One hundred and seven years ago today, the great 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire, one of the nation’s most significant catastrophes, devastated our city. San Franciscans came together as a community to recover and rebuild the San Francisco that we know and love today.
We live in earthquake country, but that doesn’t mean we should feel scared and overwhelmed about earthquakes. Instead, let’s prepare now before the next disaster. Knowing what to do before, during and after a disaster will help you take care of yourself, your family and your neighborhood.
The good news is that most of us are more prepared than we think. Being prepared isn’t necessarily about buying an expensive emergency kit. It’s about having basic items gathered and ready at hand. It’s about talking with your family about where to meet after a disaster or making sure everyone knows where your emergency supplies are.
It’s about securing moveable and breakable items in your home. It’s about knowing to drop, cover and hold on during an earthquake.
While you do your part, The City is doing ours. We have completed more than 200 seismic retrofits on city buildings, and we’re not done. San Francisco’s new seismic retrofit program will give our soft-story buildings the backbone to stand firm when the earth starts shaking and keep residents safe.
We don’t need to look far to learn from recent disasters. Superstorm Sandy reminded all of us of the importance of emergency preparedness, which included not only having emergency supplies on hand, but also having community connections. During the storm, people checked in on each other and opened their homes for shelter, meals and even to charge cellphones. I have no doubt San Franciscans will do the same in a disaster. So getting to know our neighbors, lending a hand and sharing our knowledge and skills to help our community is key to a resilient San Francisco.
Our city is also full of resources that help you get prepared and connected. The website 72hours.org provides easy tips on preparedness for any situation. AlertSF sends text messages that instantly deliver emergency information — more than 25,000 people have registered! San Francisco’s free Neighborhood Emergency Response Team training connects you to your neighbors while you learn skills that can help save a life.
As we reflect upon what happened 107 years ago, let’s commemorate by taking stock of our resources, and then adding a little bit to that stock. Take the time to meet your neighbors — at home, at work or through social networks. After all, these are the people we rely on every day no matter the crisis. Let’s not wait until the next disaster to show how connected and prepared we are.
Ed Lee is the mayor of San Francisco.