Power Outage Safety Tips

PGE Visual

Was your household one of the 20,000 SOMA homes without power last night? Last night thousands of homes lost power for about an hour. But this begs the question, what do you do if you lose power for more than one hour?

Power outages are more inconvenient than anything, but they can also be dangerous. Here are some power outage safety tips to keep in mind for next time:

  • Only use flashlights for lighting, candles will cause fires.
  • Keep your refrigerator and freezer door closed. It’s tempting to keep opening it, especially if it’s dinner time. But remember, food that needs refrigeration can be kept safely for several hours (about 4) in a refrigerator that is kept closed. An unopened freezer can keep food safe for up to 24-hours.
  • Put on some extra layers of clothing if it happens to be cold outside. Never use your oven or burn charcoal as a source of heat.
  • If it’s very hot outside, take steps to remain cool. Consider visiting air conditioned places such as a movie theater or shopping mall. A ‘cooling center’ may already be open and available to your community. If you stay at home, wear light-weight clothing, stay on the lower levels of your home and drink plenty of water.
  • Remember to unplug appliances and computer equipment. A momentary power ‘surge’ may occur when the power comes back on.
  • Have a generator? Only use it away from your home, never run it inside of your home or garage, or connect it to your home’s electrical system.

For more information on what do to before, during and after a power outage please visit: ready.gov/power-outages

2016 Tsunami Preparedness Week


From March 20 to March 27, California celebrates the 2016 Tsunami Preparedness Week! Though San Francisco’s tsunami risk is low, it’s very important to understand how and why tsunamis occur, and how we can prepare for them.

A tsunami is a series of ocean waves caused by movement of the sea floor. Usually they are caused by a large earthquake (Magnitude 7.5 and above). They can also be caused by a landslide under the water’s surface. Tsunamis can move up to 500 miles per hour in the open ocean, where they are barely noticeable! But as tsunami waves approach the shore, they slow to around 40 miles per hour and grow in height. Tsunami waves can reach as high as 30 feet; however, the size really depends on the topography of the coastline. For instance, a small tsunami on one beach can be much larger at a different beach a few miles away.


Tsunami waves move the full column of water, from the sea floor to wave surface. That packs quite a punch, and is why tsunami waves can cause flooding in low-lying shoreline areas. Tsunamis also may cause strong, unpredictable ocean currents. For instance, the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake in Japan arrived in California during low tide, so it generated relatively small tsunami waves on the California coast, but resulted in strong currents in Santa Cruz, California that did serious damage to their harbor and boats.

Tsunami waves may fool people who think the danger is over after the first wave comes and goes. A tsunami is tricky: It produces a series of waves, and the first wave is almost never the largest.

Warning Signs plus What to Do


Did you know that since 1850, 54 tsunamis have been recorded or observed in San Francisco? Luckily, San Francisco has seen zero injuries and no significant damage as a result of any of these tsunamis.


San Francisco can experience three types of tsunamis:

  • Distant-Source Tsunami: This is San Francisco’s primary tsunami threat. A distant source tsunami is caused by an earthquake on the Pacific Rim over 600 miles away (think Japan, Chile, or Alaska). A tsunami of this kind can reach our shores in 4 to 15 hours post-earthquake.
  • Regional-Source Tsunami: These tsunamis originate from the Cascadia subduction zone (think Humboldt County). A tsunami of this kind can reach San Francisco shores within one hour.
  • Near-Source Tsunami: These tsunamis can originate from an earthquake as close as Point Reyes Thrust Fault. A tsunami of this kind can reach our shores within 10 to 20 minutes.


Here at the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management we have a team dedicated to updating our Tsunami Annex to our Emergency Response Plan. These are the plans City officials will use to guide our response efforts in the event a tsunami impacts San Francisco. Work is also underway to add to and improve tsunami signs around the city in areas of possible tsunami inundation. Many of these signs direct people where to go if a tsunami threat occurs. In addition, we are conducting public outreach and education in tsunami prone areas in the city. Our goal to make sure you know what to do and where to go in the face of such an emergency. Speaking of  . . .


Difference between warning, watch, etc

Here are some of the ways you may hear about a tsunami from us:

  • The Outdoor Public Warning System, a network of over 120 loudspeakers placed throughout the city.
  • Email and text messages from our emergency notification system AlertSF. To sign up for alerts text AlertSF to 888-777.
  • Emergency alerts broadcast on local radio stations such as KCBS, 740 AM, and KQED, 88.5 FM; and local television stations.
  • Social media updates via @SF_Emergency on Twitter & @SFDEM on Facebook.

