Monthly Archives: April 2016

Leo & Teresa: Everyday Preparedness in Their Own Words

San Francisco middle school-aged students were invited to share their ideas on how they can make emergency preparedness part of their everyday lives. The contest was sponsored by the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management, San Francisco Fire Department, and the San Francisco History Association.  San Francisco middle school students Leo Schutzendorf and Teresa Y. Lee were recognized as the winners of the contest on the 110th Anniversary of the 1906 Earthquake and Fire.  As co-awardees, Leo and Teresa  received a $250 scholarship furnished by the San Francisco History Association and a future ride on the San Francisco Fire Department’s new fire boat.

Here is what Leo and Teresa had to say:

Get Ready to Shake!
By Leo Schutzendorf

San Francisco is my home. I was born here and have lived here eleven years (so far!). I like living here because there are great restaurants and a lot of fun things to do. However, it is also a city spanning two tectonic plates: the North American Plate and the Pacific Plate (the Farallon Islands are on the Pacific Plate). Since it spans two tectonic plates, earthquakes are frequent and come with little warning. Preparedness is very important and that is what this essay is about.

Earthquake preparedness means getting ready by knowing what to during the quake and having supplies for after the quake. Most are too small to feel, but no one knows when a larger quake will strike. Unlike a hurricane, there is not much warning. The second the ground starts to shake people need to know what to do otherwise there would be a lot of chaos and more people would be hurt.

Before the earthquake starts:
1. Get emergency supplies together. Have water, food, and a first aid kit. If possible, it is also good to have extra clothes, a flashlight, and a radio.

2. Practice earthquake drills often so people automatically know what to do during the quake. This is good for school and home.

3. Get to know your neighbors so you can help each other out if needed.

When the earth starts to move:
1. Drop to your knees. It is easy to fall over if you are standing.

2. Cover your head and neck with your hands and arms. Get under a table if possible. Also get away from windows. The glass might shatter.

3. Hold on until the shaking stops.

4. If you are outside, get to an open area so things don’t fall on you. Then drop, cover, and hold on.

5. Get ready for aftershocks.

It might be harder for a child to do some of the things to get ready for an earthquake. Some of things we can do are:
1. talk with our families and our schools about making sure we do practice drills,

2. volunteer to check the emergency supplies every year and make a list of things that
need to be replaced (food, water, batteries, etc.),

3. share this information with other kids so they will also tell their parents, teachers,
and principals.

By doing these things, everyone will know what to do to stay safe. I think parents know this is important but they are busy working and sometimes earthquake preparedness gets put on the “I’ll do it later” list. Kids will want to help their parents get ready so that they are not sorry when the quake happens.

When I tell people I live in the “Ring of Fire” it sounds very cool, but 90% of the world’s earthquakes happen in the Ring of Fire. There is no avoiding earthquakes while living in the San Francisco Bay Area. Your best chance of surviving an earthquake is to be prepared for one.

Emergency Preparedness
By Teresa Y. Lee

Emergency preparedness is vital!  To me, emergency preparedness is daily preparation for any disaster that may occur. At home, my family has kept an emergency backpack with our first aid kit necessary for an earthquake. Every year, my family and I would check our emergency backpack and review our fire evacuation plans.

I wish that one day, there will be a national holiday dedicated for emergency preparedness. People will learn about the possible disasters that can occur in their neighborhood and know how to prepare for it. On the national holiday, all adults will be trained at work by being aware of all the emergency exits in the building and knowing the safety procedures during an emergency. On top of that, they can share their knowledge to friends and family.

Meanwhile, students should be able to perform the basic steps during an emergency at school and at home. During a family gathering, parents and children should devote some time to discuss an escape plan and develop an emergency backpack.

To accelerate the awareness of emergency preparation, we should provide incentive to local stores to sell emergency backpacks with the basic items needed in an earthquake. In the stores, there could also be personalized emergency items such as prescription or baby formula that others might also need during an emergency. People who are busy can just buy a backpack and purchase other items they may need. Others can pack everything at home. If people already have everything set, they could help relatives or friends pack emergency backpacks.

