Blog Archives

Making the Right Call

When someone dials 9-1-1 it’s for a medical or fire emergency, or a crime in progress. These are very serious and scary situations, and our City’s 9-1-1 dispatchers are experts at sending the right kind of help to the right location–fast.

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.

But sometimes people call 9-1-1 for things that are not emergencies, like reporting stolen property or someone loitering. Although these types of situations are serious and should be reported, calling 9-1-1 for non-life and non-property threatening situations ties up our 9-1-1 phone lines and makes it harder for real emergency calls to get through. So, if you need Police assistance but are not experiencing a crime in progress, please call the San Francisco Police Department’s non-emergency phone line: 415-553-0123. Please note that this line is answered as quickly as possible—after calls to 9-1-1. If your call is not answered immediately, it’s because our 9-1-1 dispatchers are handling priority emergency medical, fire, or criminal activity calls that can result in lives being saved and crimes being stopped.

From time to time our City’s 9-1-1 dispatchers also receive calls for things that are not emergencies like reporting a blocked driveway or how to access a City service. For these circumstances, it’s best to dial 3-1-1 where expert staff can provide information on a variety of non-emergency City services, both over the phone and on the 311 app. And just like 9-1-1 and 415-553-0123, they are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Before you dial 9-1-1 keep in mind the nature of your call. Is it an emergency that requires immediate medical, fire, or police response? If so, or even if you’re not sure, dial 9-1-1. Is it something that should be reported to the Police but is not a crime in progress? Then please call the San Francisco Police Department non-emergency line at 415-553-0123. And if you have general questions or need to report a situation needing city services, call 3-1-1. You could be saving someone’s life by making the right call when it comes to dialing 9-1-1.

The San Francisco 9-1-1 Dispatch Center is a division within the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management, which leads the City in planning, preparedness, communication, response, and recovery for daily emergencies, large-scale citywide events, and major disasters. To learn more about the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management visit

Will it Work at 0200?

Guest Blog by: Edie Schaffer

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

Learn more about San Francisco’s Emergency Plans by visiting

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


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:

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 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 or  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

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

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

Getting the Word Out

Outdoor Public Warning System

We call it the Outdoor Public Warning System. What do you call it?

Today is Day 1 of San Francisco’s 3-day tsunami exercise and we’re practicing the City’s alert and warning procedures.  Say what?!? It’s how we get the word out in an emergency- in this case a tsunami.  For City leaders and top emergency officials, it’s reviewing the decisions needed to send an alert and even call for an evacuation of coastal neighborhoods.  For the emergency operations center staff, it’s executing pre-planned measures to ready themselves and the public for an impending tsunami.  While we won’t actually send alerts to the media, sound the sirens, push text messages, or dominate your Twitter feed- we will practice doing so in a simulated environment.

In a real emergency, we use a number of tools to help get the word out to you. Here’s a rundown of some of tools we have in San Francisco:

The Outdoor Public Warning System 

It has many names- the Burrito Call, the Tuesday Noon Siren, or Charlie Brown’s teacher but the San Francisco’s Outdoor Public Warning System is there to alert residents and visitors of the City about possible danger. Specific emergency announcements can be broadcast over any one (or more) of the 109 sirens which are located on poles and on top of buildings throughout all neighborhoods in San Francisco, Treasure Island, and Yerba Buena.

The sirens are tested at noon every Tuesday. During the weekly test, the siren emits a single 15 second alert tone, similar to an emergency vehicle siren. In the event of a disaster, the 15 second alert tone will sound repeatedly for 5 minutes. For more information visit


AlertSF is a text-based notification system for San Francisco’s residents and visitors. AlertSF will send alerts regarding emergencies disrupting vehicular/pedestrian traffic, watches and warnings for tsunamis, flooding, and Citywide post-disaster information to your registered wireless devices and email accounts. Registrants can also sign up to receive English-language automated information feeds and/or alerts targeted to specific areas of the City. To sign up for AlertSF please visit:

Twitter: @sf_emergency

@SF_Emergency is the Department of Emergency Management’s official Twitter account for emergency public information. In general we provide information on 1) what to do (e.g., avoid the area); and 2) what geographic area is impacted; and 3) whether the incident is related law enforcement, fire, transit, or traffic. Follow us at @SF_Emergency

Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA)

San Francisco can access the Wireless Emergency Alert system to send wireless phones and other enabled mobile devices geographically-targeted, text-like messages alerting them of imminent threats to safety in their area. Basically, if your wireless phone pings a cell tower in San Francisco, we can send you an alert message.  For more information visit:


SF72 moves beyond the concept of building a disaster kit — instead, it will provide accessible tools and simple steps to help San Franciscans connect with one another and support their communities, now and in the event of an emergency.

In an Emergency is the portion of the website that will provide up–to–date information on current emergencies, including a description of the emergency and instructions for any actions that the public should take (e.g., boil water, shelter in place, avoid the area around Civic Center, etc.). This section of the website will become the homepage of SF72 during a major emergency. To learn more visit

The sirens, AlertSF, social media, WEA, and SF72 are just some of the resources we can use to help get the word out.  In the event of tsunami or other major disaster, police, fire fighters, volunteers, and community networks could also help get information to neighborhoods throughout San Francisco.  Finally, we’ll also push out information to the media so they can report what’s going on to you.

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