Category Archives: Recovery

The San Francisco 2014 Hazard Mitigation Plan

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) requires states, Indian tribes, and local governments to develop hazard mitigation plans as a condition for receiving pre- and post-disaster mitigation grant funding, which is why San Francisco recently updated its Hazard Mitigation Plan (HMP) to ensure we are positioned to receive these funds, should we need them.

San Francisco’s 2014 HMP was approved by FEMA early last month. The plan also has been adopted by San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and the Board of Supervisors.

What goes into a Hazard Mitigation Plan?

In order for a city or county to receive federal mitigation funds, its hazard mitigation plan must profile the natural hazards that impact the area, and must select strategies for mitigating those hazards. San Francisco’s 2014 HMP also covers human-caused hazards, which include hazardous materials, energy shortages, terrorist events, and cyberterrorism. In addition, the 2014 HMP covers climate change (sea level rise, temperature rise, and precipitation changes).

What Makes San Francisco’s HMP Special?

What makes San Francisco’s 2014 HMP unique is the addition of climate change and how to mitigate its affects. Additional elements that made the plan (and its development) stand out include:

  • San Francisco’s 2014 HMP assesses risks to the City from natural and human-caused hazards, and to provide mitigation strategies for reducing the impact of those risks.
  • The 2014 HMP represents the City’s commitment to take action to help reduce risk and create a safer, more resilient San Francisco. The plan also serves as a guide for City leaders as they commit resources to reduce the effects of hazards on our community.
  • The coordinated preparation of the 2014 HMP: The plan was developed in cooperation with representatives from 20 City departments.
  • San Francisco’s 2014 HMP has been adopted by Mayor Ed Lee and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, and was approved by Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on November 4, 2014. The 2014 HMP remains effective for five years.
  • FEMA approval of local hazard mitigation plans is a prerequisite to receive federal disaster funding such as pre- and post-disaster hazard mitigation grants, and flood mitigation grants. Local hazard mitigation plans must be revised and re-approved by FEMA every five years to continue to be eligible for this federal funding. The 2014 HMP updates and replaces the HMP approved by FEMA in 2009.
  • The San Francisco 2014 HMP Planning Team will continue to meet over the next five years to monitor implementation of the HMP, and will seek funding to begin work on hazard mitigation strategies selected as part of the 2014 plan.

Who Developed the San Francisco HMP?

San Francisco’s  HMP development was led by DEM’s Lead Planner, Amy Ramirez, and Edie Schaffer, Emergency Planner.

“For me, the best thing about working on this plan was getting to meet and work with city representatives that I had not met before,  ” said Edie Schaffer.  “Everyone on our HMP Planning Team stepped up, and shared both their time and expertise; we could not have done this without them. The HMP Planning Team will keep working together over the next five years to implement the plan.”

DEM will begin the process of updating this version of the HMP in 2017. As Edie said, “We worked so hard on the plan. It’s not something that will sit on the shelf; we are using the plan to seek funding to implement the mitigation strategies chosen by the Planning Team.”

The 2014 HMP Development Team:

