From the Field: DEM Volunteering Medical Relief in Haiti

Originally posted on San Francisco DEM:

Occasionally, staff members at San Francisco DEM have an opportunity to travel abroad. They frequently write back with their observations. The following journals a recent trip by DEM Emergency Medical Services Agency staff members, Crystal Wright and John Brown, who went to Haiti to volunteer their personal time and professional expertise to the rural town of Leon. 


Crystal Wright, EMT-P, and John Brown MD, recently returned from a week of volunteer work in rural Leon, a town of some 8,000 people in the Grande Anse province of southwestern Haiti. The reason for their visit was to support a local dispensary staffed with a nurse, a pharmacist, a dentist and a tuberculosis program health aide. The medical operation, begun in 2000 by the Seattle King County Disaster Team (a member of the Disaster Medical Assistance Team program of the U.S. Health and Human Services Department) as a training mission for health care…

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Muscle Memory

Last week a 6.9 magnitude earthquake shook northern Greece and Western Turkey. The quake caused 266 injuries–mostly resulting from people rushing out of buildings. So, we’re going to get up on our soap box (or under it, should the earth move) and remind everyone what to do during an earthquake.


Quake Basics

  1. Fight the urge to run (and that includes running to get in a doorway!).
  2. Try to get next to an interior wall, away from windows, and drop (think: I’m not going to run any where because that’s how I can get hit by flying objects or get knocked over).
  3. Make yourself as small as possible (think: I need to curl up into a ball to protect my vital organs).
  4. Hold on your head (think: I need to protect my head from getting hit by falling objects).
  5. If you are close to table, or something akin, get under it and hold on to a leg (but only if you are close to one; if you have to move a ways to even get to a table you’re safer to drop where you and hold your head/neck).


If you or someone you know has an access and/or functional need, learn more about what to do during an earthquake here

Practice, Practice, Practice!

As we just saw in Turkey, many of us have an instinctual urge to run out of a structure during an earthquake. To fight this knee-jerk reaction, we need to practice the safest thing to do during an earthquake, which is to drop, cover and hold on. And by practicing, we create muscle memory: meaning, actually going through the motions in drills can teach your body to know exactly what to do in that moment when you feel the earth move.

Want to practice drop, cover, and hold? It’s really easy to do: pretend you are experiencing  an earthquake, and get under a desk or table and hold on to a leg.  If you aren’t close to anything you can get under, drop to the ground and make yourself as small as possible.  Cover your head and neck with your arms all the while thinking about trying to protect your head and vital organs as you curl into as small of a target as possible. Want to see exactly how to do it? See this video demo:


Doorways aren’t your friend in an earthquake, especially in modern houses and buildings. That old myth comes from the time when homes were made out of things like reinforced adobe, and the doorways were actually the strongest parts of the building. These days, doorways are no stronger than any other part of the house, and you have no way to protect yourself from flying or falling objects. And while you are trying to get to said doorway is when you are most vulnerable to injury.

You might’ve heard of the “triangle of life” method, or finding shelter in the void space next to a larger object in an earthquake. DO NOT to follow the triangle of life advice, mostly because the greatest danger during an earthquake is from falling objects, and in a really big quake, you might not actually be able to run or crawl to find a “triangle of life” zone. Learn more about why the triangle of life is not safe.

For more myths, check out Southern California Earthquake Center’s Earthquake Myths.

Getting the 4-1-1 After the Earthquake (or any Emergency)

In an emergency, don’t call out on your phone, but if you have access, use text, Facebook, and/or Twitter to share your status and what’s happening around you. Use the hashtag #SF72 in your post, which helps the city to be aware of and respond to the situation at hand. Follow @SF_emergency on Twitter to find out (and share) the latest updates.  We’ll also let you know what’s happening via our SF72 Crisis Map.

Become an Earthquake Preparedness Guru

Programs like the Fire Department’s Neighborhood Emergency Response Team (SF NERT) provides free training that will allow you take care of yourself, your family, and your neighborhood in the next disaster.

Spread the Word

Share this information with your loved ones and go to to learn how to be prepared for just about any emergency. And remember, you are more prepared than you think!



Keep Your Cool, San Francisco

Originally posted on San Francisco DEM:

It’s going to be pretty hot in San Francisco over the next few days. That said, we want to remind everyone of some good public health recommendations (brought to us by our friends at the San Francisco Department of Public Health) to keep us cool and comfortable today and tomorrow.

