Blog Archives

Will it Work at 0200?

Guest Blog by: Edie Schaffer

How do you write emergency plans that work at zero dark thirty hours? DEM’s Lead Emergency Planner, Amy Ramirez, and I have been invited to speak on this topic at the International Association of Emergency Managers Annual Conference in Savannah, Georgia during the week of October 17, 2016. Consider this blog a preview of coming attractions, and a summary of some important lessons I’ve learned from Amy since I joined DEM in 2013.

So, how do we write emergency plans that actually help people in the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) quickly understand what they need to do to coordinate information and resources in support of field responders during a disaster? Emergency planners here at DEM use this question as both a spur and a touchstone.

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

When deciding what to include in an emergency plan, we literally ask: Will it help us get the job done at 0200 hours? Is this information something emergency managers need to know to do our jobs in the EOC after a severe earthquake or other major incident? If not, why include it? Similarly, when deciding how to organize an emergency plan, we ask: When I walk into the EOC at 0200, what do I need to know at a minimum to successfully coordinate this incident? Answering this question has led us to reorganize DEM’s emergency plans to include, up front in Section 1, what we call our “Critical Action Guide.”

Traditional emergency plans begin with a purpose and scope section, a list of assumptions the plan author made in writing the plan, and other introductory material. But after talking with the people who use our plans—other emergency managers—we realized the tools plan users need to hit the EOC running shouldn’t be hidden in the middle of a plan. They should be front loaded for easy access; this is the purpose of the Critical Action Guide.

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

The Critical Action Guide is an abbreviated version of the plan, designed to function as a tear-away resource for San Francisco EOC and Department Operations Center (DOC) personnel. For example, a Critical Action Guide for a hazard-specific plan (e.g., an earthquake or tsunami plan) typically includes an overview of possible actions needed to successfully coordinate the incident; a critical decision matrix to assist users making significant decisions (e.g., do we evacuate the tsunami inundation area or not?); an event coordination task list of critical steps to take to coordinate the incident; and a roles and responsibilities table showing hazard-related duties of each department or agency involved.

Speaking of agency and departmental involvement one of the most important aspects of emergency planning is something we might miss if we focus only on the words on the page. It’s the people who work together to develop and maintain the plan. It’s the partnerships we forge as we work together on the plan. It’s the challenges we face together as we finish and implement the plan. Without input and support from our partners, our plans are paper tigers. When they embody the collective knowledge, expertise, and experience of the departments and agencies involved, our plans become an essential blueprint for how we’ll work together to protect and restore San Francisco after disaster strikes (even in the middle of the night).

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Edie Schaffer joined the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management as an Emergency Planner in 2013. Since then she’s revised San Francisco’s Hazard Mitigation Plan and Tsunami Annex. She’s now working on a revision of our Disaster Debris Management Plan. Edie’s favorite thing about her work is going home at night with the feeling that she’s done something to help make San Francisco safer and stronger.

Learn more about San Francisco’s Emergency Plans by visiting http://sfdem.org/plans-0

The Awards Go To…

DEM EMS Strong Logo 3 Inches

San Francisco’s emergency medical service (EMS) professionals rush every day to the scenes of emergencies to assist in what might be someone’s darkest hour.  Wednesday May 20 is our opportunity to honor their achievements, which often go unnoticed.

Our City’s EMS honorees represent paramedics, emergency medical technicians, dispatchers, educators, and emergency room providers.  Collectively they are shining examples of San Francisco’s emergency medical services community.

EMS Community Service Award
University San Francisco Emergency Medical Response Service

The EMS Community Service Award is presented to community members not employed by EMS system providers who have demonstrated leadership, compassion, and proficiency in providing emergency care for patients.  The University of San Francisco’s Emergency Medical Response Service is this year’s honoree.  USF developed their first on-campus EMS response service run by students and developed a community outreach plan to provide CPR, first aid, and disaster response training.

EMS Hospital Provider Award
UCSF Medical Center and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Operation Move Team

The EMS Hospital Provider Award is presented to hospital-based providers for their exemplary care of EMS patients and their efforts on behalf of EMS field providers in building the teamwork that patients need to recover from their crises.  The UCSF Medical Center and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Operations Move Team planned and executed a safe move for more than 130 patients from UCSF’s Parnassus and Mount Zion campuses to the new Benioff Children’s Hospital campus with minimal impact on EMS services.  As result of their advanced planning, disaster preparedness was enhanced at all sites.

EMS Dispatcher Award
Chancellor Mateo, EMD

The EMS Dispatcher Award is presented for service to patients calling in time of need for medical emergencies above and beyond the normal duties of EMS dispatch.  Chancellor Mateo was selected by his peers for 12 years of outstanding performance as a dispatcher and dispatch trainer.

EMS Field Provider Award
Anthony Dumont, EMT-P

The EMS Field Provider Award is presented to an active Emergency Medical Technician or Paramedic who provides excellent care to patients in need in a compassionate, professional and exemplary manner.  Anthony Dumont, EMT-P receives this honor for outstanding performance as a public safety provider in law enforcement, firefighting, and emergency medical care.  Anthony is a leader in the development of medical support to tactical situations.

