The best protection during an emergency is to be informed. The more you know about natural and other disasters the better prepared you will be. There are important differences among potential emergencies in San Mateo County that impact the decisions you make and the actions you take to prepare and respond.

For weather, news and information updated every 10 minutes go to

- KCBS 740 AM or 106.9 FM and

For Bay area traffic information

Click on the links below to find out more.




An earthquake is the result of a sudden release of energy in the earth's crust that causes the ground to shake, lift up, or separate, creating uneven surfaces, gaps, or holes. The strength of earthquakes is expressed by magniture on the Richter scale. An earthquake of magnitude 7 can cause serious damage over large areas. Earthquakes under magnitude 3 are rarely noticed by humans.

Some serious hazards of earthquake activity are tsunamis, landslides, damaged buildings, broken glass from windows, falling objects, plus serious injury and fires if electrical wires fall and gas pipes break.

Find out more about earthquakes at and

Download earthquake checklist from National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA).

Hazard Maps and Information from the Association of Bay Area Governments.



Wildfires are forest fires, grass fires, or any uncontrolled fire often occurring in a wildland area, but which can also consume buildings or farmland nearby. These fires may be caused by human carelessness, lightning, or arson. Heat waves, droughts, and climate change, such as El Niño, can also create risk of wildfires. Wildfires are most common during years of drought on days with strong winds.

Structure fires are fires in any building such as your home, a restaurant, office building, apartment, or retail store. These fires are often caused by human carelessness, unattended candles or cigarettes, arson, kitchen fires, or faulty electrical wiring.

Find out more about fires at

Download home fires checklist and wildfires checklist from NFPA.

Hazard Maps and Information from the Association of Bay Area Governments.



A flood is an overflow of an expanse of water that submerges land. A flood may be caused by a heavy rainstorm, hurricane, river overflow, a high tide or large tsunami wave in the ocean, or dam failure. A flood can also be caused by blocked sewage pipes, storm drains, and other waterways. Floods are the most frequent type of disaster worldwide. They can occur in San Mateo County because it is located near rivers, dams, and the ocean. Insurance policies rarely offer coverage for floods.

Find out more about floods at

Download floods checklist from NFPA.

Download Sandbag Resources and Directions.

Download Weather Safety.

Hazard Maps and Information from the Association of Bay Area Governments.

Hazardous Materials


A hazardous material (commonly called "hazmat") is any solid, liquid, or gas that can harm people, other living organisms, property, or the environment. Risks associated with hazardous materials may require incorporating safety precautions during transport, use, storage, and disposal. Most countries regulate hazardous materials by law and are subject to several international treaties as well.

Persons who handle hazardous materials often wear protective equipment, and metropolitan fire departments may have a response team specifically trained to deal with accidents and spills. These teams train with different organizations.

Find out more about hazardous materials at

Download hazardous materials checklist from NFPA.

Hazard Maps and Information from the Association of Bay Area Governments.



A landslide is a geological phenomenon which includes a wide range of ground movement, such as rock falls, deep failure of slopes, and shallow debris flows. Although the action of gravity on a slope is the primary cause of landslides, there are often other contributing factors affecting the original slope stability.

Find out more about landslides at

Download landslides checklist from NFPA.

Hazard Maps and Information from the Association of Bay Area Governments.

Nuclear Preparedness

Oil Spills


An oil spill is the release of liquid petroleum into the environment as a result of human carelessness. The term often refers to marine oil spills, where oil is released into the ocean or coastal waters. Spills take months or even years to clean up. Oil spills are highly toxic to fish, birds, animals, and human populations.

Marine mammals and seabirds are severely affected by spills as the oil penetrates the structure of fur and plumage, reducing the natural insulating ability and leading to death by hypothermia. Ingestion of the oil also causes dehydration and impaired digestion.

Find out more about oil spills from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

See Frequently Asked Questions about oil spills at

Hazard Maps and Information from the Association of Bay Area Governments.

Pandemic Flu


It is a type of flu caused by a new virus. When a new flu virus emerges, no one has immunity.

Because everyone is susceptible and no one is immune, the flu can quickly go from being an epidemic, that affects a large number of people at the same time, to a pandemic of illness that spreads quickly across a large region, such as a continent or even worldwide.

Recognize the symptoms of Pandemic H1N1 (Swine) Flu.

Symptoms are similar to those of seasonal flu and include fever (may be 101oF or higher) and any of the following:

  • Chills
  • Sore throat
  • Coughing
  • Headache and body aches
  • Diarrhea and vomiting
What can I do to prevent getting sick with Pandemic or Seasonal Flu?

Avoid close contact with those that are ill. Practice frequent hand washing and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth as these are easy entry points for the virus. Practice good health habits, such as eating a balanced diet, exercising, and getting sufficient rest.

To prevent the spread of germs remember to cover your coughs and sneezes and wash your hands after coughing or sneezing. Also, it is important to stay home if you are sick with a fever and other flu like symptoms to avoid sharing the virus with others.