It is important to check regularly on adults at risk, especially the isolated elderly.

Visit at‐risk adults at least twice a day and watch them closely

for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

So, the basics:

  • Drink fluids frequently throughout the day, before you feel thirsty.
  • Check on the elderly regularly.
  • Don’t leave children or pets in the car!
  • Take cool showers/baths.
  • Limit outdoor activity, especially during the hottest part of the day.
  • Take frequent breaks in the shade when spending time outside.
  • Wear light‐colored, light‐weight clothing and a hat.
  • Avoid alcoholic beverages and caffeinated drinks.
  • Use an air conditioner if you have one.
  •  If you do not have an air conditioner, go to a cooler place such as an air‐conditioned family’s,
    friend’s or neighbor’s home, store, mall, museum, or movie theater, or, visit a cooling center.
  • Check on your at‐risk family, friends and neighbors often and help them get to a cool place.
  • Fans alone will not keep you cool when it is really hot outside.
  • Conserve by setting your air conditioner to 78 degrees and only cooling rooms you are using
    when you are at home.
  • Avoid strenuous activity, or plan it for the coolest part of the day, usually in the morning.
  • between 4 a.m. and 7 a.m. or in the evening. If you exercise, drink two to four glasses of cool,
    nonalcoholic fluids each hour.  A sports beverage can replace the salt and minerals you lose in
    sweat. If you are used to regular exercise, just keep in mind the symptoms of heat illness when
    exercising and stop or rest if any occur.
  • Bathing or showering with cool (not cold) water can be helpful for those able to do so safely.
  • It is important to check regularly on adults at risk, especially the isolated elderly.  Visit at‐risk
    adults at least twice a day and watch them closely for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

Heatwave Pic_5-13-2014

Looking for cooler places to hang out? Check out the crisis map for exact locations of cooler environments (think community centers, movie theater, libraries, swimming pools and/or shaded parks).

For more information about heat waves and and how to prevent heat illness, check out SFDPH’s Frequently Asked Questions about Heat Waves and Heat Illness  .

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San Francisco, Open Your Golden Gates!

Every April 18th we commemorate the anniversary of the San Francisco Earthquake and Fire with a combination of tradition and ceremony. This year, we added one more element to the activities: connection.

The tradition component is demonstrated when we gather at Lotta’s Fountain at five in the morning with our fellow San Franciscans (some of us in 1906 period attire) to mark the moment when the earthquake struck.

The ceremony includes a sing along of the universally well know “San Francisco” song as we prepare to change locations to the Golden Hydrant in Dolores Park, which gets a fresh coat of gold paint from native San Franciscans every April 18th at dawn.

And new to the mix this year is connection, when we announced the partnership between DEM and the private social network for neighborhoodsNextdoor.

Here’s the photo recap of DEM’s (and SF72′s) commemoration activities, that always leave us with a renewed sense of San Francisco pride.


Connections + Information = Community Resilience

April 18th marks the 108th anniversary of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire. Although very few of us have a first-hand memory of what remains one of California’s most significant catastrophes, every April many of us think about the what ifs with regard to earthquakes.

DEM dressed for last year's commemoration ceremony.

DEM dressed for last year’s commemoration ceremony.

But actual emergencies look more like people coming together than communities falling apart. And at the heart of the matter is being connected…connected in your affinity groups…connected in your community…connected in your neighborhoods.  And a connected and informed community is a resilient and strong community.

Today SF72 announced a partnership with Nextdoor, (, the private social network for neighborhoods. With Nextdoor, San Francisco residents can join private neighborhood websites that make it easy to connect with neighbors and communicate about crime and safety, local service recommendations, lost pets, and emergency plans. SF72 will use Nextdoor to share emergency preparedness tips and help connect neighbors before San Francisco faces an emergency situation. SF72 also can share emergency alerts to affected neighborhoods through Nextdoor.

Each San Francisco neighborhood has its own private Nextdoor neighborhood website, accessible only to residents of that neighborhood. Neighborhoods establish and self-manage their own Nextdoor websites, and the City will not be able to access residents’ websites, contact information, or content. San Francisco residents interested in joining their neighborhood’s Nextdoor website can visit and enter their address.

So as we think about the 1906 earthquake and fire, let’s commemorate by taking the time to meet your neighbors – at home, at work, or through social networks. After all, these are the people we rely on everyday no matter the crisis!

15628__234HR ©Michael Mustacchi