Why Get Ready In Your Community?

The best protection before a disaster happens is to get involved and be prepared in your community. During a serious disaster, all of the resources and services we take for granted may be shut down. How a community comes together to help one another during a crisis all depends on preparation! Do one thing to get ready today.


The following resources will help you get ready in your community:

At School


All schools in San Mateo County are required to be prepared with an emergency response plan.

Ask for a copy of the emergency plan at your child's school. Find out how the plan will affect you or your child if an emergency happens during school hours.


Preparing Your School for a Crisis (U.S. Department of Education)
If your school does not yet have an emergency plan, use Your School Site Emergency Plan template to get started.

Calendar of Events

Get Involved


There are a number of organizations in San Mateo County that train volunteers to be prepared and respond to a variety of emergency situations.

To find out more about any of these opportunities, please call: 650-363-4012 or go to www.smcsheriff.com.

Air Squadron

Members are civilians who volunteer their time to provide air support on search and rescue operations, and who pilot and maintain our county-owned airplane. Members must be licensed pilots, with their own plane or with access to the use of one.

Bay Area Mountain Rescue Unit (BAMRU)

Members train for and practice a wide variety of skills used in wilderness search and rescue operations and technical rescues. Members must be strong backpackers and have some mountain-climbing training and equipment. The unit provides search and rescue training.

Communication Unit

Members are volunteers with FCC-amateur radio licenses. These individuals assist with communication needs during search and rescue operations and disaster relief efforts.

Dive / Cliff / Marine Unit

Members are certified rescue divers who assist in patrolling the waterways of San Mateo County and respond to water or technical cliff rescues. Members must own all their dive equipment. Cliff rescue training is provided to all new members. Team members also operate boats.

Emergency Services Detail (ESD)

Members are rescue personnel trained in medical and inland search and rescue techniques who provide support for tactical situations and planned major events. All needed training is provided during unit meetings and field training sessions.

Explorer Post 810 (Law Enforcement)

Members are a group of young adults between the ages of 14 and 20 who volunteer their time to train and work with Sheriff's Office deputies. Their activities include law enforcement training, patrol car ride-alongs, jail duties, and traffic control details.

Explorer Post 830 (Search and Rescue) (SAR)

Members are a group of young adults between the ages of 14 and 20 who are trained in basic wilderness search and rescue as well as evidence searching in major criminal cases. Other activities include disaster preparedness, first aid training, and basic camping.

Mounted Search and Rescue

Members are horse and rider teams certified in 25 skill areas. Members must have their own horse and trailer.

Reserve Deputy Sheriff

Members are individuals who volunteer their time to augment the Sheriff's Office deputies with patrol and jail assignments. Members also respond to support a variety of emergency situations. Interested individuals must have the appropriate certifications prior to applying.

Technical Unit

Members are individuals who donate their time and skills to assist with the many administrative duties required throughout the county.

Links to Other Resources


There are many online resources available to help you learn more about emergency preparedness.

Preparedness Information
  • Ready.gov. National citizen preparedness
  • Prepare.org. National American Red Cross disaster preparedness
  • NFPA.org. National Fire Protection Association – Get Ready curriculum
National and State Agencies
Non-Governmental Agencies
Other Websites

One Week vs. 72 Hours


Most local, state, and national organizations are still promoting the 72-hour concept. In a large-scale event, such as a significant earthquake in the Bay Area, it may take longer than 72 hours before we can get supplies and support to all our residents.

In an effort to realistically plan for disasters in our county, we encourage you to be prepared to survive on your own for up to one week.

SMC Alert


SMC Alert, a free* alert-notification system, is used to contact you during urgent or emergency situations. The alert provides useful information and updates by sending text messages to your:

  • Email accounts (home, work, school, etc.)
  • Cell phones
  • Pagers
  • Smartphones or other handheld devices
Here's How It Works

When an incident or emergency occurs, authorized senders can instantly notify you. SMC Alert is your personal connection to real-time updates, instructions on where to go, what to do or what not to do, who to contact, and other important information.

*Registration is free; but text message charges may apply depending on your carrier and plan and will not be reimbursed by cities, towns, or the county. When registering your cellular device, make sure it is capable of receiving email-generated text messages. Email accounts that have spam filters or blast email protection should be modified to allow alerts from SMC Alert.

