Category Archives: SF Heroes

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


15th Annual Emergency Medical Services Awards

The Honorees Are…

Awards season is typically in February when the Oscars and the Grammys are handed out.  You could debate The Life of Pi was more deserving than Argo or why Taylor Swift didn’t get another Record of the Year but there is no debating the value and contributions of San Francisco’s Emergency Medical Services Agency (EMSA).

During the 15th Annual EMSA Awards Ceremony awards were presented to outstanding individuals for their commitment to emergency medical care.  The honorees are:

Jonathan Baxter, EMT-P
EMS Field Provider Award

Jonathan Baxter is recognized for his years of outstanding service, patient advocacy and promotion of new technologies for EMS.  As an eleven year emergency services veteran, Jonathan joined the San Francisco Fire Department in 2000 and dedicated his career to taking on tough assignments.  At Fire Station 18 he served on the Surf Rescue Unit.  Since 2009, Jonathan has volunteered to work out of Fire Station One- one of the busiest in the nation.   At each station he was recognized for his work and received Meritorious Conduct Awards from the Fire Commission. In addition to his service, Jonathan contributed to projects to streamline patient care documentation and improve patient assessment.

Tae-Wol Stanley, MSN, RN, FNP
Shannon Smith-Bernardin, MSN, RN
Community Members of the Year Award

Tae-Wol Stanley and Shannon Smith receive this award for for years of meritorious service to the chronically homeless.  The Department of Public Health’s Sobering Center is a twelve bed facility that provides thousands of homeless and medically frail clients with sobering, detox and medical respite services. Ninety percent of patient encounters in the Sobering Center result in a discharge to self-care or a shelter, which significantly decreases the impact on EMS, emergency departments and jails.

As the Clinic Director, Tae-Wol manages its programs, budget, and 35 employees. Tae-Wol has also overseen the expansion of the center to field clinics during citywide special events.  In her role as Intake and Sobering Coordinator, Shannon transitioned the staff from LVNs to a mix of RNs and MEAs, wrote its clinical practice guidelines, and designed its referral system.

Jonathan D. Garber, MD
EMS System Hospital Provider Award

As the Chief of Emergency at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center since 1997, Dr. Jonathan Garber has grown the department to include more than 40 physicians and 90 residents. He is highly regarded by his colleagues and students and has been awarded the title of Master Clinician.

Dr. Garber has also been instrumental in helping the VA become more prepared.  Under his leadership, the VA has hosted disaster exercises, created the only helipad in the city, and stored a pharmaceutical cache for prophylaxis during a pandemic disease outbreak. Other innovations and improvements include specialty center designation, inter-hospital communications, ACLS courses, and co-sponsoring an EMS fellowship.

Stephen La Plante, EMT
Raymond Lim Excellence in EMS Award

Stephen La Plante receives this award for his steadfast presence and decades of labor to improve and advance public health, EMS and medical disaster preparedness in San Francisco.  Prior to his retirement in February, Steve was San Francisco’s EMS Administrator.  During his term EMSA hired new staff, wrote a five year strategic master plan, created a program for STEMI and cardiac arrest receiving centers, and reinstated the Exclusive Operating Area that defines the quality and nature of 9-1-1 response to EMS calls.

Steve also contributed to San Francisco’s overall resilience by acquiring a tremendous cache of equipment, including disaster trailers, warehoused medical supplies and pharmaceuticals, and a robust communications system for EMS field providers and between hospitals. These items may serve a critical role should the need arise for rapid deployment of field clinics.

The Department of Emergency Management salutes these outstanding men and women and thanks them for their contributions.


Photos of this year’s EMS Awards recipients:

EMS Awards Group ShotGarcia and EMS AwardeeGarcia with awardee 2Steve and Dr BrownEMS Award Group shotWoman accepting EMS award

Message Received: SF Heroes (9-1-1 Dispatchers) Honored this Week

“Help is on the way.  I’ll stay on the line until they get there.  You’re doing a great job.”

