One Strap at at Time

“Non Structural Mitigation” is a fancy term for doing what you can to prevent things like furniture, appliances, wall decor, etc. from falling or tipping over during an earthquake. This blog is an ongoing journal by DEM‘ers (and SF72 enthusiasts!) first-hand incremental steps to prevent the big mess that the big one could cause. We’d also love to hear about anything you’ve done to Beat the Quake, so please share here!

The first in this series of “One Strap at a Time” comes to us from Francis Zamora, DEM’s Public Information Officer, Mirolama Park resident, and soon-to-be first-time dad.


1 Strap at a Time_1

We all have a little bit of “I should” in us.  I should get back to the gym or I should know what does and does not belong in the compost bin by now. For many of us, preparedness is no different: I should be more prepared for an emergency.  While getting back to the gym can be a challenge, there are a lot of quick wins when it comes to preparedness.

Case in point: For months, I’ve been saying I should really secure my TV.  Over the long weekend, I finally did it.  For $19.99, I bought a set of Flat Screen Safety Straps from Home Depot (Aisle 13). They’re also available on Amazon for the same price.

1 strap at a time_2

The next day, I took a quick look at the instructions and used the straps to secure my TV.  It was easy and took less than 10 minutes.  Now I have some piece of mind that I’ve done what I can prevent my TV from falling over during an earthquake, kid-quake, or pet-quake.

For more simple preparedness tips and ideas visit

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20 Years Ago: The Northridge Earthquake

1994 Northridge Earthquake

1994 Northridge Earthquake (FEMA NEWS PHOTO)

San Franciscans stand with our fellow Californians by remembering the 1994 Northridge Earthquake.  We remember the lives that were lost and those that were changed.  The magnitude 6.7 quake caused $25 billion in damage and was the costliest U.S. natural disaster at the time.  Northridge was a not so subtle reminder that we live in earthquake country (Universal City residents received a more subtle reminder this morning).  The 20th Anniversary of the Northridge Earthquake is also about saluting the resilient people that rebuilt their community and worked hard to return to normal life.

More Prepared

Whether you’re just starting out or a preparedness pro, gathering your emergency supplies and planning ahead is easy. A good rule of thumb is to have supplies for about 3 days, or 72 hours. You’ll be surprised at how much you already have. Take simple steps today on to prepare and plan for any emergency.

Ready for more?  SFDEM encourages you to work with our partners to get even better prepared as a household, neighborhood, or community.

American Red Cross Bay Area Chapter provides a variety of training including first aid, CPR, and how to prepare for emergencies.

Neighborhood Empowerment Network equips SF neighborhoods with tools and programs designed to create safe, clean, and economically resilient communities.

San Francisco Neighborhood Emergency Response Team teaches emergency preparedness and response basics through free hands-on training so you are ready to take care of yourself and others.

Finally, the Earthquake Safety Implementation Program is hosting an Earthquake Retrofit Fair to help people put some backbone into San Francisco’s soft story buildings that can be vulnerable when the ground starts shaking.

Progressive Preparedness is so San Francisco

We believe in connection, not catastrophe.

Here’s the thing: actual emergencies look more like people coming together than cities falling apart. And people who are more connected fare better in times of crisis.

By building connections and preparing for emergencies before something happens to the city we love, we can act swiftly, safely, and efficiently. And we can get through that first 72 hours, as a community. This is what it means to prepare…progressively.

Please join us this fall as we take San Francisco on a new kind of preparedness journey— a journey that has no interest in a looming disaster as the reason to get prepared, but rather the peace of mind that comes from taking some simple steps to be better prepared in the face of any emergency—big or small. And the resilience that comes from being a part of a prepared and connected San Francisco community.

Check out our San Francisco Progressive Preparedness Manifesto video

What to look for from us this fall.

Throughout September and October we’ll be sharing progressive preparedness tips on our social media platforms (@em4sf and our DEM Facebook page).  We hope you’ll follow us, add these tips to your preparedness know-how, and share the info with your family, friends, neighbors, colleagues…anyone you care about.

We’ll also be sharing with you events and other opportunities to progressively prepare with with your San Francisco community—one of highlighted importance being the statewide earthquake drill: ShakeOut taking place October 17th at 10:17 am. We hope you participate (and get counted) by registering yourself, household and/or workplace via, where you can also learn more about the drop, cover and hold on drill along with other neat ways to progressively prepare for an earthquake.

Lastly, on October 17th, which also is the 24th anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake, we’ll be unveiling our progressive preparedness integration platform (yes, we’re sounding vague yet hopefully intriguing on purpose), so stay tuned!

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What is Resilience?