I can also make other small changes that I believe is significant to others. For example, I can find a day to meet all my friends for emergency shopping. We can shop for emergency items to put in our backpacks. In addition, because I’m on the student council at my school, I can ask the principal if we can designate a day for earthquake preparedness at my school. On that day we can promote basic emergency supplies such as flashlight and bandages to students. Another idea to influence safety preparation to other teens is to create a thirty-second film and have all movie theaters show it before the movie.  This can increase the awareness more rapidly, if the practice can be shown at all movie theaters nation-wide.

These small changes will have a big impact to the community. If everyone is well prepared, natural disasters will not be a scary event and if word about emergency preparedness is wide spread, many lives can be saved.

Congratulations, Leo and Teresa!

Feeling inspired? San Francisco provides a variety of resources to help San Franciscan’s prepare for any emergency. The San Francisco Department of Emergency Management’s SF72 program provides information about what to do in an emergency, simple steps to get you connected to your community, and useful guides to help you prepare. The San Francisco Fire Department’s Neighborhood Emergency Response Team (NERT) program is a free training program for individuals, neighborhood groups and community-based organizations. Through this program, individuals will learn the basics of personal preparedness and prevention.  The training also includes hands-on disaster skills that will help individuals respond to a personal emergency as well as act as members of a neighborhood response team.

For more information visit, and


110th Anniversary of the Great San Francisco Earthquake and Fire

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 setting and run-of-show of this commemoration is consistent year-to-year. It incorporates elements of ceremony and ritual that when combined make tradition: DEM joins the community at Lotta’s Fountain, and at 5:12 a.m. 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.

Along with the customary events in which we engage to commemorate the earthquake (you can read more about those details below), this year includes an additional event of special distinction: The 150th Anniversary of the San Francisco Fire Department kick-off event at Union Square.

So, please consider joining DEM and your fellow San Francisco enthusiasts this Monday for an early morning of camaraderie and San Francisco pride. Please see details below for when and where to attend these special events and we hope to see you there!

NERTCitywide Drill

April 17, 2016 at the Marina Green, Marina Blvd. and Webster Street, from 8:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.

San Francisco Neighborhood Emergency Response Team (NERT) members from all over the city will meet to put their training into action in this three-hour drill. At the drill, NERT volunteers practice search and rescue techniques, triaging injured victims, setting up staging areas, and other essential disaster response skills. The drill commemorates the 1906 Great San Francisco Earthquake and Fire. NERT has held annual citywide drills since 1992 and approximately 300 volunteers participate in the April Drill each year. Since the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, NERT has trained more than 22,000 San Franciscans to assist the San Francisco Fire Department after a severe earthquake or other major emergency by taking care of themselves, their families, and their neighbors.


25th Anniversary of NERT

1906 Anniversary at Lotta’s Fountain
April 18, 2016 4:45 a.m. at 3rd and Market Street, San Francisco

At 5:12 a.m. we will mark the 110th anniversary of the San Francisco Earthquake and Fire. This disaster took the lives of an estimated 3,000 people and left the City in ashes as much of the destruction was caused by fires and nearly 300,000 people were left homeless.



Since the 1920’s, residents have gathered at Lotta’s Fountain to reflect on the devastating 1906 earthquake and fire, and as DEM has done year after year, we will join our fellow San Franciscan’s at this very early hour to commemorate what remains one of the worst tragedies in California history.

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But Monday isn’t a convening to remember destruction; it’s a convening to remember connection. Because emergencies look more like cities coming together than falling apart, which is what happened here in San Francisco 110 years ago. It’s also a time to honor all those who came before us by preparing for any emergency. Visit to learn how.

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So, if you are a very early riser, please join the commemoration around 5:00 a.m. at Lotta’s Fountain. Look for people dressed in 1906 period attire and practice your singing voice as we follow the moment of silence at 5:12 a.m. with “San Francisco”. If you can’t make it to Lotta’s Fountain, you can meet us at the Golden Hydrant (Church and 18th Streets) closer to 6:00 a.m., which gets a fresh coat of gold paint every April 18th to commemorate the 1906 Earthquake and Fire.  For exact locations, check out the SF27 In an Emergency map, which has Lotta’s Fountain and the Golden Hydrant marked.

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The Kickoff of the 150th Anniversary of the San Francisco Fire Department

April 18, 2016 9:00 a.m. at Union Square

 Please join us to commemorate the kickoff of a year’s worth of events to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of our San Francisco Fire Department!



Congratulations to Our Dispatcher of the Year!

