning – UASI funds AlertSF, which sends emails and texts to San Franciscans with critical information during emergencies – sign up at www.AlertSF.org.
  • Cyber security – President Obama has made cyber security a top homeland security priority.  More funding would help the NCRIC to catch more criminals who use cyber-crime to disrupt businesses, steal personal information, and cost our local economy.

Something’s Missing Here…

Bay Area UASI AreaThe Bay Area UASI includes 12 counties around and near the Bay Area.  But when DHS decides how much money to allocate to the Bay Area each year, they only count 7 of those counties, leaving out Sonoma, Napa, Solano, Santa Cruz, and Monterey.  DHS has determined that these counties are too small to count, under the grant guidelines.  But we argue that these counties include critical resources, like Travis Airforce Base in Solano County, which may become a major hub for delivering resources to the Bay Area if a large disaster knocks out our local airports, as well as the Defense Language Institute in Monterey County, the premier Department of Defense facility that trains our military translators who serve overseas.

We were grateful to Congressman Swalwell for raising this issue the very next day with the new Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, at a hearing of the House Homeland Security Committee.

 

Hey SF! Get your Tsunami-Walk On!

NERT volunteers walk away from Ocean Beach during the inaugural SF Tsunami Walk

NERT volunteers walk away from Ocean Beach during the last year’s inaugural SF Tsunami Walk

When: Saturday March 29th 10:30am to 1:00pm
Begins: Marina Green at Marina & Scott
Ends: Marina Branch Library at Chestnut & Webster
Brought to you by: San Francisco Department of Emergency ManagementSan Francisco Neighborhood Emergency Response Team (NERT)American Red Cross Bay Area Chapter, and the Neighborhood Empowerment Network.

Preparedness is all about people. So bring your people to the Marina Green for the SF Tsunami Walk! Like an actual tsunami evacuation we’ll walk away from the bay and head to higher ground.   The SF Tsunami Walk is on Saturday March 29 at 10:30 AM and begins at the Marina Green at Marina Boulevard and Scott Street.  We’ll walk inland along Cervantes Boulevard until we reach Fillmore St. Our walk will end at the Marina Branch Library where we can learn more about how to take care of ourselves, our families, and our neighborhoods in any emergency- even tsunamis.

March 23 to 29 is National Tsunami Preparedness Week.  In addition to the Tsunami Walk, the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management is conducting a three-day tsunami exercise to practice with City’s alert and warning procedures, response capabilities, and recovery operations in an tsunami.

For information on how you can prepare for any emergency visit www.sf72.org.