Mayor Gavin Newsom: City's Tsunami Warning Plan

San Francisco takes disaster preparedness very seriously, both for the City and for individuals.

As part of this commitment, our SF Department of Emergency Management is participating in the National Weather Service's Tsunami-Ready program, which promotes tsunami hazard preparedness in coastal communities. The first major step towards being granted the Tsunami-Ready designation is the installation of signs along Ocean Beach to indicate the hazard zone and evacuation routes.

If you live in or visit this area (known as the western inundation zone), you may have already noticed the signs.

Although we normally think of earthquakes as our greatest risk, as a coastal area we may also be vulnerable to tsunamis. A tsunami is a series of waves created by a sudden, significant displacement of the ocean floor, which can be generated by an underwater earthquake or landslide. While tsunamis are rare, they can be extremely dangerous.

If you are on or near the beach and observe the water receding in an unusually rapid manner, immediately evacuate eastward to higher ground - even if no official warning has been issued.

If the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issues a tsunami warning, multiple public notification systems will be activated. These include Outdoor Public Warning System sirens (which will sound for five minutes), NOAA weather radios, the Emergency Alert System (EAS), and AlertSF. If you hear or see any of these warnings, tune your radio to KCBS 740 AM or other local stations for information from emergency officials.

While a tsunami is an unlikely event, we all need to be prepared in case of any type of major disaster.

Our Web site, 72hours.org, is designed to help you get a handle on emergency preparedness. The Web site highlights the fact that after a disaster it may be at least three days before vital services are restored. The Web site provides step-by-step instructions on how to make a family emergency plan, build a disaster kit, and get involved in training before a disaster occurs or volunteer to help out afterwards. All the information is available in English, Spanish and Chinese.

The first step in getting prepared is to develop a family emergency plan. Decide where you and your family will meet if you are separated when a disaster occurs and make arrangements for who will pick up your kids if you're at work and can't get to them.

Choose an out-of-state contact person because long distance phone lines may be in operation before local lines. Make copies of all your important documents and send them to a friend or family member to hold for you. Inventory your valuables and take pictures of them.

Next, you should make a disaster kit. There are some basic things you need, and you probably have a lot of it at home already. First and foremost: food, water and first aid supplies for people and pets. Be sure to have a battery-operated radio in your kit. If you're stranded without power or telephones, the radio may be the only way to get vital information and instructions. Other items to include are a flashlight, batteries, manual can opener, prescription medicines, change of clothes and personal hygiene items.

The most important thing to remember in putting together this kit is that it should be personalized for your family's own needs. Getting prepared involves simple steps we can all take - but they could mean more than we can imagine.

For more information about tsunamis and to view a map of the western inundation zone, please visit our Web site www.72hours.org, or call 3-1-1. Sign up at www.AlertSF.org to receive emergency text alerts by mobile phone and e-mail.

Gavin Newsom is the mayor of San Francisco.