  • Alicia Johnson (DEM): Public and stakeholder outreach planning and implementation
  • Robert Stengel (DEM): New hazard profiles; plan review
  • Francis Zamora (DEM): Public information and outreach; HMP web site design and maintenance
  • Brian Strong (Capital Planning Program): CCSF assets and planning projects; HAZUS study of critical CCSF facilities
  • Neil Friedman (Department of Building Inspection (DBI)): CCSF building inventory; DBI mitigation projects; UMBs
  • Cal Broomhead (Department of Environment (DOE)): Hazard assessment; DOE capabilities and mitigation projects
  • Calla Ostrander (DOE) Hazard assessment, DOE capabilities and mitigation projects
  • Naveena Bobba (Department of Public Health (DPH)): Hazard assessment, DPH capabilities and mitigation projects
  • Teri Dowling (DPH): Hazard assessment; DPH capabilities and mitigation projects
  • Cynthia Chono (Department of Public Works (DPW)): Hazard assessment, DPW capabilities and mitigation projects
  • Micah Hilt (Earthquake Safety Implementation Program (ESIP)): ESIP capabilities and mitigation projects
  • Patrick Otellini (ESIP): ESIP capabilities
  • Carla Johnson (Mayor’s Office of Disability): Input and guidance on people with disabilities and access and functional needs
  • Dave Sullivan (Northern California Regional Intelligence Center (NCRIC)): Hazard assessment, NCRIC capabilities, and mitigation projects
  • Nick Majeski (Office of City Administrator, General Services Agency (GSA)): GSA capabilities
  • Matt Hansen (Office of the City Administrator, Risk Management Program): Asset lists, CCSF Floodplain Administrator delegatee, flood-related mitigation projects
  • Leo Levenson (Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure): Land use and development
  • Scott Edmondson (Planning Department): Land use and development, climate change
  • Lily Langlois (Planning Department): Planning capabilities and mitigation projects
  • Teresa Ojeda (Planning Department): GIS, land use and development
  • Sidonie Sansom (Port of San Francisco): Port assets, capabilities, and mitigation projects
  • John Updike (Real Estate Division):CCSF assets
  • Karen Mauney-Brodek (Recreation and Parks Department (RPD)): RPD capabilities and mitigation projects
  • Angelica Quicksey (RPD): Hazard assessment, RPD capabilities and mitigation projects
  • Jeff Airth (San Francisco International Airport (SFO)): SFO capabilities and mitigation projects
  • Toshia Marshall (SFO): SFO assets, capabilities, and mitigation projects
  • Assistant Deputy Chief Kyle Merkins (San Francisco Fire Department (SFFD)): SFFD capabilities and mitigation projects, fire-related hazards
  • Scarlett Lam (San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA)):Hazard assessment, SFMTA assets and capabilities
  • Mary Ellen Carroll (San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC)): SFPUC assets and mitigation projects
  • Joshua Keene (SFPUC): SFPUC assets
  • Brad Wilson (SFPUC): SFPUC assets, capabilities, and mitigation projects
  • Bob Beck (Treasure Island Development Agency (TIDA)): TIDA assets, capabilities, and mitigation projects
  • Peter Summerville (TIDA): TIDA assets, capabilities, and mitigation projects

Special thanks to SFPUC David Behar, Climate Program Director, SFPUC Chair, CCSF Sea Level Rise Committee

Special Note:

Amy Ramirez and Edie Schaffer presented at the 2014 International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) Annual Conference last November regarding local hazard mitigation planning. They brought handouts for 25 people — more than 200 attended.  A goal of San Francisco’s 2014 HMP development team is to share their most successful strategies in development the HMP, and to make this information available so that other local jurisdictions can develop their own HMPs  “in-house.”

For inquiries about the San Francisco 2014 HMP and the process to develop it, please email and

Pictured Left to Right, Amy Ramirez and Edie Schaffer working on the 2014 HMP.

Pictured Left to Right, Amy Ramirez and Edie Schaffer working on the 2014 HMP.



Preparedness is about connection, not catastrophe.

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Many of us were awakened early Sunday morning by the largest earthquake in the Bay Area since the Loma Prieta earthquake nearly 25 years ago. Thankfully, San Francisco suffered no damage. But we know that aftershocks in the region are common following a large earthquake of this magnitude. This is a good reminder that we need to do what can now, before the next earthquake, because that will make our City’s recovery all the more effective.

But while we are taking stock of our emergency preparedness, we want to underscore this: emergencies look more like cities coming together than falling apart. And at the heart of this is connection.

While Sunday morning’s earthquake is foremost on our minds, let’s use this as an opportunity to not only build upon our earthquake preparedness, but connect within our community networks about emergency preparedness in general. Have a conversation about preparedness with your family, neighbors, friends, and coworkers. Talk about what you would do if an earthquake causes damage in our city, and in our neighborhoods. Visit to learn how to be prepared for earthquakes (along with any type of emergency), and ask your neighbors to do the same.

Plan Basics

We also encourage everyone connect into emergency preparedness by taking the San Francisco Fire Department’s free Neighborhood Emergency Response Team (NERT) training, and register for the City’s e-mail and text-based notification system

We know disasters, whether it is an earthquake, tsunami, or something human made, can happen at any time with little or no warning. That is why it is important to take steps now so we are ready for any emergency. Let’s not wait until the next disaster to show how connected and prepared we are.

