Just before 7 p.m. on Jan. 25, the Presidio Officers’ Club was nearly filled as a crowd of SF residents waited eagerly for a panel of experts, in hopes of better preparing themselves for natural disasters.
The featured panel of emergency management experts included Matt Kiolbassa of the Presidio Trust Office, San Francisco Police Capt. Jerry Marshall, Kristan Hogan Schildwachter of the Department of Emergency Management and San Francisco fire Capt. Erica Arteseros.
“These emergency situations don’t happen everyday, but it can happen. So having that preset of what you are going to do, whether it’s running, hiding or even fighting is good.” said Capt. Marshall, reiterating the importance of preparation as he discussed the ways in which a person can protect themselves in emergency situations.
Each panelists’ presentation focused on a different aspect of emergency preparation –– from how to handle situations like an earthquake, fire, tsunami or how to better prepare the home, family and your neighbors.
The practice of being adaptable and prepared for anything was a constant theme that linked each speakers’ discussion. An extremely relevant topic considering our country’s past year of natural disasters. From California’s most destructive wildfire season this past October to two devastating hurricanes that hit the majority of southeast America and Puerto Rico. Not to mention a tsunami watch alert broadcasted locally just earlier this week.
“Let’s say you’re a teacher, or you have children, a family … these are tough things to talk about,” Marshall said. “It’s tough for people to get to understand. Think about some of these active shooter events that have happened, in a school where children are hurt, or in a movie theatre in Aurora, you have to react and you have to do it quickly.”
Hogan expanded further on the importance of city wide communication in moments of crisis. Highlighting the use of the City’s SF72 website, a platform that serves to better connect the people of San Francisco during turmoil.
In an emergency, the SF72 website will display a map of San Francisco, informing the public of city-wide conditions. For example, if a large fire or a major earthquake hit the city, the SF72 crisis map will show the most dangerous areas, and signal to the public to stay away.
Hogan also said that the SF72 crisis map will direct displaced citizens to nearby temporary shelters. An especially helpful tool for the number of homeless in San Francisco.
“Essentially [SF72] is a Google map,” Hogan explained, “We may set up community points for distributing supplies in various areas around the city depending on the greatest need or the most logistically feasible locations –– a hypothetical example of how the map can be used.”
“The preparation that we do for anything will give you a better leg up in preparing for all things,” said Capt. Arteseros of the Neighborhood Emergency Response Team (NERT). The last focalpoint of the night’s panel.
NERT offers free training programs to individuals dedicated in preparing their communities for natural disasters. Under the training of San Francisco’s Fire Department, NERT trainees learn methods in utility control, or how to handle local hazards and how to practice disaster medical first aid.
Capt. Arteseros also said that while NERT has offered programs in SF State in the past, the organization has been lacking much needed student involvement.
“Our training program is really empowering and fun,” answered Arteseros, “You get to be the helper and not the helpless. Overcoming complacency is hard in all population. In terms students, know that your parents will probably be in more panic than possibly you if something happens. So doing the planning piece is important so you know how to contact them about your well being or the needs that you have.”