Most importantly, get the flu shot when it is available!

This is the first and most important step to protect against getting the regular or pandemic flu. You need a seasonal flu vaccine (shot) every year, so contact your medical provider to find out when and how to get flu vaccine. A new vaccine for the Pandemic H1N1 Flu may be ready later this year.

  • Flu vaccine is especially important for people who may have a greater chance of getting serious flu complications, such as young children, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions like diabetes, asthma, heart or lung disease, and people 65 and older. The regular flu shot that is offered every year will not protect you from pandemic H1N1 flu.
Medications that may help lessen the symptoms of flu:

Warning! Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) is not recommended for children or teenagers who have the flu; it can cause a rare but serious illness called Reye's syndrome.

  • Check with your healthcare provider or pharmacist for correct, safe use of medications.
  • Fevers and aches can often be treated with over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®, Nuprin®).

For one stop access to U.S. government information on pandemic flu and to learn more about how to protect yourself, family and others against the Pandemic H1N1 (Swine) flu, visit

For local information about pandemic preparedness, go to San Mateo County Health Department's pandemic flu information and resources.

Hazard Maps and Information from the Association of Bay Area Governments.

Severe Weather


Extreme heat is often called a heat wave – it is an extended period of high temperature often with high humidity. These conditions often cause heat exhaustion which can lead to heatstroke, which can be dangerous and even life threatening. Severe heat waves have caused catastrophic crop failures and widespread power outages due to increased use of air conditioning.

Severe winter storms can cause subfreezing temperatures, as well as strong winds or even ice or heavy rainstorms. Of primary concern is the winter weather's ability to knock out heat, power, and communication services to your home or office, sometimes for days at a time. Extreme winter cold often causes poorly insulated water pipelines and mains to freeze. Exposure to extreme cold can lead to hypothermia and frostbite, which require medical attention.

Find out more about extreme heat and winter storms at

Download extreme heat checklist and severe winter storms checklist from NFPA.

Download Sandbag Resources and Directions.

Download Weather Safety.

Hazard Maps and Information from the Association of Bay Area Governments.



Terrorism is often violent or other harmful acts committed (or threatened) against civilians with the intent of creating fear. Most definitions of terrorism include only violent acts that are intended to further an ideological goal and that deliberately target nonmilitary people.


Immediate Action Response - The Big Five

Terrorist threats come in many forms, including biological, chemical, explosives, nuclear, and radioactive.



San Mateo County Sheriff's Office Area Office of Emergency Services (650) 363-4790

The threat of terrorism has been brought home to America in a shockingly personal manner. However, it is not a new threat and you can do something about it. For years, cities and the County of San Mateo have waged war on crime and have prepared for a variety of potential disasters.

These techniques can help:
1. Get The Facts

While terrorist attacks with chemical, biological or nuclear agents are possible; the likelihood of their use is not high.

  • Chemical agents are poisonous gases, liquids or solids. They are difficult to manufacture and to deliver in quantity. For example, the Pentagon estimates that a ton of sarin would be necessary to produce 10,000 casualties.
  • Biological agents are organisms or toxins that have illness-producing effects. Again, they are difficult to manufacture and to deliver. Aum Shinrikyo, with millions in funding and sophisticated staff, was unable to produce a biological weapon after five years of trying.
  • Nuclear agents are substances that generate harmful radiation. Nuclear devices and materials are closely monitored and difficult to obtain.

The preferred terrorist weapon of choice continues to be conventional explosives. They can be easily manufactured and transported, as we saw in the Oklahoma City bombing. Fortunately, good physical security practices and public awareness can help prevent this type of attack.

2. Accept Responsibility For Your Own Safety

An aware and informed public is our best defense against terrorism. We must all do our part to keep our community safe. Terrorism is a crime and crime prevention strategies work very well. These include:

  • Be aware of your surroundings. Notice where emergency exits are located. Think ahead about how to evacuate a building, subway or congested public area in a hurry.
  • Report suspicious objects, packages, vehicles or persons to the appropriate authorities.
  • Cooperate with security procedures at your place of work and in public places.
  • Take precautions when traveling. Be aware of conspicuous or unusual behavior/ Do not accept packages from strangers. Do not leave luggage unattended.
  • Don't spread rumors - confirm questionable information with a credible source.
3. Prepare For All Emergencies

San Mateo County is prone to many disasters, not just terrorist attack. The same preparedness measures work well for many different types of emergencies. Some key things you can do:

  • Make copies of important personal/business documents and store them in a safe place.
  • Identify an out of state contact person so family and friends can communicate with your during an emergency.
  • Develop an individual / family / business emergency plan.
    • Plan for a meeting place if you cannot meet at home.
    • Discuss what children should do if at school.
    • Coordinate with neighbors for pickup if children attend the same school.
    • Designate a surrogate parent for your children if you are not able to tend to them.
    • Provide this information to your child's school.
  • Learn how to locate and shutoff (if necessary) power, water and gas.
  • Stockpile emergency supplies for 3-7 days, including prescription medicines and a first-aid kit.

