Category Archives: 911

Anything related to emergencies, dispatch, 911 in general.

A Dispatcher By Day, Weightlifter by Night

When you think of first responders, you probably picture paramedics, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), firefighters and police officers. But there’s a first first responder behind the scenes who handles things before those folks get involved: the 9-1-1 dispatcher.

Public Safety Dispatcher Delanie Groll has been with the Department of Emergency Management for six years and a dispatcher for nine. But Delanie was introduced to the world of emergency services much earlier. She and her two sisters came from a public safety bloodline; her father was a firefighter for Contra Costa County and her mother worked at Oakland’s Department of Emergency Services.

Her favorite thing about being a dispatcher? It challenges her. However, the biggest challenge in her life right now, is her nerves as she’s a month and a half away from participating in the National Masters Weightlifting Championship in Georgia on Friday March 10th – Sunday March 12th, 2017.

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Delanie fell in love with weightlifting after going to the gym and taking part in CrossFit in 2010. Her sinewy frame is a testament to the grueling daily training sessions that include clean-and-jerk and snatch lifts or core and strength training. When the women at her gym suggested participating in the qualification round for the national competition in Georgia, she felt noncommittal. Little did she know, she qualified!

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A dispatcher by day and weightlifter by night, her work-life balance is packed with long days. Her training regimen and diet requires a fine sense of control and discipline. But she trains with people who motivate her to keep going and engage her competitive spirit which helps propel her further. That’s the key to her two consistent years of weightlifting; community. The weightlifting community that she’s found keeps her focused, on track and crushing.

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Delanie Groll reminds us all that dispatchers are more than the calm voice on the phone. They have dreams and goals. It is a reminder that we are more than our occupations, we are what challenges us, what liberates us, and what ignites our spirit.  Our worth isn’t defined by how much we do or don’t accomplish. What matters most is how committed you stay to your #goals and those who you inspire on the way up. And for Delanie Groll, she’s inspired many at DEM. DEM will be cheering her on all the way to the National Masters Weightlifting Championship.

 

 

 

DEM Honors San Francisco’s Dispatcher of the Year: Kayleigh Hillcoat

Have you ever wondered who is on the other end of the line when you call 9-1-1? In the advent of an emergency you call 9-1-1 hoping to ultimately reach fire fighters or police officers, but who coordinates with those entities? Who guides them? Who advises them on the situation, and who helps to keep our officers and fire fighters safe in potentially chaotic instances? Dispatchers are the unsung heroes of our emergency response infrastructure. Last week was National Public Safety Dispatcher Week and the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management celebrated all of our fantastic and talented team of dispatchers. DEM also recognized San Francisco Dispatcher of the Year, Kayleigh Hillcoat.

As a resident of the Richmond, Kayleigh was formally recognized by her Supervisor, Eric Mar, during the Board of Supervisor's Recognition of Commendation.

As a resident of the Richmond, Kayleigh was formally recognized by her Supervisor, Eric Mar, during the Board of Supervisor’s Recognition of Commendation.

“Teamwork is vital and I’m proud to work with a team of skilled and compassionate individuals who strive to do their best for our public safety partners and the citizens we serve every day. We put our personal emotions aside and pull through intense, difficult situations together.

The incidents mentioned by Supervisor Mar are no different.  I may have been a voice in the chaos, but I was backed by my co-workers helping to log and forward critical information, make calls, notify our allied agencies of crucial updates and dispatching fire and medical response along the way.” Kayleigh remarked during her Recognition of Commendation.

Usually Dispatcher of the Year is recognized for one incident however, Kayleigh is being awarded for commanding three high profile incidents this year. Kayleigh assisted the San Francisco Police Department during an incident that involved a potential officer down, throughout spontaneous celebrations the evening that the San Francisco Giant’s won the World Series, and during public demonstrations in Union Square related to the Ferguson, Missouri protests.

When asked what her favorite part of her job was, Kayleigh responded “[It’s] challenging, there is something different every day, I appreciate being able to directly make a difference in someone’s day or life depending on what the call is about.” She also enjoys the fact that she provides a service to the public, in addition to assisting our fire fighters and police officers.

