It is a quiet Tuesday morning. 11:59am. Day 2 of “real life” (our first weekend here didn’t count). It is bright and sunny outside. I am sitting at my laptop with a cup of tea, when:
Huge sirens go off for what seems like ages… I freeze… Then I hear an echoey voice:
“This is a test. This is a test of the outdoor warning system. This is only a test”
A quick online search to find out what just happened revealed a whole lot of emergency information.
The sirens I heard were a test of the San Francisco Outdoor Public Warning System(1). This is a network of outdoor sirens, mounted on poles and building around the city, to notify people of danger or possible danger. The system is tested every Tuesday at noon, for 15 seconds.
Disaster planning isn’t really an area I had given much thought to before I moved to San Francisco. However, given our proximity to an active fault line and other global events, I figured that rather than just reading about it and thinking that it was a pretty cool concept, I should learn what to do if I heard the sirens at a time other than noon on a Tuesday. I found some really helpful links and tips for planning and preparation. Here’s what I’ve discovered so far:
#1 Register with AlertSF.
This is a notification system that will send you a text message to let you know what’s going on. I registered by text message, but further details on how to register are available on their website.
#2 Read the info on SF72
This is San Francisco’s “hub for emergency preparedness”. Their great, no nonsense advice made me think twice about the fact that all we had in the cupboard was a box of tea bags and a can of corn. This also motivated us to create a shared document online with all of our emergency contact details, ID numbers etc.
#3 Create a 72hr kit
I did some online shopping to develop our own version of a Bug Out Bag or 72 hr kit. This is supposed to be enough supplies to get you through a 72hr period without help. At it’s most basic it should contain water and food, but first aid kits, torches, blankets, radios, personal documents are useful too. I’ll be posting what’s in our kit soon.
#4 Come up with a meet-up plan
This bit seems so simple, but how will you get in contact with loved ones if phone lines go down? Where will you meet them? Your office? Their office? Home? It prompted us to have a conversation about our emergency plan and contacts. The links below have great info on what should be in a good plan.
Next time you hear the sirens, why not use it as a chance to review your emergency plans?
Also, if you are really keen, check out the San Francisco Fire Department Neighbourhood Emergency Response Team (NERT). They offer free training on personal emergency preparedness and how to be part of your community’s response team.
I liked these links as a good place to start looking for further info:
***Additional disclaimer: this is just what I’ve done and is not intended to offer advice or guidance. Please inform yourself about the most up to date emergency advice, policies, services and recommendations in your area!***