More Prepared

Tsunami Ready

Godzilla Attacks

In 2014, San Francisco has seen it all: Radioactive reptiles battling out along our waterfront and super smart apes annihilating the remnants of mankind. It’s been disastrous year for San Francisco… in the movies.  Here’s one you might have missed:

It is a cool, overcast morning in San Francisco.  It’s been a wet month with rainfall reaching record levels leaving the ground waterlogged.  It’s also Spring Break which means there are thousands of people enjoying themselves along the Embarcadero, Marina, and beaches despite the clouds.

At 8:00 a.m. a magnitude 9.1 earthquake occurs off the coast of Alaska.  Within 5 minutes of the underwater tremor, San Francisco receives an alert from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).  NOAA has just declared a Tsunami Watch for the entire west coast of the United States.  A tsunami could arrive in San Francisco within four to six hours. 

Sound like a good action flick? We’ll save you the time it takes to search IMDB or Google.  This was the scenario put before dozens of emergency managers, community partners, and local, state, and federal officials during San Francisco’s three-day tsunami exercise in March.  The goals of the exercise were to practice our City’s alert and warning procedures, response capabilities, and recovery operations before, during, and after a tsunami.

EOC Staff coordinate San Francisco's response to a simulated tsunami. Photo by Michael Mustacchi

EOC Staff coordinate San Francisco’s response to a simulated tsunami. Photo by Michael Mustacchi

One might ask, “That seems like a waste of time. Isn’t the likelihood of tsunami pretty low in San Francisco?”

Great question.  San Francisco plans and prepares for all emergencies. 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.

San Francisco's Tsunami Inundation Zones

San Francisco’s Tsunami Inundation Zones

San Francisco’s tsunami risk includes neighborhoods along both the ocean and the bay. We’re fortunate that our risk for a local source tsunami, where we don’t receive much warning, is low. What is possible is a distant source tsunami. An example is an earthquake, landslide, or other seismic event that takes place off the coast of Alaska. In this scenario, a tsunami could reach San Francisco in 4 to 6 hours.

Planning for a tsunami or any emergency isn’t about preparing for Armageddon.  It’s about taking smart and practical actions.  For San Francisco, it’s practicing our skills and capabilities. The National Weather Service recently re-accredited the City and County as a Tsunami Ready and Storm Ready community in recognition of our emergency operations, capabilities to receive and issue emergency alerts, promotion of public preparedness, and response plan development and exercises. For the public, it’s about knowing what to do.  Here are some quick tips to get you started:

  • Move inland and head to higher ground during a tsunami.
  • If you are in a coastal area and feel an earthquake with strong shaking lasting a minute or more, drop, cover, and hold on until the shaking stops, then move immediately to higher ground.
  • Always wait for local authorities to tell you when it is safe to return to affected areas.

To learn more about how San Francisco plans and trains for all emergencies visit  For easy to use guides on how you can prepare visit


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

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

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
  • 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.


#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.

President Aquino Thanks San Francisco

Benigno S. Aquino III remarks to Mayor Edwin M. Lee and the San Francisco Manila Sister Cities Committee

President Benigno S. Aquino III addresses Mayor Edwin M. Lee and the San Francisco Manila Sister Cities Committee

Thursday was a special day for Mabuhay Manila delegates as President Benigno S. Aquino III took time out of his busy schedule to thank Mayor Edwin M. Lee and San Francisco for their support in the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda.  The San Francisco Department of Emergency Management also go a little bit of love from the President of the Philippines:

“On top of this, I also hear that, in the next few days, some officials from the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management will be flying to Bohol to share best practices with our local disaster management officials. This is truly heartwarming; it proves that our respective cities are sister cities not only in word but more importantly also in deed. On behalf of the Filipino people, I cannot overstate our gratitude. With your help—along with the unwavering support of our countrymen and friends the world over—our campaign to build back better continues with even more resolve. We can all look forward to the time when the survivors of Yolanda can take full control over their destinies once again.”

Watch President Aquino’s Full Address to the San Francisco delegation:

Three Things

Three Things

Mayor Edwin M. Lee presents a box of SFMADE products.