Kayleigh Group Shot

What most people are not immediately aware of are the difficult parts of the job. Kayleigh shared, “the lack of closure after the call ends can be hard. There isn’t a lot of follow-up on how the emergency was handled or what happened to the caller.” Sometimes dispatchers interact with callers facing grave circumstances; this is a burden all dispatchers carry.

However, Kayleigh has found a wonderful way to deal with some of the more difficult parts of her job by volunteering her time at San Francisco’s Animal Care and Control (AC&C) where she volunteers with the Fetch Program. The Fetch Program is dedicated to dogs brought into the custody of AC&C due to the fact that the owner may be in the hospital, jailed, or evicted. These dogs are often emotionally stressed after being separated from their owners and the comfort of their homes, that’s where Kayleigh steps in. Kayleigh finds solace that she can help in some way post-call by being on the receiving end of displaced animals due to emergencies.

Kayleigh

This September Kayleigh will mark her 10th year as a DEM Dispatcher. Congratulations Kayleigh for a job consistently well done and DEM is proud to honor you for your vital contributions to public safety.

February 9-1-1 Public Safety Dispatcher of the Month: Lisa Lee

San Francisco Department of Emergency Management’s 9-1-1 Dispatchers manage more than 1.2 million emergency and non-emergency calls annually and are often the “first” first–responders whom San Franciscans reach when facing an emergency or are in crisis.

Every month a DEM Public Safety Dispatcher is recognized for outstanding service while assisting those in crisis. This month DEM Public Safety Dispatcher Lisa Lee is being recognized for the care she provided to a woman in distress.

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The San Francisco Department of Emergency Management has selected Public Safety Dispatcher Lisa Lee as Communications Dispatcher of the Month for February 2015 for her expeditious and compassionate customer service that she demonstrated during a 9-1-1 call from a woman who was audibly ill.  The caller told Public Safety Dispatcher Lee she was dizzy, and that she may be experiencing a heart attack or stroke.  Public Safety Dispatcher Lee immediately initiated a call for service with very limited information, while providing calming and comforting words of encouragement.

Public Safety Dispatcher Lee’s compassion moved the caller to personally thank her, which she expressed in a letter to DEM stating “I will be forever grateful for the quick action of all involved who responded.”

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For more information about 9-1-1 in San Francisco visit www.sfdem.org/911

San Francisco's 9-1-1 Dispatch Floor

San Francisco’s 9-1-1 Dispatch Floor

What to Expect… When You Call 9-1-1

911 Dispatcher answering a call

Dispatchers are trained to pull and assess information from a caller so the right level of help can be sent quickly.

Calling 9-1-1 is serious business.  We want you to call 9-1-1 to receive help for emergencies, potential emergencies, or if you are not sure if it’s an emergency.  But happens when you call for help?  What should you say? What does the person on the other line need to know?  What if you forget something?

Dispatchers are trained to pull and assess information from a caller. Expect them to guide you with questions.  They know what information they need to get first in order to ensure the right type of help arrives in a timely manner, and the best way to get the assistance you need is to answer the questions in the order they ask them.

Here’s a quick guide to help us help you:

  • If you speak another language or dialect tell us right away. At push of a button, we can connect to a translator. San Francisco has translated 9-1-1 calls in more than 170 languages.
  • Let the dispatcher know what is happening. Is there a crime in progress? Is there a fire?  Does someone need medical help? This information lets our dispatchers know what type of help you need.
  • We want to know where the situation is occurring. Provide an exact address if you know it and don’t forget the floor and apartment number if you are in a building.  Unsure of where you are?  A nearby intersection or landmark will help.
  • When did the incident occur? It is important to know if this is an active situation so our dispatchers can prepare the first responders know what to expect.
  • Let us know who is involved. We want to know if it a family member, someone you know, or a stranger.  It also helps to know if there are multiple people involved and who they are.
  • If weapon was used then let us know. Telling a dispatcher about weapons helps keep the public and first responders safe.
  • Tell us if anyone is injured. If someone is hurt, our dispatchers will ask you a series of questions to determine what type of care is needed.  Our dispatchers are also trained to provide medical instruction until a medic arrives.

It is important to remember the type of response is based on the emergency.  San Francisco’s 9-1-1 call center receives more than 3,000 calls per day.  Not every call can or should involve emergency units traveling at high speeds with lights flashing and sirens blaring.  This type of response comes with inherent risk for the public and the first responders, but is rightly reserved for life-threatening emergencies.

