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My Coast Guard
Commentary | Sept. 6, 2022

Make sure you are prepared for the next natural disaster

By Submitted by the Coast Guard's 11th District

“Get Ready!” “Get Set!” “Go!” Terms commonly used with enthusiasm when a race begins, or at the start of a friendly competition. Although for some, it is a model used that can possibly save your life. Wildfires and other natural disasters are a very realistic threat to the lives, property and military readiness of Coast Guard members and their families stationed all over the world, and in particular, California.

“After getting evacuated for the first time in 2017, and having had no prior wildfire evacuation experience, I knew I had to have my family ready for the next one,” said Chief Petty Officer Alexander Isayev, marine inspector, Coast Guard Sector San Francisco. “I knew that it would inevitably happen in the near future.” 

September is National Preparedness Month, are you ready to respond in case of a natural disaster? 


California wildfires typically burn hundreds of thousands of acres each year. During the 2020 Wildfire Season, the Coast Guard’s 11th District responded to the historic Northern California Wildfires and provided accountability for more than 5,000 Coast Guard members and their families. During the following wildfire season in California, 168 Coast Guard members were evacuated. 

Get Ready: Familiarize yourself with the risks of wildfire where you live, work, and recreate. Understand terminology associated with wildfire threats and evacuation orders. Be familiar with evacuation routes and best practices for your community. Be aware of U.S. Coast Guard policy for evacuations and programs that can help financially.

Get Set: Prepare your family and your home for the possibility of having to evacuate. Getting set requires three main actions to prepare your family for safety: Creating a wildfire action plan, assembling emergency supply kits, and developing a family communication plan. 

Go: Evacuate now! Know the standard terminology in your area for evacuation orders in the event of a natural disaster. Members and their families should be familiar with each order, and their differences.

Isayev designed a quick-reference guide that includes various emergency response plans. It is user friendly, and all relative information pertaining to the specific emergency is easily accessible through labeled tabs. These tabs include information for a human emergency, pet emergency, evacuation orders, and MISC. The tabbed out sections are very simple, they have all pertinent contact info, addresses and routing information. Human emergencies include locations of nearby hospitals and their contact information. Pet emergencies list all vet clinics, their addresses, hours of operation, and emergency services they provide. The evacuation tab has routes, military bases to go to, addresses of acceptable hotels in all directions of travel, hotel addresses and telephone numbers. Locations for grocery stores, with their contact information are also included

The MISC section includes phone numbers for national emergency services like FEMA, Red Cross, etc.


According to the U.S. Geological Survey, earthquakes can strike any location at any time, but historically occur in the same general patterns year after year, principally in the following three large zones of the earth:

  • The world's greatest earthquake belt, the circum-Pacific seismic belt, found along the rim of the Pacific Ocean, where about 81 percent of our planet's largest earthquakes occur. It has earned the nickname "Ring of Fire". 
  • The Alpide earthquake belt extends from Java to Sumatra through the Himalayas, the Mediterranean, and out into the Atlantic. This belt accounts for about 17 percent of the world's largest earthquakes, including some of the most destructive, such as the 2005 M7.6 shock in Pakistan that killed over 80,000 and the 2004 M9.1 Indonesia earthquake, which generated a tsunami that killed over 230,000 people. 
  • The third prominent belt follows the submerged mid-Atlantic Ridge. Most of the mid-Atlantic Ridge is deep underwater and far from human development, but Iceland, which sits directly over the mid-Atlantic Ridge, has experienced earthquakes as large as at least M6.9.

In addition to the shaking caused by earthquakes, other things can occur such as landslides, surface fault ruptures and liquefaction--all of which may cause injury or property damage. Take note of where you live, read up on earthquake information, and contact your local city or county government for further details on how to be prepared where you live.


Floods are one of the most common hazards in the United States. Be aware of flood hazards no matter where you live, but especially if you live in a low-lying area, near water or downstream from a dam. Even very small streams, gullies, creeks, culverts, dry streambeds, or low-lying ground that appears harmless in dry weather can flood. Every state is at risk from this hazard.

Emergency Kit

Be prepared for any natural disaster by having a basic emergency supply kit. This could include the following recommended items:

  • Water (one gallon per person per day for several days, for drinking and sanitation)
  • Food (at least a several-day supply of non-perishable food)
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and NOAA Weather Radio tone alert
  • Flashlight
  • First aid kit
  • Extra Batteries
  • Whistle (to signal for help)
  • Dust mask (to help filter contaminated air)
  • Plastic sheeting and duct tape (to shelter in place)
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties (for personal sanitation)
  • Wrench or pliers (to turn off utilities)
  • Manual can opener (for food)
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery

“We all should take a page from Chief Isayev's efforts to prepare his family by reviewing evacuation routes from the home, talking with your family about emergencies, and conducting emergency drills at home,” said Capt. Tim Lavier, commanding officer, District 11 Planning and Force Readiness. “It's time to get yourself and family ready - Semper Paratus!”

Additional resources:

  • My Hazards - discover hazards in your area, view hazard data and interactive map, and hazard mitigation tools and information 
  • Ready for Wildfire - find preparation toolkits and prevention information 
  • FEMA  - find disaster assistance, flood maps, emergency management 
  • Red Cross  Download the Emergency app, get safety tips and emergency training resources