People often call 9-1-1 during chaotic and unpredictable situations.  On the other end of the line they find a cool and calm voice of reassurance ready to help them.

San Francisco's 9-1-1 Dispatch Floor

San Francisco’s 9-1-1 Dispatch Floor

This week is National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, a week dedicated to recognizing the life saving work 9-1-1 dispatchers do every day, every hour of the day.  San Francisco’s 9-1-1 Dispatchers make up  DEM’s Division of Emergency Communications and they work tirelessly, quickly and calmly to assess an emergency situation and deploy police, fire, or medial professionals to the scene.  Dispatchers also provide medical instruction. They are the ones who first take the call from the person in crisis, and often deliver life-saving instructions, such as CPR or delivery of a baby.  They are also a vital part of the team with police and fire, gathering and relaying critical information that keeps our officers safe in the field. They are San Francisco’s first, first responders. We are incredibly proud of our dispatchers, and the work they do every day to help those experiencing an emergency. They are San Francisco Heroes!

IMG_7186During this National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, DEM will honor our dispatchers who have done extraordinary work for those who live and work in San Francisco. (Honorees were selected by their fellow dispatchers for extraordinary performance while answering or dispatching emergency services).

These awards include:

Dispatcher of the Year Award and Ceremony

A yearly award given to the DEM dispatcher who exhibited extraordinary decision making and guidance during particularly high-stress emergency situations.

When: 2:30 PM Tuesday, April 9

Where: Board of Supervisors Chambers, San Francisco City Hall

9-1-1 for Kids Heroes Awards and Ceremony

A yearly awards ceremony recognizing children who called 9-1-1 to assist a family member in crisis, and the dispatcher who guided the child and managed the emergency until responders arrived on scene.

When: 1:30 PM Wednesday, April 10

Where: Mayor’s Balcony, San Francisco City Hall

Toni Hardley Award for Excellence in Dispatch Supervision

An award determined by line staff members who recognize supervisors for quality of leadership, approachable style, supportive nature, and exceptional knowledge of dispatch operations.


Social Preparedness: The NERT Citwide Drill

Last April the San Francisco Neighborhood Emergency Response Team (NERT) conducted its annual citywide drill.  For those of us who were there, wasn’t it cool?!  And for those of us who were not, join the Neighborhood Empowerment Network (NEN) Director Daniel Homsey, NERT Program Coordinator Lt. Erica Arteseros and Advisory Board Member Lynn Jacklevich and experience the camaraderie of this social preparedness activity.

Want to feel the camaraderie first-hand? Join your neighborhood’s NERT. It’s a great feeling knowing what to do before, during and after an emergency and your community will be all the more resilient as a result. And if you do, don’t forget to get your SF Hero Badge via SF Heroes, DEM’s smart phone app that gives you street cred on Facebook and Twitter for your emergency preparedness savvy.

A special thanks to NEN for capturing the magic of social preparedness!

EMS: More Than a Job. It’s a Calling.

As we close this year’s National Emergency Medical Services (EMS) week, DEM wants to highlight the recipients of the 14th Annual EMS Agency and SF Paramedic Association Award Program. Aligning with this year’s National EMS Week theme, EMS: more than a job. It’s a calling, the recipients of this year’s EMS Awards were honored for their dedication and commitment to the field of emergency medical services and those they aid. They are SF Heroes and we are happy to recognize them in this DEM Blog.

Who Was Honored and Why

EMS Field Providers Award Firefighter Anthony Valerio, EMT-P and Lt. Vincent Perez, EMT-1 received these awards posthumously for many years of outstanding performance as a paramedic, as an EMT and for extraordinary bravery as firefighters in the San Francisco Fire Department. On June 2, 2012, Anthony and Vincent lost their lives in the line of duty fighting a fire in Diamond Heights.