Though it’s unlikely, a severe local earthquake may cause a near-source tsunami that would arrive within 10 to 20 minutes. Such an earthquake could damage the communications systems listed above, making it difficult for us to send out warning messages. That’s why you should also know “nature’s tsunami warning signs.”

Nature’s biggest warning sign is a strong earthquake, Magnitude 7.5 or above, that results in severe ground shaking lasting 20 seconds or more. “Severe” means it’s difficult to walk or stand while the shaking is going on. You may also see unusual ocean behavior, including a fast-rising flood or wall of approaching water, or unusual receding of water from the shoreline. You could also hear a loud roar, like a train or airplane, coming from the ocean.



  • If you are in or near the ocean or within the tsunami inundation area, move inland and to high ground immediately.
  • If there is earthquake damage avoid fallen power lines and stay away from weakened structures.
  • Once you reach a safe place, check back in with your radio, television, or mobile device for updates.
  • Stay out of the tsunami inundation area until City officials tell you it is safe to return.


Tsunami Preparedness

There is plenty you can do to prepare for tsunamis; the best part is that it isn’t that different from general preparedness! If you are prepared for an earthquake, flood, or fire, chances are you are well on your way to being prepared for a tsunami. Here are a few reminders and a few new tips that are tsunami specific:


Tsunamis can be scary, but the best way to confront them is with knowledge and a plan. We invite you to celebrate California’s Tsunami Preparedness Week by learning more about tsunamis with us as the week continues. Tune into our social media accounts to learn more about tsunamis. And if you’re up for it, our friend Sue can teach you a thing or two as well:


Contributing Editors:

Edie Schaffer & Amy Ramirez



A Reminder About Your Super Bowl 50 Commute…

Just about everyone in the San Francisco Bay Area knows that Super Bowl City is officially open to the public, but for those of us who commute on the ferry or use the Embarcadero BART Station, please note your usual walking route may be affected by Super Bowl City Security measures (now in place). Specifically, the area around the Justin Herman Plaza (also known as the Ferry Plaza) has a 24-hour security perimeter requiring pedestrians to pass through a secured entrance or navigate around it. Bicycles will be prohibited inside the perimeter, as will other items listed on the Super Bowl Host Committee’s website. We also encourage you to add some time to your usual commute as crowds and traffic congestion can also be expected in the area for the Super Bowl 50 events.

 For more details on navigating the security perimeter, see this blog post from the SF Municipal Transportation Agency. The SFMTA’s Super Bowl 50 webpage has full info on getting around during the events. 

SFMTA_Pedestrian Map

It’s raining! so let’s talk water.

Maybe you’ve heard it before. In your supplies for an emergency, or on a camping trip, we recommend 1 gallon of water per person per day.

In emergency preparedness land, water can mean two very different things- flooding or a vital supply that is extremely important for drinking, sanitation, and cooking.  As much as it might be counter intuitive to stock up on your emergency water supplies during the rains, it’s actually the best time to check those H2O supplies. Especially with flooding, SF sewer systems can cause problems that could require a boil water warning and if you already have some back up water stored away, it is one less thing to worry about.

Recently, we had a chance to test out this recommendation of having a gallon of water/person/day (yes, that’s 3 gallons for one person for 72 hours that all preparedness genius’ store away) on a winter camping trip.

Things to think about when using those 3 gallons of water:

  • Water is heavy! 3 gallons of water can weigh around 25 lbs and for two people closer to 50 lbs. Carrying and storing water means you have a to have a secure place that it won’t leak or destroy other items in your emergency kit (or camping supplies).
  • You might think that there is no way I’m going to drink a gallon/day, but when it comes to sanitation, washing dishes, cleaning yourself (e.g., brushing your teeth, showering), etc. it goes very quickly.
  • If it’s cold outside you might end up consuming more hot liquids and thus boiling more water to stay warm (think tea and coffee). Obviously, boiling water causes it to condense down.
  • Cooking- making pasta or something else that needs to be cooked? A lot of that water will be used up here especially when it comes to cooking with prepacked shelf-stable foods like ramen or oatmeal (great for camping by the way).

The last thing you want to worry about in an emergency or when you are relaxing on a camping trip is “am I running out of water?” The one gallon per person per day rule is actually a comfortable and safe amount of water to store. If you have pets or a special condition storing more makes sense.

Learn more about water in a disaster.

A Comprehensive Guide to Everything El Nino

Here at the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management (SFDEM) we’ve been planning for and talking about El Nino for a long time. We wanted to offer you a one-stop-shop of all things El Nino to help you feel more prepared and to assist you in sharing, educating, and empowering those around you with the same intel. We know this is a lot of information, but we hope that it answers some of your questions regarding what may come to be.

