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Safety first: protecting clients in an emergency

If there were a high magnitude earthquake right now, would you know what to do? Do you know how to contact your loved ones? Do you know how to seek safety?

For community-based service providers, it’s all the more imperative that staff are trained to act in emergency situations. They are responsible for the safety of some of the most vulnerable people in our community. Many of the people they serve have experienced trauma in their lifetimes and may not have the knowledge or skills to stay calm and safe in an emergency.

As safety is one of CJCJ’s five core values, we commit to creating a physically and emotionally safe environment for staff, clients, and the community. For our transitional housing program serving formerly incarcerated mothers and their young children, being prepared is essential to success. Cameo House is a historic Victorian in the heart of the mission district. As with all old buildings in a highly urban area, there is a high risk of structural dangers that could affect the health and safety of our residents. Based in San Francisco, there is a 62 percent chance that Cameo House will experience a 6.7 magnitude earthquake within the next 30 years.

That’s why we protect our families through a critical fund that is reserved only for structural repairs to Cameo House (help us by visiting www.cjcj.org/safeandhealthyhome).

Dangerous and emergency situations don’t always come in the form of city wide natural disasters. They can be smaller in scope – a car accident, a gas leak, falling in the shower. Only last year, we were able to access the fund to defend Cameo House against every San Francisco resident’s nightmare – bed bug infestation.

Search and rescue team in San Francisco's Marina District after Loma Prieta earthquake, 1989.

Photo by CIRonline | flickr creative commons

And what if the big one did hit the Bay Area? Well, our staff attend the San Francisco Fire Department’s Neighborhood Emergency Response Team (NERT) trainings to make sure we’re up-to-date with the best information to keep our communities safe. The trainings are free so if you’re a community-based organization, consider sending your staff - sign up for the next class >>

While community and client safety is imperative, the first thing NERT teaches us is how to take care of ourselves. Developing a personal plan and preparing yourself and your family for an emergency situation will reduce the burden on emergency responders and allow you to help others. Get prepared with this checklist >>

If you are a community-based service provider, there are several things you can do today to make yourself safer so that you are better able to help your clients:

  1. Assign your family an out-of-state emergency contact and make sure everyone has their phone number in their wallet. In a local emergency when you are separated everyone will be able to check in with the same person.
  2. Walk through your home or office and note two possible exits from each room. Remember, these could include windows.
  3. Take a moment for self-care. Well-rested, calm people respond better in an emergency situation. 

Remember, the motto of NERT is “do the most good for the most people” and that means taking care of yourself first.

Keywords: Cameo House, safety, Selena Teji

Posted in Blog, Model Local Practices

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