The parents of Anthony Valerio accepting his award.

Lt. Vincent Perez’s family accepting his award.

EMS Hospital Provider Award Terry Dentoni, RN, MSN with San Francisco General Hospital received this award for outstanding performance in providing more than 25 years of emergency and critical care nursing at SF General Hospital, and for creative and energetic support of satellite sobering centers at special events.

Terry Dentoni (left) accepting her award from San Francisco Department of Public Health Director Barbara Garcia.

EMS Community Services Award was given to Elaine Rodahl, RN for her leadership in promoting and teaching CPR to thousands of people, and for her tireless work with the American Heart Association to improve the survival rate from cardiac arrest in the Bay Area.

Elaine Rodahl accepting her award.

EMS Dispatcher Ulysses J. Levy, EMD received this award his 18 years of outstanding performance as a dispatcher, especially for his extraordinary skill in handling stressful medical calls in a calm and professional manner, as he did in November, 2011 when he assisted a father in the delivery of his baby. The family Ulysses helped was in attendance to the surprise of Ulysses, as was the paramedic who arrived on-scene to provide emergency medical care to the mother and newborn.

EMS Dispatcher Ulysses J. Levy holding the infant he assisted to deliver.

Paramedic Captain James M. Fazackerley, EMT-P, SFFD received the Raymond Lim Excellence in EMS for exceptional performance as a paramedic instructor, supervisor and manager for 29 years and for leadership and innovation in emergency medical services.

Captain James M. Fazackerley accepting his award.

The Special Recognition Award went to Willie Orey, Jr, EMT-1, AMR posthumously for years of outstanding performance as a unit detailer, stocker and EMT, and for several years of service as a CCT-EMT for San Francisco Ambulance.

Willie Orey’s family accepting his award.

Congratulations to all of the award recipients. You are the REAL San Francisco Heroes!

SF Hero: 9-1-1 Dispatcher of the Year Stephen Golden

During last week’s San Francisco Board of Supervisors meeting at City Hall, 9-1-1 Dispatcher Stephen Golden received a commendation for being DEM’s Dispatcher of the Year.   Stephen was selected for this honor based on his outstanding work during a 9-1-1 call from a visitor to San Francisco, who needed to send medical aid to her family residence in Columbia, Maryland.  The caller explained she was visiting San Francisco to speak at a symposium and that when she called home, her three year old son answered the phone and told her his father was lying on the floor in the closet.  She also had a one year old son at home.

Stephen accepting his commendation presented by SF Board of Supervisors President, David Chiu.

Stephen made attempts to locate a telephone number to notify Emergency Services in Columbia, but to no avail. He asked the caller to tell him the largest nearby city, and she said Baltimore.  Stephen continued to gather information from the caller, including her home address, husband’s name, neighbor contact information and even where a spare key to her   home could be found.  The neighbor and Baltimore Emergency Services were able to go the caller’s home and respond to the situation.

Stephen also asked the caller if she had a work colleague traveling with her, which she did, and Stephen was able to contact the colleague who could be with her.  “I believe that contacting the colleague was particularly important,” said Stephen while accepting his commendation.  “No one should be told of a loved one’s death, then be alone.”

Stephen sharing his account of the 9-1-1 call to the SF Board of Supervisors.

Emergency Services in Maryland ultimately confirmed that the caller’s husband had passed away, but both children were fine. Stephen remained on the phone with the caller for 39 minutes (well exceeding the average 9-1-1 call length of two minutes), providing comfort and solace. “I stayed with my caller because I sensed what was coming,” Stephen shared with the Board of Supervisors during the meeting.

Although the outcome of this 9-1-1 call was tragic, it was Stephen’s focused and effective work that sent emergency services to the caller’s home on the other side of the country, while at the same time providing compassion and support to the distressed caller.