Last month Rob Dudgeon, DEM Deputy Director, visited Haifa, Israel [see his first blog about the trip Notes from the Field: Haifa, Israel]. In this second installment journaling his experience there, Rob shares his perspectives on the fundamental meaning of resilience through the lens of Haifa’s mayor who led his city’s resilience to the Second Lebanon war in 2006 when hundreds of rockets rained down on Haifa for a month.


We talk about it all the time like it’s an unknown quantity. It’s not. People are naturally resilient and the evidence is right in front of us. In the past weeks I’ve had opportunities to see this in an up close and personal way. It’s not about disasters. It’s about the natural state of being that allows people to adapt and push through life’s adversities. Whether it’s the health of a family member, the end of a marriage or a tornado…often times the results are the same. We suddenly find ourselves in chaos, our world asunder, and all of our touch points suddenly absent. Or at least that’s how it feels.

City of Haifa's rooftops

City of Haifa’s rooftops

Remarkably, we don’t generally cease to exist when this happens. We do what we need to do: some need space and time to quietly make sense of it all; some reach out to trusted friends; and others immediately spring into action – doing anything and everything to right the boat.

On an individual basis we are resilient. We survive. We often thrive as we rebuild ourselves. The story of the Phoenix carries a lot of truth if you stop and think about it. As I write this I’m reflecting on a couple instances recently where people I care about very much are experiencing just that: rebirth, rebuilding, and recovery from adversity. I know that coming out the other end of the tunnel is a given. Because they are strong; they adapt; they are resilient.

Happy Haifa guy

So how does the resilience of the human spirit relate to resilience in terms of emergency management? Communities are people. In the mix of thinkers, talkers and action takers there is a crowd-sourced recipe for success. Even in the midst of war, unlikely networks and alliances emerge to help each other survive.  Communities recover together.  They adapt and forge ahead.

We spoke to the Mayor of Haifa about the rocket attacks his city withstood during the Second Lebanon war in 2006. For a month hundreds of rockets rained down on the neighborhoods injuring, killing and terrorizing the residents of Haifa. While watching the first rockets strike from the roof of a building all the while refusing to believe what he was seeing, the situation didn’t sink in until a veteran of the First Lebanon War convinced him the flames were from a Katoush rocket, not a wildfire. Within 15 minutes, he was onsite of where that rocket landed and from then on, going to the scene of every attack within minutes became his signature action; a sign of his personal resilience and a message of commitment to his city.

Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav greeting the visiting San Francisco Emergency Management Delegation.

Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav greeting the visiting San Francisco Emergency Management Delegation

He led from front, putting himself in harm’s way to do his part.  His role wasn’t to put out the fires or treat the injured; it was to be the face of Haifa. He connected with the residents.  He consoled the grieving, shared their anger and spread his message that the community was whole and could not be fractured. When their enemies warned Arab residents of Haifa to leave, the Mayor took the airwaves and appealed to them as well – pointing out that Haifa belonged to all of them. Most didn’t leave. He threw away any notion that his city would fail. He knew the only weapon the city had was unity and he made bold decisions to preserve it.

The San Francisco Emergency Management Delegation and San Francisco-Haifa Sister City Committee members.

The San Francisco Emergency Management Delegation and San Francisco-Haifa Sister City Committee members

To get recovery moving the Mayor set up a line of credit for the city. On his own authority he arranged $20 million with a phone call. His advice to us? Don’t wait for the government. Do it yourself.  He pushed recovery efforts to the point that the national government got upset with him because Haifa didn’t look “war torn” enough. It was hurting their PR efforts. His resilience led the way for the community to follow. Within a month of the end of hostilities things were largely back to normal.

In the neighborhoods and hospitals they adapted. They learned how to operate in that hostile environment. New techniques and processes grew from necessity, after all it’s not a great idea to triage in the hospital parking lot when the hospital is a target (but that’s probably another post). In the aftermath of the war Haifa has seen many changes – Rambam Hospital is building a 2000 bed surge space that’s protected. The city is investing in declining neighborhoods to bolster small business. And they have initiated programs to help people cope with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), especially children.

Resilience triumphs in Haifa.

Resilience triumphs in Haifa

At first blush one might easily classify the PTSD programs for kids as an Israeli problem, but I wouldn’t discount its applicability in the US too quickly. Luckily we don’t live with the threat of rockets from a hostile neighbor, but we’ve got plenty of violence affecting children every day in this country. Haifa accepts the reality that an attack is likely any time, any day, and they have adapted by proactively helping residents cope with it. It’s unlikely to change in the near future, so the best they can do is adapt and carry on.

We can find similar stories of adaptation and resilience everywhere if we just open ourselves to it. From the Red River floods to any hurricane, earthquake or tornado there are literally dozens of stories of communities coming together. In Boston, Connecticut, Colorado and New York the fires of violence do not destroy communities, instead they forge stronger bonds. We suffer together and we recover together. Resilience is part of us. It’s our natural state. Think about your own circumstances and I know you’ll find that you are too. I have and I am.

