Mayor Lee Highlights Emergency Preparedness to Mark the Anniversary of the 1906 Great Earthquake and Fire

4/15/11—As the City prepares to commemorate the 105th anniversary of the 1906 Great Earthquake and Fire, Mayor Edwin M. Lee who presided over his first Disaster Council meeting today highlighted earthquake and emergency preparedness.  In the wake of the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Mayor Lee, Department of Emergency Management Executive Director Anne Kronenberg and Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White emphasized the need for San Franciscans to be prepared for any type of disaster or emergency. 

“Recent earthquakes in Northern Japan and New Zealand are all too clear reminders that we must continue to prepare for the next major earthquake,” said Mayor Lee. “It’s not a question of ‘if’ but ‘when’ the next major earthquake will hit this region, and as we commemorate the 1906 earthquake, we need to reaffirm our commitment to making emergency preparedness an everyday part of our lives.  Even with all the progress we are making to seismically upgrade our hospitals, our water system and our critical infrastructure, every single family needs to be prepared for the next major earthquake. We need to all be ready.”

The earthquake struck at 5:12 am on April 18, 1906.  It took the lives of an estimated 3,000 people and left the City in ashes where much of the destruction was caused by fires. The 1906 Great Earthquake and Fire remains one of the worst tragedies in California history.

“As we observe the 1906 anniversary, and reflect on the recent devastating events around the world, there’s no better time to remind San Franciscans to do what they can to be better prepared for an emergency,” said Kronenberg.  “If we do a quick inventory of supplies at home and talk to our friends, families and neighbors about our emergency plans, we may find that we’re more prepared than we think.”

“Every resident of San Francisco should focus primarily on being personally prepared for the next major earthquake. Delaying the preparation process is not an option to consider” said Chief Hayes-White. “The San Francisco Fire Department’s NERT program is available, free of charge, to each and every resident and worker in San Francisco. I want people to underscore this fact, the more prepared they are to be self-reliant in the initial stages of a disaster, the quicker we can respond to the seriously injured and the earlier we can begin to focus on recovery.”

To commemorate the 1906 Great Earthquake and Fire and highlight the importance of emergency preparedness, several events and activities are planned, including:

Chinatown SRO Family Preparedness Training Celebration and Fair
April 17, 2011 @ 2 pm – 4 pm
Gordon J. Lau Elementary School, 950 Clay Street
The Chinatown SRO Preparedness Training Program is a partnership between the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management, San Francisco Department of Public Health, Chinatown Community Development Center, SRO Families United Collaborative and UCSF Without Walls.  The program provides a skills-based disaster preparedness workshop to Single-Room-Occupancy hotel residents and trains them on important topics such as basic first aid, fire prevention, evacuation procedures, and disaster preparedness supplies.

105th Anniversary Commemoration and Wreath Laying Ceremony
April 18, 2011 @ 5:11 am (Parade arrives at 5:00 am)
Lotta’s Fountain, Market Street at the intersection of Kearny Street, Third Street and Geary Boulevard

Golden Fire Hydrant Painting Ceremony
April 18, 2011 @ 5:40 - 6:00 am
20th and Church Streets

Lefty O’Doul’s Annual Survivor Breakfast
April 18, 2011 @ 6:00 am
333 Geary Street (at Powell Street)

San Francisco has significantly improved its level of emergency preparedness in recent years. Since 2004, the City has conducted 92 disaster exercises with DEM leading these efforts including the Great California ShakeOut. Additionally, 245 discussion-based trainings and workshops citywide have been conducted with the San Francisco Fire Department and other key City agencies to ensure that schools, senior centers, businesses, neighborhoods, and communities are prepared.

The City’s Outdoor Public Warning Siren system was revamped using homeland security funding. Today, there are 104 sirens with voice and tone capability located throughout the City. As part of the regular Tuesday noon test, recorded announcements in English are followed by announcements in Spanish or Cantonese on selected sirens.

DEM established AlertSF, a text-based message system that delivers emergency information to cell phones, PDA’s and other text-enabled devices, as well as email accounts. To date, approximately 16,500 people have signed up for AlertSF.

The City’s award-winning website,, provides information on making family emergency plans, building disaster kits, and getting involved in training before a disaster occurs or volunteering to help out afterwards. The information is available in English, Spanish, Chinese, Russian and Vietnamese. In addition, DEM’s website tests knowledge of what to do if an earthquake strikes while at home, driving, on public transit, at the beach or at work.