Why Javier Padilla Believes Staying at Home Literally Saves Lives

For Javier Padilla, the call for help was sudden and urgent, but he knew he had the responsibility to respond.

Padilla, SFPUC Environmental Justice & Land Use Analyst, had a plan for the work week and what he needed to accomplish for his projects. When the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management (SFDEM) requested City & County of San Francisco disaster service workers to help as Spanish translators, Padilla knew his language skills could make a difference and help San Franciscans prepare for COVID-19. He raised his hand and reported into the emergency operations center (EOC) joint information section (JIS) the next day.

Padilla’s role at the EOC was to do outreach and translation work for the Spanish-speaking community. The JIS needed additional assistance on designing outreach materials and Padilla had a background in graphic design. Although it was a different role than what he was assigned to do, Padilla knew he could help. Padilla designed the first set of materials that were distributed to the public when the first cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in San Francisco.

“As the Environmental Justice Analyst at the SFPUC, I rarely do design work,” he said. “I picked up the skill when I was in a band and needed to make posters and flyers for our shows. However, there are overlaps when designing. A big part of what I do in my normal SFPUC job is ensure we are inclusive and equitable in the way we communicate important information to communities that are often ignored. As designer and translator for the EOC, I was able to use these skills.”

Coming into the EOC assured Padilla that San Francisco was being proactive in its response to COVID-19. He saw the amount of expertise and dedication of colleagues from across the City & County of San Francisco and its various departments. Padilla was inspired.

“Everyone was working hard and it was stressful, but we all knew instinctively that the better prepared we were, the more lives we could save,” he shared. “Similarly, we had to be flexible, that is why, even though I came in to do one job, I picked up an additional role to ensure we were being effective.”

For Padilla, being in an emergency response role was one of the most important things for him at such a critical point for San Francisco. “Here is a life or death situation for many of our most vulnerable and I can use my skills to help,” he said. “I have great colleagues that were able to continue my regular role at the SFPUC, and they did.”

Padilla stressed that San Franciscans need to work together as a community to protect each other and the most vulnerable. He urged, “We all have a role to play. And while it may seem uneventful to stay home, it can literally save lives.”