Monthly Archives: July 2016

DEM Quarterly Review


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.

16272 DEM - Superbowl 50 EOC Activation16272 DEM - Superbowl 50 EOC Activation16272 DEM - Superbowl 50 EOC Activation

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.

16272 DEM - Superbowl 50 EOC Activation

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

SB50 Ferry Building

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. 

16272 DEM - Superbowl 50 EOC Activation


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.

POST 51 CLass Photo



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.


Congratulations NERT!!

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.





Beginner’s Guide to VOADs: Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters

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

and getting involved at the next VOAD meeting.

Where can I learn more?


Will it Work at 0200?

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.


Pictured Left to Right, Amy Ramirez and Edie Schaffer working on the 2014 Hazard Mitigation Plan.

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.


Edie Schaffer on the left with Treasure Island Development Authority stakeholders discussing tsunamis.

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