DEM Deputy Director and author of this EM4SF Blog, Rob Dudgeon feeling Haifa's resilience.

DEM Deputy Director and author of this EM4SF Blog, Rob Dudgeon feeling Haifa’s resilience

Notes from the Field: Haifa, Israel

Occasionally, staff members at the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management (DEM) have an opportunity to travel abroad. They frequently write back with their observations. The following is the first of brief series of blogs journaling the experiences of DEM Deputy Director, Rob Dudgeon, who last week participated in a San Francisco emergency management delegation that visited Haifa, Israel.  The purpose of the visit: to exchange best practices on seismic strengthening programs, early warning systems, emergency preparedness and emergency management.


As I sit in that strange place between here and there—that place that happens on airplanes when the cabin is dark in a simulated night but the sun outside is bright—I finally have time to reflect on the journey of which I am a part: Israel.

It’s been a few busy weeks since I was asked to join a group headed to Haifa. The ensuing weeks of chaos saw a statewide emergency exercise, the Bay to Breakers run, countless daily distractions and all the usual challenges of coordinating a trip overseas.  Somewhere in all of that we managed to develop a program for an all-day symposium on disasters.  Only now, as I fly over Europe, on the last leg of my journey have I been able to stop and think about the mission beyond the obvious and the opportunities before us.

Our delegation is an interesting cast of characters: San Francisco city officials representing public works, public health, and emergency management joined by the Chair of the Haifa Sister City Commission, the San Francisco Fleet Week Association and a world renowned orthopedic surgeon.  Each of us brings a unique perspective and diverse curiosities.  Some have been to Israel several times while for others it’s our first visit.

Why are we in Israel you may be asking yourself? It all started three years ago when Haifa’s Mayor Yahov, while on a tour of San Francisco City Hall, met San Francisco Department of Public Works Director of City Infrastructure and City Engineer, Fuad Sweiss. The two spent hours discussing building codes and infrastructure, and within days San Francisco received an invitation to visit Haifa and share knowledge.  And now here we are, quite literally on the eve of fulfilling that request.

Tomorrow we share what we know about disaster medicine, emergency management and infrastructure that is built to withstand earthquakes.  We’ll also talk about San Francisco’s unique partnership with the military and the San Francisco Fleet Week Association.

Haifa at Night

Haifa at Night

At first blush, I wondered why Haifa is asking us about disasters. If anything we should be asking them. I mean after all, they’ve seen more mass casualties and emergency events than I can count. Multiple wars and terrorist attacks force a society to live in a state of heightened readiness.  It’s an unfortunate reality of the world today. Building codes that include safe rooms for missile attacks; hospitals with huge surge capacity; and even a medical center with an underground garage that converts to a 2000 bed hospital are all part of daily life in Northern Israel.

Then I got to thinking—they’ve had years preparing for, practicing and ultimately experiencing acts of violence, but the damage done by terrorist attacks is localized to the specific targeted region. Infrastructure may be compromised in the surrounding areas but is generally restored relatively quickly. While the events and after effects are incredibly traumatic, they impact a small percentage of the region’s overall population. An earthquake, on the other hand, impacts wide swaths of a region and the second, third and fourth order effects can be felt globally if major economic or political centers are impacted. So, upon further analysis: there is indeed plenty to share.

Port of Haifa

Port of Haifa

Out of necessity Israel thinks of disaster response in terms of response and recovery to an act of violence; whereas, we spend our time thinking, studying and preparing for catastrophic events. In a few short hours we’ll meet and begin a journey of discovery that will undoubtedly make both cities more resilient. But for now, my new friends and I on the plane sit and doze while we fast forward 10 hours to Israeli time, trying to convince our bodies to ignore the blazing sun peeking under the cabin’s window shades.

Iron Dome standing watch above Haifa – stark reality of where we are and the lessons learned by the people here

Iron Dome standing watch above Haifa which serves as a stark reality of where we are and the lessons learned by the people who live here.


More about the Author:

Rob HeadshotRob Dudgeon is a Deputy Director in San Francisco’s Department of Emergency Management.  In this role he runs the Division of Emergency Services, which is responsible for coordinating the city’s multi-disciplinary response to emergencies, developing emergency plans, managing the city’s exercise program and building community resilience. For the past eight years the division has led the nation in changing the way emergency preparedness is messaged; engaging the whole community emergency management preparedness, response and recovery; and, embracing the power of social media to both build connections and to use during response operations. With three activation teams in rotation, the division is always ready to manage local emergencies or deploy to assist other jurisdictions, which they most recently did during Superstorm Sandy.