We hope you rarely have to call 9-1-1.  But if you you or someone else is experiencing an emergency, then keep these tips in mind.  Our 9-1-1 dispatchers will help you get the help that you need in a timely manner.

911 Dispatchers answering phones

Call 9-1-1 to receive help for emergencies, potential emergencies, or if you are not sure if it’s an emergency.

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Need some help figuring out when to call 9-1-1 check out our previous post Burning Building? Call 911. Burning Question? Call 311.  

After 14 Years, New Radios at Last!

Picture3Where were you in the year 2000? It’s been awhile. Bill Clinton was President and Willie Brown was Mayor of San Francisco. “American Beauty” won the best picture Oscar, while the hit by Santana and Rob Thomas, “Smooth”, edged out Ricky Martin’s “Livin’ La Vida Loca” for a Grammy. Facebook and Twitter didn’t exist.

Have you improved and upgraded over the last 14 years? You probably have. But the radios used by San Francisco Police, Fire, and other public safety agencies haven’t. Seriously. In a digital world, the City’s 7,500 public safety radios operate on a 14-year-old analog system, first installed in the year 2000. Who thinks it’s time for an upgrade?

We do. In partnership with the Police and Fire departments and the Department of Technology, DEM is proud to lead the charge to upgrade the City’s 800 MHz Public Safety Land Mobile Radio System. It provides life-safety radio communications for San Francisco’s Police, Fire, Sheriff, Parking and Traffic, Recreation and Park, and Emergency Management (that’s us) departments. This means critical push-to-talk communications that connects instantly with the 9-1-1 dispatch center for dispatch to emergencies, or calling for backup from other officers in the field. The system uses proprietary analog technology that has now reached end of life, with no replacement parts available.

Last month we received the City’s approval – and critical funding – to finally replace this aging system with current technology. The new radios will be interoperable across the Bay Area, so when a San Francisco police officer goes over to Oakland, her radio will still work. The system will also provide better coverage, like underground in BART stations, as well as down to the Airport.

We estimate that a full system replacement should be complete by mid-2018. So just as Y2K babies will finally graduate and leave home, we’ll say goodbye to our Year 2000 radio system, and upgrade to the future. It’s about time.

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New School

San Francisco's New Dispatch Trainees with their instructor Patrick  (far left).

San Francisco’s New Dispatch Trainees with their instructor Patrick (far left).

In the past week, we honored three dispatchers with a combined 61 years of experience.  We also honored 4 veteran dispatch supervisors with the Toni Hardley Award- named after a legendary woman who served as a mentor to many of San Francisco’s 9-1-1 professionals.  Years of training and experience helped each of them but where does it all start?

Today we introduce the new school: 10 dispatch trainees in the early stages of their year long journey to be San Francisco Public Safety Dispatchers.  The diverse class includes a native San Franciscan who finds challenge in referring to her neighborhood as police districts (D3, D4, ect.) rather than her beloved Mission.  The class even includes a candidate that has previous dispatch experience.

The trainees are in week seven of their 12 week POST (Peace Officers and Standards Training) Academy and their lives have been filled with lectures, case studies, and tests.  They’ve also had the opportunity to sit-along with veteran dispatchers as they answered emergency calls from the public or dispatched first responders to an incident.  The candidates learn valuable lessons from the calm manner in which their experienced mentors extract information from the public.  Their eyes try to keep up as 9-1-1 professionals move from monitor to monitor (as many as five) and quickly multi-task to relay information to police officers, fire fighters, or paramedics.

The new school is learning the well-established tools of the trade and is taking on new challenges as 9-1-1 evolves.  Later in the year, San Francisco will transition to a new computer aided dispatch or CAD system.  In addition to a new appearance and commands, the new CAD can dispatch specialized Fire Department units more efficiently.  This new generation of dispatchers will likely tackle the challenge of implementing Next Generation 9-1-1 which includes allowing the 911 system to accept and handle advanced information from the public, including video, photos, and text messages.

Being a public safety dispatcher is a demanding job that is critical to San Francisco’s public safety.  After completion of the POST Academy, the dispatch trainees will receive intense on-the-job training under the supervision of training dispatcher.  This includes answering emergency calls from the public and the responsibility of dispatching first responders on the radio.