Know your community resources.

4. Volunteer To Help

A successful response to an emergency requires a great deal of help. A limited number of volunteer groups have been pre-trained and are part of jurisdictions' emergency plans. Joining one of these organizations NOW increases your personal preparedness and your value to the community in emergencies. Some key organizations are:

  • Auxiliary Communications Service (ACS) - Licensed Amateur (HAM) radio operators providing vital communications links when normal communications systems are inoperative or overloaded.
  • Sheriff's Area Office of Emergency Services (650) 363-4790
  • American Red Cross - Disaster Action Teams (DAT), provides victim services and emergency shelter teams. Red Cross (650) 259-1750
If A Terrorist Attack Occurs:
  • Remain calm and follow the instructions of emergency services personnel.
  • Be alert to secondary hazards such as falling debris or additional devices.
  • Monitor the media for emergency information and bulletins. The emergency stations are:

   KCBS 740 AM       KGO 810 AM       KNBR 680 AM

How To Report An Emergency
  • Speak slowly and clearly
  • State your name
  • Describe the emergency
    1. What happened?
    2. Where did it happen?
    3. Who is involved?
  • Stay on the phone
Suspicious Mail
  • SET IT ASIDE. Do not merely discard it.
  • WASH HANDS with soap and water after handling mail.
  • If you have a letter that contains a liquid or powder substance - ISOLATE IT.
  • DO NOT shake or empty contents.
  • CONTACT law enforcement.


The San Mateo County Area Office of Emergency Services Bureau is concerned that the biggest impact of a "dirty bomb" would be public panic, and has prepared a dirty bomb Q&A.

What is a dirty bomb?

A dirty bomb is an explosive device that combines radioactive material, such as radioactive waste, with readily available conventional explosives. The device is designed to kill or injure not through its explosive force, but rather by creating a zone of intense radiation. This would be difficult to achieve, however. Experts believe that few, if any terrorists have the knowledge to achieve this effect.

What are the effects of a dirty bomb?

Much depends on the type of explosives and type of radioactive materials used, as well as prevailing wind patterns. Injuries and fatalities would result from the explosion itself. The bomb would spread radiation, leaving an area contaminated for months. However, it is the psychological effect of spreading radiation that is difficult to estimate; the terrorists' goal is to spread fear and panic, and cause public hysteria. The San Mateo Area Office of Emergency Services believes that fear of radiation and dirty bombs can be ameliorated through public education.

What can I do in the event of an attack?

According to the National Council on Radiation Protection, people can reduce exposure by taking shelter in homes or other buildings until the radiation level falls. Ventilation systems using outside air should be turned off, and eating contaminated food should be avoided. Radioactive dust can be washed off the skin and contaminated clothing should be discarded to reduce external exposure.

Additionally, the National Institute of Health makes the following recommendations:

  •   DO NOT remain in the exposed area.
  •   DO NOT apply ointment to burned skin areas.
  •   DO NOT remain in exposed clothing.
  •   DO NOT minimize the potential danger - radiation exposure is dangerous.
  •   DO NOT hesitate to seek emergency medical treatment.

Additionally, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends time, distance and shielding to minimize radiation exposure to the body, thus limiting injuries and fatalities from exposure:

TIME: Most radioactivity loses its strength fairly quickly. Limiting the time spent near the source will reduce the amount of exposure.

DISTANCE: The more distance between you and the source of radiation, the less radiation you will receive.

SHIELDING: Heavy, dense materials between you and the source of the radiation will provide shielding and reduce exposure. Local officials could advise residents to remain indoors. Home or workplace walls could provide adequate shielding for a period of time.

What are the symptoms of radiation exposure?

Radiation sickness starts out with vague, flu-like symptoms. It can cause nausea, vomiting, weakness and lethargy.


For additional information of radiation exposure, please visit these web sites:



A tsunami is a series of waves created when a body of water, such as an ocean, is rapidly displaced by an earthquake, volcanic eruption or other underwater explosion, landslide, or other large impact. Nuclear weapon tests at sea have the potential to generate a tsunami. The effects of a tsunami can range from unnoticeable to devastating.

A tsunami wave has a short height compared to its very long length, often hundreds of miles long. This is why tsunamis can be difficult to see from the land or air.

Determine if your neighborhood is in a potential tsunami inundation zone on the internet by going to Cal EMA's "My Hazard" website:

To check and see if your neighborhood is in the area that could be evacuated when there is a Tsunami warning and where to go please see the attached maps:

Learn more by downloading bay area map and tsunami brochure.

Find out more about tsunamis at

See Frequently Asked Questions about tsunamis at

Visit National Weather Service

Hazard Maps and Information from the Association of Bay Area Government

Watch Video To Know What To Do During A Tsunami