Sign up today for SMC Alert, San Mateo's countywide community alert system.

San Mateo County Shelter

Checklist for Shelter in Place

“Shelter-in-Place" is one of the basic instructions you may receive from San Mateo County public safety officials during an emergency. Sheltering in place offers you immediate protection. If you are told to shelter in place, go indoors immediately.

You are most likely to hear about a shelter-in-place emergency by radio, television, or warning sirens. Here’s what to do:

  • Immediately take your family and pets to the room you've chosen as a shelter.
  • If your children are at school, do not leave your house to go get them. Going outside could expose you to hazardous chemicals. Also, schools have emergency plans of their own.
  • Shut off heating and cooling units and fans that draw in air from the outside. 
  • If you have a fireplace, close the damper.
  • Shut and lock doors and windows. Locking makes a better seal.
  • Cover any windows with plastic sheeting. Seal cracks around the door and windows with duct tape.
  • Turn on your television (or if power failure, use your battery-powered radio) to a local station. Stay tuned until the "all clear" message is broadcast.
  • Stay off the phone. It should be used for emergency calls only.
  • Be prepared to evacuate if ordered to do so by public safety officials.
  • Evacuation instructions will be announced over the emergency alert system.
Checklist for Evacuation

If you are told to evacuate by authorities, please follow their instructions for your safety and everyone involved.

  • Use your AM/FM battery-powered radio to tune to the following emergency radio stations for the most up-to-date official reports regarding open routes, open shelter locations, and other specific directions (safety of drinking water, etc.):
    • - KCBS 740 AM, San Francisco
    • - KQED 88.5 FM, San Francisco
  • If there is time, take your most immediate needs, see checklist for to-go bags and vital information.

If you smell gas or see smoke or fire, evacuate immediately.

  • Get all persons out and call 911 from an outside location.
  • Grab your to-go bag only if there is time to do so.
  • Always follow the instructions of public safety authorities.
Checklist for Going to an Outside Shelter

In San Mateo County, we have pre-identified a number of potential disaster shelter locations. Because we live in earthquake country, it is impossible to predict when or where one might occur or what areas or structures may be impacted. As a result, we do not pre-advertise shelter sites.

Here’s what to do when it is necessary for you to relocate to an outside shelter:

  • Listen to instructions from authorities.
  • Use your AM/FM radio to listen to the following emergency radio stations for the most up-to-date official reports regarding shelter locations, open roads, and specific actions to take:
    • - KCBS 740 AM, San Francisco
    • - KQED 88.5 FM, San Francisco
  • If safe to do so, gather your to-go bag for your shelter stay.
  • Check whether emergency shelters take pets and the availability of other pet accommodations in the vicinity. Service animals are allowed in emergency shelters.
When to Call 911 in a Disaster
  • Call if you have immediate life-threatening needs.
  • Remember that 911 will be flooded with calls and the wait for assistance may be longer than usual.

Take the free emergency preparedness training Get Ready and CERT.

Training Options


Both of these training options are free to San Mateo County residents.

Get Ready Training
Two-hour basic course

See Schedule

Get Ready (or sometimes referred to as “R U Ready”) is a two-hour basic disaster preparedness training offered throughout San Mateo County.

You will learn the basics of what to do to prepare and protect yourself, your loved ones, neighbors and community when disaster strikes.

We need and want your partnership – please take this class and you can start getting ready today!

For a list of Get Ready classes being offered in San Mateo County, click on Calendar of Events.

The Get Ready curriculum is posted on the National Fire Protection Association website.

CERT Training
Twenty-hour intensive course

See Schedule

The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program has been the national model for helping people respond to emergencies. When emergencies happen, trained CERT members can provide immediate assistance to their family and neighbors, assist first responders, and organize spontaneous volunteers in a disaster.

Join your neighbors and be part of the CERT program– it's the best way to help improve the over-all safety and preparedness of our community.

CERT training is 20 hours, delivered over several weekly evenings or weekend days. 
The CERT training class modules include:

  • Disaster preparedness
  • Fire safety
  • Basic disaster medical operations
  • Light search and rescue operations
  • CERT organization
  • Disaster psychology
  • Terrorism and CERT
  • Review of skills and hands-on disaster exercise

We have active CERT programs in numerous locations in San Mateo County. (Some of our programs use names other than CERT.) For information specific to your city or town, please go to Calendar of Events.