Above all SFDEM encourages you to do five things:

  1. Make a Plan
  2. Gather Emergency Supplies
  3. Register for AlertSF.org
  4. Learn the difference between 3-1-1 and 9-1-1
  5. Follow us on social media
    1. Twitter: @SF_emergency, @SF72org
    2. Facebook: @SF72org, @SFDEM

For an in-depth guide please feel free to read away and share this valuable information!

El Nino


Why do I need to “prepare” for rain? This is ridiculous. Well…we know it might seem that way but rain can do a fair amount of damage. These tips, some easy and some more extensive will help you safeguard your family, your property, and your community.


Emergency Supplies

  • We recommend that you prepare your household (including furry friends) for 72-hours. The reality is city services might not be able to reach you until then, so it’s best to have everything you might need stashed away for a 72-hour period.
  • Visit SF72.org for directions on how to assemble items already found in your home, into an emergency supplies basket/back-pack/go-bag.
      • What does that look like? How can I get started?
  • Examples:
    • Water for 72-hours, 1 gallon per person, per day
    • Food, non-perishable items
    • Flashlights (more than one) with back-up batteries
    • First-Aid kit
    • Pet food and supplies
    • Any prescription medicine you might need
    • Good old-fashioned cash

Checklist Page


Make a Plan

  • This step is really about your family and your community, will Mrs. Smith on the corner who is wheel-chair bound need help during a large storm? Probably. Or what about other at-risk neighbors that are home-bound or disabled? If your house floods, what will you do? Who will you call?



  • Make a plan with your family: this will require thinking through what you would do in the event of a large storm. Or what you would do if your home flooded.
  • Do you have a family re-unification plan? Do your kids know who to call if they are struck at school? Design a plan that will make everyone feel safe.
  • Reconnect with your neighbors, you’d be surprised how many people are home-bound or disabled and might need an extra hand.
  • Start thinking about insurance…flood insurance. Most home owners policies do not cover insurance, check in on yours to see if it does.
  • Most flood insurance also takes 30-days to go into effect, visit: www.floodsmart.gov/before for tips on how to deal with flood insurance.

The National Flood Insurance Program is available and administered by FEMA.

Learn more about grant assistance for floodwater management here: http://sfwater.org/index.aspx?page=681

Make a Plan Page

Prepare Your Home & Your Property

  • You guessed it, heavy storms can wreak havoc on your property, but there are a few things you can do before to ensure minimal damage.
    • Have a professional come by and check your roof and windows for leaks.
    • If you have outdoor furniture, tie it down or bring it in.
    • Have your gutters cleaned, or replaced if damaged.
    • If you have trees on your property, have them trimmed.
    • Learn how to turn off your gas and your electrical power.
    • Make sure that your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are ready to go and you have extra batteries.
    • Clear out any ditches that you may have.
    • Find out if your property is prone to flooding, or in a low-lying area, if it is make sure that you have a flood plan.


  • If you find that you live in an area prone to flooding, pick-up free sandbags Monday-Friday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the Public Works’ operations yard, Marin Street/Kansas Street gate.
  • You can also make them on your own with old pillowcases and sand from a hardware store! 
  • Learn more on Department of Public Works website



  • Register for AlertSF.org
    • AlertSF is our city-wide emergency alert system that notifies people of safety-related incidents via email and text. It takes less than 2 minutes to register, and the information it may provide you one day might be life-saving
    • Make sure that your smart phone’s emergency notifications are turned ON to receive emergency alerts
  • Know the Difference Between 3-1-1 & 9-1-1
    • 3-1-1 is for non-emergencies, like a flooded storm drain
    • 9-1-1 is for life-threatening emergencies
  • Download the 3-1-1 App
    • Downloading this app allows you to make reports via your smartphone rather than dialing in
  • Follow Us On Social Media for Updates
    • Twitter: @SF_emergency, @SF72org
    • Facebook: @SF72org, @SFDEM
  • Sign-Up for Weather Alerts



Flood Watch = “Be Aware.” – Conditions are right for flooding to occur in your area.

Flood Warning = “Take Action!” – Flooding is either happening or will happen shortly.

Basic Safety Tips

  • “Turn around, don’t drown!” Avoid walking or driving through flood waters.
  • Just 6 inches of moving water can knock you down, and 2 feet of water can sweep away your vehicle.
  • If there is a chance of flash flooding, get to higher ground immediately.
  • If floodwaters rise around your car but the water is not moving, abandon the car and move to higher ground. Do not leave the car and enter moving water.
  • If water has entered your garage or basement, do not walk through it.
  • If you are asked to leave your property, disconnect all electrical appliances.
  • Avoid downed power lines, broken gas lines, and downed trees.
  • Call 3-1-1 for non-life threatening issues, and call 9-1-1 for life-threatening emergencies.