As part of the National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week (April 10-16, 2016) the San Francisco Board of Supervisors honored 9-1-1 dispatcher Natalie Elicetche with the Dispatcher of the Year Award.  While serving as a call taker in San Francisco’s 9-1-1 Operations Center, Natalie fielded 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.

“Natalie is being recognized for finding justice for the victims of this horrendous crime. She exhibited compassion, strength, and initiative during an incredibly complex situation,” said Anne Kronenberg, Executive Director of the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management.  “We see Natalie’s example every day when our talented team of dispatchers take calls or coordinate emergency resources. This is why we celebrate National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week.”


“The easy thing do would be to provide the caller with number for law enforcement in Tennessee and move on,” said Dispatcher Elicetche. “I couldn’t do that. The caller was unsure and probably afraid she had made a mistake.  But she showed real courage by calling 9-1-1 and I had to follow through for her.”


 The Dispatcher of the Year is elected by their fellow dispatchers for extraordinary performance while answering 9-1-1 calls or dispatching emergency services. Natalie shares this honor with her fellow dispatchers who provide vital ongoing support, which is indispensable to the entire San Francisco dispatchers team during crucial calls.


Natalie has served more than 13 years as a Public Safety Dispatcher in San Francisco. As a native San Franciscan, she was raised and currently resides in the Richmond District. Natalie attended St. Veronica’s Catholic School in South San Francisco and Mercy High School in San Francisco before graduating from Long Beach State with a degree in management.

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San Francisco receives more than 1.2 million emergency and non-emergency calls annually.  9-1-1 professionals dispatch police, fire, and medical assistance to the scene of accidents, crimes, fires, and other emergency and non-emergency situations.  In addition to taking calls from the public, dispatchers act as the communications hub for emergency services and must quickly assess situations to determine the appropriate resources to dispatch, making them the San Francisco’s first, first responders.

9-1-1 Heroes: When kids call 9-1-1

In honor of National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week (April 10-16, 2016) we celebrated two young heroes, Allessandra Esquivel and Janaia McKinley for calling 9-1-1 for family members experiencing medical emergencies.  San Francisco Public Safety Dispatchers Celia Velasquez and Burt Wilson were also honored for their professionalism and compassion while working with these remarkable young people.


 We were joined by the 9-1-1 for Kids organization’s national spokesperson, Tim Brown, formerly of the Oakland Raiders to distribute awards.


Allessandra Esquivel and Dispatcher Celia Velasquez receive their awards. 

Our first 9-1-1 hero was Allessandra, who had to assist her non-English speaking parents in reporting that her baby brother was choking. “Can you send an ambulance? My baby brother is choking…He’s only nine months,” said Allessandra to Public Safety Dispatcher Celia Velasquez.

 Allesandra’s poise was impressive.  She answered dispatcher Celia Velasquez’s questions in English, relayed information and reassured her parents in Spanish, and at Celia’s direction performed CPR on her infant brother.

 “I’m going to tell you what we’re going to do. It’s almost like CPR. We’re going to do CPR on your baby brother, okay?” instructed Dispatcher Velasquez in tone that communicated command and compassion. “Can you count as you’re doing it with me, honey? Just don’t give up!”


Dispatcher Burt Wilson receives his award.

Our other amazing 9-1-1 Hero is Janaia McKinley who called 911 stating “Nana can’t breathe and she’s about to have a heart attack,” to Public Safety Dispatcher Burt Wilson.

Janiai and her grandmother were the only ones home that night. “Nana” was lying on her side and could not feel her arm. Janiai had be to both Nana’s voice and advocate and Public Safety Dispatcher Burt Wilson’s eyes and ears.


“It’s important for people to remain calm while answering a dispatcher’s questions,” said Dispatcher Wilson. “Janiai calmly answered every question and displayed maturity beyond her eight years.”

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Some of our finest San Francisco Public Safety Dispatchers

The 9-1-1 Local Heroes Medal of Honor is awarded to young people who call 9-1-1 to help save a life, protect property, or report a crime. The award also is  presented to the 9-1-1 dispatcher who processed the call, and dispatched the appropriate emergency response help.  The 9-1-1 Local Heroes Medal of Honor was created in 1999 and is now an international awards program.

*Special note of thanks to Paul Henderson, Office of Mayor Ed Lee Deputy Chief of Staff of Public Safety for being the Master of Ceremony of this very special and educational event.