Raymond Lim Excellence to EMS Award
Megan Corry, San Francisco City College

Raymond Lim Excellence in EMS is presented to an individual to honor a career spent in caring for EMS patients in an exemplary and extraordinary way.  True to the spirit of Raymond Lim, a pioneer in establishing quality care in California EMS, Megan Corry has dedicated her 20-year career to emergency medical services in the field and in the classroom.  Megan trains future EMS professional as the Program Director of City College of San Francisco’s nationally accredited paramedic training program.

Congratulations to all of our honorees!  Thank you for your service to San Francisco.

Inspired?  Attend San Francisco’s Emergency Medical Services Open House at City College of San Francisco on May 20, from noon to 4:00 p.m.   San Francisco’s EMS providers and professionals will be on hand to answer your questions.  For more information about the San Francisco Emergency Medical Services Open House, Job Fair, andAwards visit: http://www.sfdem.org/emsawards

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.  

Fire Safety and Prevention is in Your Hands

How to Use a Fire Extinguisher Remember the word P.A.S.S PULL -Place the extinguisher on the floor. Hold it by the tank (pressure on the handle could pinch the pin). Pull the pin straight out. AIM -Start 10 feet back from the fire. Aim at the base of the fire. SQUEEZE -Squeeze the lever on the fire extinguisher SWEEP -Sweep from side to side, moving in slowly until the fire is out.

How to Use a Fire Extinguisher
Remember the word P.A.S.S
PULL – Place the extinguisher on the floor. Hold it by the tank (pressure on the handle could pinch the pin). Pull the pin straight out.
AIM – Start 10 feet back from the fire. Aim at the base of the fire.
SQUEEZE – Squeeze the lever on the fire extinguisher
SWEEP – Sweep from side to side, moving in slowly until the fire is out.

Last night’s 4-Alarm Fire in the Mission was tragic as one person lost their life and dozens were left without a home.   As fire investigators determine what happened it is important to remember that there are simple things you can do prevent a fire in your home.   Here are a few:

  • Never leave candles unattended.
  • Don’t overload extension cords.
  • Never leave food on the stove or in the oven unattended.
  • Always unplug small appliances when they are not in use to prevent overheating as well as conserving electricity.
  • Keep combustibles away from space heaters or other heat producing appliances.
  • Allow sufficient space around computers to let them vent properly.
  • Keep your eyes open! If your lights dim every time you plug something in, it could be a sign something is wrong. Likewise, if your circuit breaker keeps tripping, then you should call an electrician to help you.
  • If you see a fire starting at a wall outlet, pull the plug out of the wall and turn off the power to the outlet. Then call 9-1-1.  It is important you do not put water on an electrical fire as this only make things worse.

Finally, remember that smoke alarms should be installed inside every bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level.  Test all smoke alarms at least once a month and replace batteries every six months; however, we recommend upgrading to an extended life smoke alarm (for example: 10 year smoke alarm).

Ready for more?   The San Francisco Fire Department has additional resources to educate yourself and others about fire safety.  Visit www.sf72.org  or take the City’s free Neighborhood Emergency Response Team (NERT) training to prepare for any emergency.

Winter is Coming

Winter-Is-ComingNo, we’re not expecting “White Walkers” to emerge from the fog but heavy rain and high winds are headed our way on Wednesday.  While the Stark family motto of warning and caution, “Winter is Coming”, might be a little dramatic, we should remember this kind of weather can cause landslides or flooding.

Here are some simple tips to safe, dry, and make you the Jon Snow of your neighborhood:

  • Sweep up leaves and litter from their sidewalks and gutters and place them in the appropriate bins.  This can help keep storm drains from getting clogged.
  • Anywhere it rains it can flood especially if you live in a low lying area. Construct barriers to stop floodwater from entering your home or building.
  • If water has entered a garage or basement, do not walk through it. You can’t always see or smell what’s in the water and it could be harmful to you.
  • Walking through moving water is dangerous. Six inches of moving water can make you fall.  If you must walk in water, walk where the water is not moving.  Use a stick to check the firmness of the ground in front of you.
  • Stay clear of water that is in contact with downed power lines.
  • Keep children from playing around high water, storm drains, or any flooded areas.
  • Keep children from playing around high water, storm drains, or any flooded areas.
  • Secure patio furniture to prevent potential projectile damage in high wind conditions.
  • Do what you can safely to keep drains and downspouts clear of leaves, branches, etc. that could block water flow and lead to localized flooding.
  • Cover windows with heavy-duty plastic, or temporary wood coverings to minimize risks from flying tree branches in high-wind conditions.

Flooding can also cause headaches on roadways. The followingare important points to remember when driving in flood conditions:

  • Six inches of water will reach the bottom of most passenger cars causing loss of control and possible stalling. A foot of water will float many vehicles
  • Avoid driving through flooded roads. The depth of water is not always obvious and you could be stranded or trapped.
  • Barricades are there for your protection. Turn around and go the other way.
  • Be especially cautious driving at night when it is harder to recognize flood dangers.

Review your emergency supplies.  Do you have batteries for your flashlight just in case the power goes out?  Visit www.sf72.org/supplies for more ideas.

To report rain related issued call 3-1-1. If you are in danger or have an emergency call 9-1-1.

For more information, call 3-1-1 or follow @sfpublicworks and @sf_emergency on Twitter.  You can also visit sf72.org/em/home or 511.org  for additional road closure and other safety information.

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.

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 www.sfdem.org/tsunamiwalk.

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 www.sf72.org.

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 www.AlertSF.org.
  • 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.