Does the new school have what it takes to join the ranks of our 9-1-1 professionals?  Time will tell- but if they have the skills, judgment, and determination to keep the public and first responders safe then there’s a headset waiting for them.

San Francisco celebrates National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week to showcase the important lifesaving performed by our 9-1-1 professionals.  Dispatchers act as the communications hub for emergency services, and must quickly assess situations and send appropriate help.  San Francisco’s 9-1-1 Dispatchers manage more than 1.2 million emergency and non-emergency calls annually.   For more information on 9-1-1 in San Francisco visit www.sfdem.org/911.

Young 9-1-1 Heroes

People call 9-1-1 during emergencies.  For an adult the situation is often stressful and chaotic.  Imagine how scary the situation is when you are a child and call 9-1-1 for your parent.

“I’m only nine-and-a-half…”

For nearly 30 years, Lisa Farfan has been the voice of comfort and calm on the other end of 9-1-1.  She’s noticed that people become disoriented during an emergency:  They don’t know where they are or forget where they live; They give you a lot of information but have trouble answering questions.  It’s Lisa’s job to coax information from people during the worst of times.  When asked about Catrina Corjito she smiles and says, “That young girl is special, she is a real hero.”

Catrina called 9-1-1 because her mom was choking, coughing up blood, and was having a hard time breathing and talking.  Catrina was clearly frightened but she maintained her poise and that is what stood out to Lisa.

“Catrina said ‘I’m only nine-and-a-half’ but she did such a great job — better than most adults,” said Lisa.  Catrina clearly articulated her location and what was going on.  She was straightforward when asked questions and listened to instructions.  Paramedics arrived within minutes of the 9-1-1 call, and from there Catrina and Lisa parted ways.

Months later Lisa met Catrina for the first time when they both received the 9-1-1 Heroes Medal of Honor at San Francisco City Hall. It was a proud moment for all in attendance… especially Catrina’s mother.

“I really want my mom to get help…”

Kimberley Tuyay might have the magic touch when it comes to answering calls from young people.  For the second year in a row she’s being recognized for helping a young person through a difficult situation.

“Kids are the best 9-1-1 callers because they are direct and honest,” according to Kim.  This makes a huge difference because good information helps a dispatcher send the right help much faster.

Dante Parker called 9-1-1 from a cell phone when his mom was lying on the floor with severe abdominal pains.  “She’s really swelling up… I really want my mom to get help,” said a frightened Dante.  No matter how scared he was Dante continued to answer Kim’s questions and follow her instructions.  Kim stayed on the phone with Dante until help arrived.

Kim, Dante, and his mother were reunited at San Francisco City Hall months after the 9-1-1 call.  Together, Kim and Dante, received the 9-1-1 Local Heroes Medal of Honor.

The 9-1-1 Local Heroes Medal of Honor is awarded to young people who call 9-1-1 to help save a life or property, or to report a crime. The award is also 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.

San Francisco celebrates National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week to showcase the important lifesaving performed by our 9-1-1 professionals.  Dispatchers act as the communications hub for emergency services, and must quickly assess situations and send appropriate help.  San Francisco’s 9-1-1 Dispatchers manage more than 1.2 million emergency and non-emergency calls annually.   For more information on 9-1-1 in San Francisco visit www.sfdem.org/911.

Matthew Roybal: Dispatcher of the Year 2013

Matthew Roybal, San Francisco Dispatcher of the Year

Matthew Roybal, San Francisco Dispatcher of the Year

The people and the technology… These are two of the reasons that Matthew likes coming to work every day.  On July 6, 2013 Public Safety Dispatcher Matthew Roybal was standing watch on the radio working with fire fighters and paramedics to respond to emergencies around the city.  On the radio the pace is quick and professional.   It was 11:28 am and things were about to pick up.

A Boeing 747 had crashed on the runway- slides were deployed and passengers were coming out.   At this point, Matthew and his fellow dispatchers didn’t have a full picture of what was going on.  But he knew he had to get first responder units moving fast.

As the dispatcher on the Command radio channel it was Matthew’s responsibility to coordinate and account for all the units that were coming from San Francisco to the airport.  As more information came in about the crash, more units from the city were sent to SFO. Matthew was admittedly was nervous and tense but his training and experience helped prepare him.  He also had great support system as fellow dispatchers helped out so he could focus on the radio.  Everything worked like it was supposed to and like with any emergency it was a team effort.