Stephen pictured with DEM Division of Emergency Communications Director, Lisa Hoffman

About the DEM 9-1-1 Call Center

DEM serves as the 9-1-1 call center for Police, Fire and Emergency Medical Services. The center handles approximately 1 million calls annually. Of these calls, 80 percent are for police matters, 14 percent are for emergency medical Services, and 6% are for fire suppression. Seventy percent of the 9-1-1 calls DEM receives are from cellular phones. In 2000, DEM became the first agency in California to accept wireless calls, instead of receiving transfers from the California Highway Patrol (CHP).

The center is the third busiest Public Safety Answering Point in California, behind Los Angeles and San Diego (not including CHP call centers). The average answering time for 9-1-1 calls is three seconds. DEM has the ability to translate calls into 173 different languages and dialects; Spanish and Cantonese are the top two most commonly translated languages.

SF Hero (and DEM Employee) 911 Dispatcher Jasmine Pomeroy

The City and County of San Francisco’s 911 System resides within DEM’s Department of Emergency Communications. January’s DEM 911 Dispatcher of the Month goes to Jasmine Pomeroy. Here’s why she’s an SF Hero:

On December 10, 2011 numerous calls were received reporting a multi-residential structure fire. 911 Dispatcher Jasmine Pomeroy processed a call from a panic-stricken woman reporting her apartment was filling with smoke and that she could not get out. Due to the fire conditions, residents were instructed to shelter in place (stay in their apartments). The fire was on the sixth floor and the caller was on the 12th floor.

Jasmine remained online with the caller and gave clear instructions to stay in her apartment. She made great efforts to keep the caller calm, while assuring her help would arrive soon. Jasmine not only kept the caller aware of what was happening, but also those responding to the fire. She was on the phone with the caller for nearly 18 minutes until fire fighters were able to rescue her.

Thanks to Jasmine’s care and concern, along with clear and confident instructions, a woman in a very serious situation was not alone and did not take any actions that could have risked her life.  Way to go, Jasmine. You make DEM proud and join the ranks of an SF Hero.

SF Hero (and DEM Employee) 911 Dispatcher Ulysses Levy

The City and County of San Francisco’s 911 System resides within DEM’s Department of Emergency Communications.  In December DEM 911 Dispatcher Ulysses Levy received Dispatcher of the Month, and for good reason.  Here’s why he’s a SF Hero:

On November 2, 2011 Ulysses Levy, DEM Dispatcher, received a call from a male reporting his wife was about to give birth. The caller stated that he could see the baby’s head crowning.  He immediately verified the location and sent the call for dispatch. He advised the caller that help was on the way and began processing the call according to protocol.

Ulysses gave the caller clear, concise pre-arrival instructions.  The caller placed the phone on speaker in order to assist with the birth.  All activity could be heard via landline and he remained calm and collected throughout the process.  At one point the baby’s head retracted and Ulysses along with the caller changed course, which resulted in a successful delivery.  The baby could be heard crying in the background. He continued to give instructions, and verified breathing and airway until paramedics arrived.

Ulysses handled the call flawlessly according to protocol, which resulted in the successful delivery of a baby boy.  He is a
SF Hero!

SF Hero: Lt. Erica Arteseros, San Francisco Fire Department


This is the first in a series of DEM Blogs that will highlight a San Francisco Hero. For those of you who don’t get our reference, we recently launched an iPhone and soon to be Android smart phone app called SF Heroes. The app is dedicated to promoting community preparedness and resilience.  If you haven’t checked it out, we hope you will—and share it with your fellow heroes.  And for those of you who have an Android smart phone, your version of SF Heroes will be ready this spring.  SF Heroes can be found in the iTunes store. 

With the virtual rise of SF Heroes (those who download the app and earn badges to become SF Heroes), we also want to recognize heroes among us who promote resilience to emergencies and/or disasters or have done something extraordinary to support their community.   We are honored to kick-off this special DEM Blog highlighting SF Hero: San Francisco Fire Department Lieutenant Erica Arteseros. 