Finding Information


  • Tune into local TV stations or radio stations (740 AM , 810 AM, 740 AM, 106.9 FM)
  • Keep your eye on social media as well, follow us on Twitter: @sf72org, @SF_emergency
  • Visit our website: SF72.org to find information and view our crisis map exhibiting updated information around the city.

Power Outage Steps


  • If your power goes out, the first step is to check your fuse box. Often times the power outage could be limited to your own home and can easily be fixed by resetting your circuit breakers.
  • Check to see if your neighbors are also without power, if so report the power outage by calling 1-800-743-5002
  • Turn off all electrical appliances and lamps, but we recommend leaving one lamp on so that you can tell when the power has been restored.
  • Be sure to keep your refrigerator and your freezer closed.
  • Stay far away from sagging or downed power lines, and report them by calling 3-1-1.
  • Do not bring a generator inside of your home (if you have one), and be sure to never use candles in case of a fire.
  • Never use gas ovens as a source of heat! Or BBQs to cook inside of your home.


Food Safety


  • Freeze refrigerated items that you may not be using immediately; leftovers, milk, fresh meat and poultry. This will keep them at a safe temperature longer.
  • Purchase/make ice packs and group food together in the freezer to keep it cold longer.
  • Be sure the freezer thermometer is at or below 0°F and the refrigerator is at or below 40°F. This will help you monitor if the food is safe. Keep refrigerator/freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain temperature.
  • The refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4 hours if unopened.
  • A full freezer will keep temperature for about 48 hours if unopened and 24 hours if half full.
  • If food temperature rises above 41°F for 2 hours or more you should discard it. When in doubt, throw it out!

Human Waste Disposal


  • If water is cut off, but the sewer lines are unaffected you can flush your home toilet by adding water manually to the tank. This water doesn’t need to be drinking water quality.
  • If sewer lines are broken, but toilets are reusable you can line your toilet with plastic bags.
  • If toilets are not reusable you can use a 5-gallon bucket with a lined plastic bag as a substitute.
  • If you’re near general public toilets and the sanitary sewer system is still functioning there, a visit to one of these locations is also an alternative.
  • Examples:
    • Schools, community centers, and/or public buildings.



Check on elderly, homebound, or disabled neighbors.

Beware of Hazards

  • Avoid direct contact with flood water, it may be contaminated. Wear heavy clothing and gloves to avoid contact.
  • Do not eat fresh or canned foods that have come into contact with flood water.
  • Flooded buildings or homes should be pumped out, disinfected and dried ASAP to prevent mold.
  • Do not handle live electrical equipment in wet areas, and call to have them checked before.
  • Check for any remaining damage from the storm such as: loose power lines, damaged gas lines, foundation cracks, collapsed porches or overhangs, unstable trees and downed trees.
  • If you smell gas or a hissing noise immediately call 9-1-1 and PG&E at 1-800-743-5000
  • Keep children and pets away from floodwater, which may be contaminated or contain unknown objects.
  • If you come into contact with floodwater make sure that your tetanus immunizations are up to date.
  • If you have flood insurance, file a claim as soon as possible.


  • Wear protective clothing, including rubber boots, gloves, and a hat.
  • Prevent mold by drying out building interior with fans and dehumidifiers and removing wet items immediately. Wet carpet, furniture, bedding, and any other permeable items may develop mold within 24-48 hours. For more information to report a mold complaint please call 311 or visit: https://www.sfdph.org/dph/EH/Complaints2EH/default.asp
  • You can also download and use the 3-1-1 app to file reports/ask for assistance
  • Clean any impervious surfaces, including the refrigerator and freezer, with soap and disinfect with a 10% household bleach solution (1 cup of bleach per 1 gallon of water). Do not mix cleaning solutions together (especially bleach with other products that contain ammonia) because they could produce irritating or potentially toxic gases.
  • Beware of animals that may have entered your garage or basement with the flood waters.
  • Be aware of potential chemical hazards during floods. Flood waters may have moved hazardous chemical containers, solvents, or other industrial chemicals from their normal storage places
  • If you need to hire a water and/or mold remediation company be a wise consumer. Be sure to do the following: check references, check their reputation, check to see that they are certified, get estimates and compare, ask if they have liability insurance, ask for a service guarantee, check the full extent of the service.


Winter may be coming, but it won’t be so bad if you prepare your family and your property. Take good care, and remember that we are here 24/7 monitoring the weather and working with our partner agencies and utility companies to ensure a safe winter.


If you need help getting started on gathering your emergency supplies or making a family plan please visit: SF72.org

 Additional Resources & Information:

















You can sign up for those alerts at www.sf72.org and www.AlertSF.org.