After hours on the radio keeping track of his fellow first responders, Matthew was finally relieved after the last unit came back to San Francisco.

Public Safety Dispatcher Matthew Roybal was calm and professional during the tragic Asiana plane crash.  His actions were not only a credit to himself but also his fellow dispatchers.  For these reasons, Matthew was selected by his peers as San Francisco’s Dispatcher of the Year.

 

San Francisco celebrates National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week to showcase the important lifesaving performed by our 9-1-1 professionals.  Dispatchers act as the communications hub for emergency services, and must quickly assess situations and send appropriate help.  San Francisco’s 9-1-1 Dispatchers manage more than 1.2 million emergency and non-emergency calls annually.   For more information on 9-1-1 in San Francisco visit www.sfdem.org/911.

#startuplife: The Evolution of Emergency Management in the Philippines

While SFDEM was visiting the TaRSIER 117 Operations Center an emergency call came in about a shooting in Taglibaran City.  A call taker took the information from the caller and a radio dispatcher notified the Philippine National Police.

Startup life… It’s a lifestyle and a popular hashtag on Twitter or Instagram.  It’s the hustle and the grind.  The marathon hack-a-thons and the late night drinks where ideas are born.  It’s developing the next product or service that’ll change all of our lives.  In San Francisco, it drives our economy but there have been some unintended consequences as well.

Over here it’s different.  In a two room building in the Bohol province of the Philippines they aren’t developing a new social network, e-commerce site, or dating service.  The men and women of this startup don’t develop code or design products.  Instead the scrappy staff that make up this startup are dispatchers, medics, and emergency managers and they are making TaRSIER 117 work with nothing more than sheer will.  TaRSIER is short for Telephone and Radio System Integrated Emergency Response.  1-1-7 is the phone number Boholinos are encouraged to call when they have an emergency.

TaRSIER 117 is housed in a two room building in Tagbilaran City, Bohol.

TaRSIER 117 is housed in a two room building in Tagbilaran City, Bohol.

Darwin, Operations Manager, watches as a TaRSIER Call Taker and Dispatcher respond to shooting.

Darwin, Operations Manager, watches as a TaRSIER Call Taker and Dispatcher respond to shooting.

Alfonso is a proud Boholino and TaRSIER was his idea.  Many years ago his father, Alfonso Sr., had a stroke so they jumped in a car and rushed him to the closest clinic.  It took an hour and half…the damage was done.  Bohol had ambulances, they had firefighters, and they had police officers but they weren’t coordinated.  On top of that each had their own phone number and often that number was different from barangay to barangay (neighborhood to neighborhood).  What was needed was central place in Bohol where aid and assistance could be coordinated effectively.  Years later, Alfonso became the Provincial Administrator and in March 2011 TaRSIER 117 was launched with a staff of 8.

If TaRSIER was Alphonso’s idea, then Darwin and Mark are the key developers.  Darwin was trained as a nurse, but had difficulties finding a nursing job in Bohol, so he worked for a customer call center. When he started at TaRSIER, he drew upon his background to develop the protocols and script his dispatchers use when people call.  Mark is also a trained nurse and a former Philippine Red Cross volunteer.  Mark uses his medical and Red Cross experience to train TaRSIER’s medical response and rescue teams. Together they are taking what they know and developing the lifesaving protocols, procedures and training for TaRSIER.  If something isn’t working they learn from the experience and make adjustments.  From what DEM could observe they are doing a phenomenal job with scarce resources and without formal training.

Darwin, Mark, and SFDEM's Francis Zamora ride in the back of a TaRSIER response vehicle.

Darwin, Mark, and SFDEM’s Francis Zamora ride in the back of a TaRSIER response vehicle.

Cecile Soto, SF DEM 9-1-1 Operations Manager, with TaRSIER 117 Dispatchers.

Cecile Soto, SF DEM 9-1-1 Operations Manager, with TaRSIER 117 Dispatchers.

Rod Dudgeon re-lives his paramedic days and talks shop witth TaRSIER medics.

Rob Dudgeon re-lives his paramedic days and talks shop witth TaRSIER medics.

