Our Hazards

Not-So-Everyday Emergencies

Loma Prieta

San Francisco's not-so-everyday emergencies include natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, and severe storms.  They include man-made emergencies like terrorism and mass casualty incidents.  Uncommon threats also include communicable diseases. 

An earthquake is the result of a sudden release of energy in the Earth's crust that creates seismic waves.  San Francisco's history, geography, and probability for future tremors make earthquakes a significant hazard for our city.

Quick Tips:

  • Drop, cover, and hold on when the ground starts shaking.
  • If you are inside, drop to the ground, take cover under a sturdy table or other piece of furniture, and hold on until the shaking stops.
  • If a sturdy table or desk is not available, cover your face and head with your arms and crouch in an inside corner of the room.
  • Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls, and anything that could fall on you, such as lighting fixtures or furniture.
  • Stay inside until the shaking stops and it is safe to go outside. Do not exit a building during shaking.
  • If you are outdoors, move away from buildings, streetlights, and utility wires.
  • If you are in a moving vehicle, stop as quickly as safety permits and stay inside the vehicle. Avoid stopping near or under buildings, trees, overpasses, and utility wires.
  • Once the shaking stops, proceed with caution; avoid roads, overpasses, bridges, or ramps until you know they are safe.

The Great 1906 Earthquake caused uncontrolled fires that destroyed caused damage in much of 4.7 square miles of the city.

Quick Tips:

  • Install a smoke alarm on every level of your home. 
  • Test your smoke alarms monthly, keep them free of dust, and replace the batteries at least once a year. 
  • Never overload electrical circuits or extension cords; do not place cords and wires under rugs or in high traffic areas. 
  • Purchase at least two fire extinguishers for home use; 3-A:40-B:C is the best size for homes.

A tsunami is a series of waves created by a sudden, significant displacement of the ocean floor. They can be generated by an underwater earthquake or landslide. A distant source tsunami may originate thousands of miles away and take several hours to reach our coast. A local source tsunami may be generated by nearby earthquake and may arrive in as little as 10 to 15 minutes. San Francisco's risk for a local source tsunami is low.

Quick Tips:

  • Move inland and head to higher ground during a tsunami.
  • If you are in a coastal area and feel an earthquake with strong shaking lasting a minute or more, drop, cover, and hold on until the shaking stops, then move immediately to higher ground.
  • Always wait for local authorities to tell you when it is safe to return to affected areas.

Severe Storms and Flooding
Severe storms can cause landslides, coastal flooding, and stormwater ponding in San Francisco.

Quick Tips:

  • If flooding occurs, move to higher ground. Avoid lower elevation streets, drainage channels, and other areas that may flood.
  • If you come to an area that is covered with water, especially if the water is flowing fast. Turn around, don't drown.
  • Be especially cautious at night when it is harder to recognize flood dangers.

Extreme Heat
Extreme heat is harmful because it can push the human body beyon its limits. In extreme heat and high humidity, evaporatio is slowed and the body must work extra hard to maintain a normal temperature.

Quick Tips:

  • Drink plenty of water; even if you do not feel thirsty.
  • Never leave children or pets along in closed vehicles.
  • Check on family, friends, and neighbors who do not have air conditioning.
  • Check on your pets frequently to ensure that they are not suffering from heat.
  • Go to designated cooling center if your home loses power during periods of extreme heat. Stay on the lowest floor out of the sunshine if air conditioning is not avaialble. 

Terrorists seek to destroy, incapacitate, or exploit critical infrastructure and key resources, threaten national security, inflict mass causalities, weaken economies, and damage public morale and confidence. San Francisco has a higher risk for a terrorist incident than other small urban areas due to its high-profile national image, and the large number of tourists who visit our city each year.

Quick Tip:

  • If you see something, say something. Call 9-1-1 or find a police officer if you see something suspicious.

Cyber Terrorism
Cyberterrorism is a premeditated, politically-motivated attack against information, computer systems, computer programs, and data. 

Quick Tip:

  • Create tough passwords for hackers to crack, don't reuse your passwords across multiple sites, and change your passwords regularly.

Communicable Diseases
A communicable disease could affect many people, causing mild illness, hospitalization, or in rare cases, death. The San Francisco Bay Area has a high probability of a naturally occurring, mild to moderate pandemic.  People in the Bay Area travel more internationally and come into contact with many people on a daily basis.  For more information, visit the San Francisco Department of Public Health's Communicable Disease Control and Prevention website: www.sfcdcp.org.

Quick Tip:

  • Wash your hands before and after cooking, serving or eating food, or treating a cut or wound; and after using the bathroom, changing a diaper, or coming into contact with a sick person.

For more information about not-so-everyday emergencies that San Francisco might face, visit our Hazard Mitigation Plan website at www.sfdem.org/hmp. The Hazard Mitigation Plan describes our City's natural and human-made hazards, identifies actions the City can take to reduce their effects, and establishes a process for implementing the plan. 

Prepare for Any Emergency
No matter the emergency, San Francisco plans, prepares, and responds to all hazards. SF72.org is full of useful information about what to do in an emergency, resources to help you connect to your neighbors, and simple guides to help you get prepared.

Ready for more? We encourage 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 (NERT) teaches emergency preparedness and response basics through free hands-on training so you are ready to take care of yourself and others.

Auxiliary Law Enforcement Response Teams (ALERT) teaches San Francisco residents to assist law enforcement after a major disaster.

San Francisco Interfaith Council provides spiritual comfort at times of crisis, builds understanding, celebrates diversity, and coordinates services in San Francisco.