Mayor Edwin M. Lee presents a box of SFMADE products to the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry

The first two days of the Mabuhay Manila mission were all about encouraging trade and business.  The delegation visited the Center for International Trade and Missions where we previewed Philippine-made products that you may one day see at Crate & Barrell or Whole Foods.  Delegates also participated in forums with the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry about doing business in Manila and San Francisco.

Naturally, as emergency managers, we had to find our own spin on things.  We asked three things business leaders from Bay Area and Manila would share with customers about being prepared.

SFDEM with delegates representing the SF Bay Area private sector.

SFDEM with delegates representing the SF Bay Area private sector.

Dennis Biscocho, President, Bisocho Insurance Agency, Farmers Insurance

Dennis knows a thing or two about emergencies.  He was on the ground with the Farmers Insurance Emergency Response team following the San Bruno gas explosion and fire.

  1. Have an emergency kit nearby and accessible.
  2. Have adequate coverage.  Remember your homeowners or renters insurance doesn’t cover damage from an earthquake.   In the Bay Area, you need earthquake insurance too.
  3. Safeguard the things that are important to you like documents, photos, or mementos.

Jason Yi Ming Han, Vice President of Business Development, Anada-USA

Jason specializes in travel and you’ll find that preparing for a trip is similar to preparing for an emergency.

  1. Safeguard your documents.  Keep your passport and other important travel documents in a safe place.  A TIP FROM DEM: Upload your important documents whether for travel or life to the cloud.
  2. Prepare a safety card with your doctor’s information, important phone numbers, and meeting locations.  Sounds like preparing an emergency plan to us!
  3. Know the local culture.  Customs may be different in another country.  Researching your destination allows you have a smoother trip.   Knowing to drop, cover, and hold during an earthquake will help you too!
SFDEM and the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry

SFDEM and the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry

The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry

The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry is enthusiastic about helping Filipinos in a disaster.  Here are three things the private sector in the Philippines can do.

  1. Provide  education and engagement.  The chamber can educate their members and customers about how to prepare for an emergency.  The PCCI is considering forming a private sector disaster coordinating council to help Filipinos.
  2. Businesses can help with response and relief.  Private industry has the logistical capability and systems in place to deliver and distribute much needed supplies.
  3. PCCI can help the Philippines recover and get back on its feet.  Their members have the capital and resources to invest and help Filipinos get back to normal.

Our team enjoyed meeting with business leaders in the Philippines.  Soon, the focus of our mission shifts to the business of emergency management.  Beginning  Thursday, the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management will spend our time in Philippines meeting with Filipino emergency managers, first responders, and local authorities involved with the Bohol Earthquake and Typhoon Yolanda relief and recovery efforts.

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  In the Philippines, 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:

20 Years Ago: The Northridge Earthquake

1994 Northridge Earthquake

1994 Northridge Earthquake (FEMA NEWS PHOTO)

San Franciscans stand with our fellow Californians by remembering the 1994 Northridge Earthquake.  We remember the lives that were lost and those that were changed.  The magnitude 6.7 quake caused $25 billion in damage and was the costliest U.S. natural disaster at the time.  Northridge was a not so subtle reminder that we live in earthquake country (Universal City residents received a more subtle reminder this morning).  The 20th Anniversary of the Northridge Earthquake is also about saluting the resilient people that rebuilt their community and worked hard to return to normal life.

More Prepared

Whether you’re just starting out or a preparedness pro, gathering your emergency supplies and planning ahead is easy. A good rule of thumb is to have supplies for about 3 days, or 72 hours. You’ll be surprised at how much you already have. Take simple steps today on to prepare and plan for any emergency.

Ready for more?  SFDEM encourages you to work with our partners to get even better prepared as a household, neighborhood, or community.

American Red Cross Bay Area Chapter provides a variety of training including first aid, CPR, and how to prepare for emergencies.

Neighborhood Empowerment Network equips SF neighborhoods with tools and programs designed to create safe, clean, and economically resilient communities.

San Francisco Neighborhood Emergency Response Team teaches emergency preparedness and response basics through free hands-on training so you are ready to take care of yourself and others.

Finally, the Earthquake Safety Implementation Program is hosting an Earthquake Retrofit Fair to help people put some backbone into San Francisco’s soft story buildings that can be vulnerable when the ground starts shaking.