TaRSIER has grown to 47 people who staff and operate Bohol’s emergency operations center, emergency dispatch, and provide ambulance and rescue services.  While they have grown with the support of Bohol’s governor, like any startup, they have had their challenges.  Educating the public to call 1-1-7 has been an enormous task.  TaRSIER averages 250 emergency calls per month for population of 1.2 million.  By comparison, San Francisco’s 9-1-1 emergency dispatch center averages more than 3,000 calls per day for a similar population.  It’s not because San Francisco has more accidents, fires, or crime. It’s because many people in Bohol in still prefer to seek out help on their own or call the police or fire department directly.  If they do call, sometimes it’s for non-emergencies.  TaRSIER staff cited examples of people calling to ask what the traffic is like.  In other instances, the caller gets upset and asks the dispatcher why they are asking so many questions.  DEM assured our counterparts that we also get similar calls.

Retention is another challenge for TaRSIER.  Most of the team went to school to be nurses and have had a hard time finding a job in that field.  As the staff gains experience and training, they often get offers for higher paying jobs as nurses or in more established emergency management departments in the Philippines.  According to Alfonso, in the past year, 14 staff members have left TaRSIER for more lucrative or high profile opportunities.

NDRRMC Emergency Operations Center

NDRRMC Emergency Operations Center

NDRMMC tracks the movement of a typhoon earlier this year.

NDRMMC tracks the movement of a typhoon earlier this year.

Not all emergency management departments in the Philippines are startups.  The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) is the Philippine government’s version of our Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).  During our visit to NDRRMC headquarters at Camp Aguinaldo, we found highly professional, knowledgeable, and experienced emergency managers.  In addition to earthquakes, the Philippines must contend with 15 to 20 typhoons each season.  While NDRRMC is nowhere near a startup, their focus has shifted from managing the response to reducing risk through preparedness.

The Philippines has invested time and resources in engaging the public through both digital and traditional social networks.  Facebook is the primary method of digital social networking since it is what most Filipinos use.  NDRRMC has also formed a public-private partnership with the country’s mobile providers and developed a smartphone app that provides useful emergency information that is set to launch in the summer of 2014.

The staff at the NDRRMC knows that government can’t be the only answer before, during, and after an emergency.  They are investing time in local leadership at the barangay level.  People everywhere, whether it is in the Philippines or San Francisco, are likely to listen to information if it is from friend, family member, or other trusted source.  This is why the NDRRMC is enlisting church leaders, school teachers, and barangay captains to help Filipinos get more prepared.

Manila DRMMC official demonstrates call talking capabilities.

Manila DRMMC official demonstrates call talking capabilities.

Manila's combined Emergency Operations and Dispatch Center under construction.

Manila’s combined Emergency Operations and Dispatch Center under construction.

Manila’s emergency management agency is in a state somewhere between TaRSIER and the NDRRMC.  The Manila DDRMC (MDDRMC) has taken steps towards preparing for the hazards that may face the city’s 1.6 million inhabitants.  MDDRMC is building a new combined emergency operations center and emergency dispatch center at Manila City Hall. The center will coordinate everyday emergency calls as well as respond during special event or disaster.  DEM was impressed by MDDRMC’s due diligence in designing their combined center.  Manila officials built a small demonstration facility and then required every hardware and software vendor to provide a proof of concept for their products before asking for bids.  As a result, they could test equipment and software before purchasing them.

While TaRSIER, NDRRMC, and City of Manila are different stages of evolution and capability they were all put to the test in some way in the fall of 2013.  DEM’s next post will focus on the response and recovery and lessons learned from the deadliest earthquake in the Philippines in 23 years and the strongest typhoon in recorded history.

Ibahagi Ang Kaalaman (Share the Knowledge)

Bohol Earthquake

The rubble of the Church of Our Lady of Light in Bohol.

Last year the Philippines was hit by not one, but two, disasters in the span of 24 days. A magnitude 7.2 earthquake shook the province of Bohol. It was the deadliest earthquake in the Philippines in 23 years. Three weeks later the most powerful typhoon in history made landfall, resulting in catastrophic damage and loss of life.

The San Francisco Department of Emergency Management will join Mayor Edwin M. Lee and the San Francisco-Manila Sister Cities Committee on a business, cultural, and rebuilding mission to the Philippines. During our mission we’ll meet with emergency managers, first responders, dispatchers, and local authorities from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, Manila Emergency Management, and TaRSIER 1-1-7.