This year’s Neighborhood Empowerment Network (NEN) Awards were awesome. True, they always are, but this one in particular was awesome.

The NEN Awards are a big deal at SF City Hall. Pictured here is Mayor Lee joining the festitivies.

Why? We think it is because San Francisco Neighborhood Response Team (NERT) was recognized twice. First for receiving a standing award called the Exemplary NERT Leadership Award; congratulations to Diane Rivera who received this one. And the second, also a standing award, is called the Most Empowering City Employee Award. Lieutenant Arteseros with San Francisco Fire Department and NERT leader earned this award. We say amen!

Lt. Erica Arteseros being interviewed by NENTV after receiving her award.

When asked about earning this award, Lieutenant Arteseros humbly shared “I am most appreciative of this award. It really means a lot to me that members of the San Francisco community chose to recognize me as empowering. I do not do so alone and it is them that inspire me!”

Lieutenant Arteseros is responsible for one of San Francisco’s most important resident-focused disaster preparedness programs, NERT. NERT is a free training program for individuals, neighborhood groups and community-based organizations in San Francisco. It teaches hands-on disaster skills that help individuals respond to a personal emergency as well as act as members of a neighborhood response team. She works tirelessly to promote NERT trainings throughout San Francisco. She does the work of many to do so. Thanks to Lieutenant Arteseros, San Francisco has thousands and thousands of trained individuals who can assist in light search and rescue during times of emergency.

Congratulations Lieutenant Arteseros for deservedly receiving the Most Empowering City Employee Award. You truly are a  SF Hero.

The Earthquakes’ Call to Action

The two 3.9 magnitude earthquakes that occurred last week along the Hayward Fault are not unexpected according to geologists and seismologist, but alarming to the majority of us who felt both earthquakes. Thankfully, they did not cause notable damage. Turkey, however, was not as lucky. Sunday’s 7.2 magnitude earthquake destroyed buildings and hundreds have lost their lives. Like us, Turkey is highly susceptible toearthquakes as it sits on major geological fault lines.

Watching the television footage is disturbing to say the least; seeing a toddler being pulled from rubble took me to a dark place as I couldn’t help but think of my own little one and prayed that if we were to experience a similarly significant earthquake, I would be able to protect him. Instead of feeling helpless (or begin planning a move to the east coast), I was inspired to research strapping our television. I immediately felt better.

Thankfully we live in a city with building codes that are lot more strict than in Turkey. The terrifying scenes we are seeing in the news probably won’t happen here, but they did in Japan last March—and that’s a culture very prepared and equipped to handle earthquakes (if they weren’t, the death toll would have been far greater). The good news is a lot can be done to prevent the damage of an earthquake. Mitigation is the mantra of many emergency managers and they are right. The word mitigation sounds daunting but it’s a lot easier than you may think (e.g., it doesn’t mean living on a house boat or packing up and heading east).

What can you do? Here are a few immediate actions:

• Visit and assess your current supplies

• Register for San Francisco’s text-based notification system: AlertSF (go to

• Look into becoming a trained member of San Francisco NERT

• Follow DEM on twitter: @sf_emergency and become a fan of SFDEM on Facebook

• Download DEM’s new preparedness smart phone app SF Heroes (currently for iPhone and soon to be available on Droid this spring)

• Practice drop, cover and hold, which is the safest thing to do during an earthquake (Special Note: it’s still ShakeOut season and you can conduct your own drop, cover and hold on drill within the next two weeks and be counted; go to

• Learn how to prevent earthquake ‘messes’ by playing this game:

Just DO something. We were lucky last week; Turkey was not as fortunate. Let’s take last week’s earthquakes as a call to action. You’ll enjoy peace of mind knowing you have done something to help you and your family be ready for an earthquake, or any emergency—big or small. And remember, it is a lot easier and cheaper to strap a TV than to clean up and replace a shattered one.