Stock Up on Food and Water in Case Disaster Strikes

The USGS makes an interactive earthquake map available online. To view the number of earthquakes, visit this website.

Editor's note: This is the third in a series of stories this week as UCSF marks National Preparedness Month in September.

When disaster strikes, whether it is Hurricane Katrina or flooding in the Midwest, one of the most striking media images we see are the long lines of people waiting for water, food, and shelter. And in almost every instance, it appears those supplies don’t arrive soon enough.

We live on top of some of the most active seismic faults in the United States. We know there will be another major earthquake any day now. It may happen when we are at home, commuting, or on campus. Disaster can strike at any time without warning.

Think about this. The east and gulf coast of the United States get hit annually with hurricanes. Federal, state and local emergency management agencies know the hurricanes are coming days in advance and have time to prepare food, water, medical supplies, shelters and other disaster supplies for rapid deployment and distribution to victims of the hurricanes. Residents have plenty of warning to prepare their personal disaster supplies.

Yet every time the news if full of reports of how people still suffer waiting for the supplies to be distributed to everyone who needs help. It will be worse for California because we will not have a five- to three-day warning of an approaching earthquake. All those supplies will have to be moved in after the earthquake. It will take longer.

Many in San Francisco think they don’t have to worry: there are warehouses full of Red Cross and Department of Emergency Management disaster supplies ready for the next earthquake. Wrong! The City of San Francisco Department of Emergency Management doesn’t have a warehouse. The Red Cross warehouse is on the other side of the Bay. 

Two years ago, UCSF had a three-day supply of food and water for only 500 people. However, we have 40,000 students, faculty, staff and affiliates!

For the past two years, UCSF Police and its Homeland Security Emergency Management Division (UCPD/HSEM) have been working with other campus partners to create a cache of emergency food bars, water, first aid kits, flashlights, blankets and other basic disaster survival supplies capable of supporting 20,000 people for three days. 

We now have the full 20,000-person cache stored in our UCSF warehouse thanks to the generosity of the UCSF Campus Life Services’ Distribution and Storage staff who has donated the storage space at no cost to UCPD.

However having all the supplies at our South San Francisco warehouse is not good enough. We needed to get some of our supplies on our campuses for immediate access. For the past month we have been placing steel storage containers and cargo trailers at Laurel Heights, Mission Center Building, Mission Bay and Parnassus campus locations thanks to donated space from UCSF’s Parking and Transportation, Student Housing, Facilities Management and Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute.  A cargo trailer is also being offered to UCSF Fresno.  Unfortunately, space has not been offered for a container at UCSF Mount Zion.

In addition to developing a 20,000-person cache of care and shelter supplies, UCPD/HSEM has also created a discount disaster supply program for students, faculty, staff and affiliates to purchase personal disaster kits for themselves and their families at unbelievably low prices. Details are available at the UCPD Website.

September is National Preparedness Month. These are just two examples of how UCPD/HSEM is making UCSF Prepared. Look for future stories in Campus News on how Campus Emergency Response Teams (CERT) and the worksite Emergency Coordinators and Floor Wardens will be offered advanced Care and Shelter Team (CAST) training to establish emergency shelters and distribute the supplies to you in the event of a disaster.

Christopher Jones is director of the Homeland Security Emergency Management Division for the UCSF Police Department.