So what is our mission?  Ibahagi Ang Kaalaman — or “Share the Knowledge” in Tagalog.  For an emergency manager, a 9-1-1 dispatcher, and a communicator, it’s about sharing our experiences and best practices.  For our hosts, it’s sharing the hard lessons learned from Mother Nature’s wrath.

Rob Dudgeon

Rob Dudgeon, Deputy Director

Rob Dudgeon’s job includes managing San Francisco’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC).  He often shares his expertise with fellow emergency managers, and has learned valuable lessons from those who have faced disaster first hand.  Rob and his team know the importance of not only sharing information but also resources, and during Hurricane Sandy, Rob’s team gave much-needed relief to tired emergency managers.

Following a disaster it’s natural to want to help.  But often times, well-intentioned people have to be turned away.  This was true in the Philippines.  In his research for this upcoming mission, Rob found that the Philippines had an influx of volunteers following the dual disasters, yet couldn’t accommodate everyone who wanted to help.  We have no doubt that people in San Francisco will help each other in an emergency, yet are we properly prepared for others to come to our aid?  Rob will have in-depth conversations with local authorities and volunteers to share his experiences managing response and recovery, as well as learn how we can most effectively utilize volunteers in an emergency.

Cecile Soto

Cecile Soto, 9-1-1 Operations Manager

Cecile Soto, a Filipina who immigrated to the United States in 1985, has managed everyday emergencies for the past 20 years as a public safety dispatcher.  It is commonly known that in an emergency you call “9-1-1”.  But this was not always the case.  It wasn’t until 1968 that 9-1-1 became the national emergency number in America.  The Philippine national emergency number, 1-1-7, is just over ten years old.

For Cecile, the trip is opportunity to give back to the country of her birth by sharing what she’s learned in her 20 years as a dispatcher.  It’s also an opportunity to gain insight from the texting capital of the world.  The low cost of a cell phone and SMS plan compared to that of a computer and a broadband connection has made texting extremely popular in Philippines.  So naturally, Filipinos can text 1-1-7 in an emergency.  This is something we’re barely starting to do the United States.  Our mission to Bohol includes a visit to their 1-1-7 dispatch center where we will learn first-hand from Filipino emergency dispatchers who are already accepting text messages for police, fire, and medical emergencies.

Francis Zamora

Francis Zamora, Public Information Officer

Francis Zamora, also a Filipino-American, is responsible for communicating with the public during an emergency.  His job is to develop and deliver messages everyone can understand during crisis – whether through the press, social media, or the good ole’ Tuesday Noon Siren (or what some call their Tuesday Burrito Call).

In conversations with relatives and Philippine officials about Typhoon Yolanda, Francis found that many Filipinos simply didn’t understand the danger they faced.  Before Yolanda, there was no Tagalog term for “Storm Surge.”  Now there is some debate as to whether describing the effects of the typhoon as a tsunami, daluyong (big waves), or humbak (swells at sea) would have been more effective.  Understanding “Storm Surge” is even difficult in the United States.  During Hurricane Sandy many people didn’t listen to warnings to get out of water’s way because many didn’t know what “Storm Surge” meant.  For Francis, the trip is an opportunity to meet everyday Filipinos and find out what messages make sense to them.  He’ll spend time with fellow communicators to develop messages everyone – whether in the Philippines or in San Francisco – can understand in an emergency.

There is so much we can share with each other:  In San Francisco, we ask that you connect, prepare, and plan on sf72.org.  In the Philippines, PrepareManila.org wants to make sure that Manila is a prepared and resilient city. The Philippines recently passed a bill requiring text message disaster alerts.  This week mobile phones throughout the Bay Area flashed numerous Wireless Emergency Alerts.  We can’t assume that what works in San Francisco will work in the Philippines, however we do have an opportunity to listen and share, and perhaps teach others about effectively engaging our communities.

Three staff members from San Francisco’s Department of Emergency Management will travel to the Philippines from February 16 to February 24.  Their mission will include exchanges with emergency managers, first responders, and local authorities in Manila and Bohol.  Follow the mission by liking SFDEM on Facebook, following @SF72org on Twitter, or by subscribing to the SFDEM Blog: www.sfdem.org/blog.