San Francisco prepares for next big earthquake

San Francisco is doing what is can to prepare for the next big emergency, specifically the next big earthquake.

A team of firefighters spent Saturday morning with citizens on how to do that. They were identified by green helmets and vests that read "NERT," also known as, Neighborhood Emergency Response Teams.

"The things we do are low risk and low level," said Gary Pegueros, a NERT volunteer and advisory board member. "We're not doing anything that will put us in danger or injure us."

Emergency first responders know the Bay Area communities will, at some point, once again be in danger at the hands of mother nature, it's just a matter of when. 

When it does happen, NERT will help. Born 33 years ago, the team makes sure first responders have support. The idea came following the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, registering a 6.9 magnitude quake. It destroyed buildings in the marina and even caused damage at Candlestick park during the World Series match up between the two Bay Area MLB teams, San Francisco Giants and Oakland Athletics.

ALSO: Large earthquake the size of Loma Prieta possible in Silicon Valley

"When neighbors are able to help neighbors, it relieves the burden on the fire department to respond to every single citizen within the city," said Lt. Hashim Anderson of the San Francisco Fire Department. He also serves as a NERT instructor.

For about two hours all over the St. Ignatius School campus in the city's Outer Sunset district, teams worked on drills. Some included treating patients with minor and serious injuries. Others, involved rescuing victims from collapsed debris.

"Everybody has been trained in what's called triage," said Fire Captain Brandon Tom. He's the head in charge of NERT.

"How to help citizens in a medical emergency, life-saving skills such as controlling air ways, controlling breathing, controlling shock. Learning simple skills, how to remove heavy objects in the way of people."

Since its inception, NERT has trained about 25,000 people in San Francisco. Saturday morning's drill usually happens regularly, but this was the first session since the beginning of the pandemic.

"It's a great opportunity to meet your neighbors, and work together," said Pegueros.

"We have to work together as a team. I can't do it by myself You can't do it by yourself, so it's all about team effort."

NERT certification is free and open to anyone who wants to get involved. But in order to help others, the training emphasized you must first help yourself and your family.

"We spend a lot of time working on disaster preparedness, coming up with a plan, hazard mitigation," said Lt. Anderson. "So the first step in any emergency is making sure you have a plan. Then you can prevent the need to call 911 the first time."

To get more involved with NERT, you can visit the San Francisco Fire Department website, or click here.