California and Japan Share a History of Natural Disaster Assistance, Research Collaboration to Save Lives

September 15th, 2021

Dr. Satoru NISHIKAWAIn this episode (#87) we talk with an expert on disaster mitigation. He is Professor Satoru Nishikawa, Disaster Mitigation Research Center, Nagoya University, Nagoya, Japan.

We had the opportunity to chat with Dr. Nishikawa about the topics that connect Japan and California - natural disasters. We each have a long history of disasters and as such, we each acknowledge we are disaster-prone. However, we don’t just accept that fact; we are both actively involved in research and the development of new ways to mitigate, respond to, and recover from those emergencies. In fact, we have shared information with each other, learning from our collective experiences and share a common history of helping one another during times of need. Dr. Nishikawa talks about all of that and much more.


Professor, Disaster Mitigation Research Center, Nagoya University

Dr. Nishikawa joined Japanese Government service in 1982 and has held various positions in the Japanese Government, the United Nations, Tokyo Metropolitan Government, as well as a number of international organizations. In 1992, he took the position of Senior Disaster Relief Coordination Officer at United Nations Department of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-DHA) where he coordinated international assistance to numerous disaster-stricken countries. In 2001, he was appointed as the Executive Director of Asian Disaster Reduction Center. After resuming Japanese government service in 2004, he held senior positions in the Cabinet Office and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism of Japan. In the wake of the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004, he coordinated the Japanese Government technical assistance to the affected countries. He was also the on-site coordinator for the Niigata-Chuetsu Earthquake in 2004. He hosted and coordinated the 2005 UN World Conference on Disaster Reduction where the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015 (HFA) was adopted. In 2005, he proposed the Japanese Business Continuity Plan (BCP) guideline. He initiated the long-term regional recovery planning for Tohoku after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. He was a member of the Advisory Group to the UN SRSG for DRR on the Post-2015 Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and the Global Platform. He was the chair of the WEF Global Agenda Council on Catastrophic Risk. From 2013 to 2015, he served as Vice President of the Japan Water Agency.

He currently serves as:

• Member, Science Council of Japan

• Board Member, Institute of Social Safety Science

• Board Member, Business Continuity Advancement Organization

• Adviser, Japan Bosai Platform

• Board of Trustees Member, Asian Disaster Reduction Center

• Board Member, Save the Children Japan






The Great Japan Earthquake of 1923 (the Great Kanto Earthquake)

Cal OES - Plan and Prepare

Earthquake Warning California

Cal OES Preparedness Day 2019

California Day of Preparedness 2018

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Come Along with Us on Our Walking Tour of Damage and Recovery of Big Basin Redwoods State Park

June 18th, 2021

Photo of Joanne Kerbavaz

This episode of All Hazards (#86) takes you on a walking tour of Big Basin Redwoods State Park. The CZU Complex fire burned nearly all of the 18,000-acre park beginning in August, 2020, a significant portion of the 86,000 acres that burned in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The good news is most of the massive redwoods survived; however, the park’s infrastructure is gone. Our guide, Joanne Kerbavaz, is a senior environmental scientist with California State Parks. Learn about the damage done, and how the miracles of nature are evident in new life after wildfires.  

To see our photo gallery and upcoming video of our Big Basin tour, visit…woods-state-park/


Big Basin Redwoods State Park contains more than 18,000 acres of redwood forest including the largest ancient redwood grove south of San Francisco


CZU August Lightning Complex Fire = devastating structural losses including the destruction of the park’s historic headquarters, campgrounds, and the newly renovated Nature Museum.


You can help. Click here for how: Donate to MPF's Big Basin Recovery Fund


Sempervirens Fund is California’s first land trust and the only organization dedicated exclusively to protecting the redwood forests of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Save the Redwoods League is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to protect and restore California redwoods and connect people to the peace and beauty of redwood forests. Together they are raising support for the Big Basin Recovery Fund, with 100% of proceeds going to California State Parks for the immediate recovery of Big Basin Redwoods State Park. This fund will lay the groundwork for the long-term rebuilding of this treasure of the California State Parks system.


Donate to Save the Redwoods League to support the Big Basin Recovery Fund

Sempervirens Fund has also created a Santa Cruz Redwoods Restoration Fund to restore redwoods in the rest of the Santa Cruz mountains affected by the wildfires.

Donate to Sempervirens Fund to support the Santa Cruz Redwoods Restoration Fund


Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks (Friends) is a vital partner with California State Parks, creatively working to ensure our cherished local parks and beaches are thriving and available to all. They are creating the Friends Fire Relief Fund for direct, short-term assistance as well as longer-term recovery efforts at Big Basin Redwoods State Park and other parks in the Santa Cruz Mountains impacted by the CZU Lightning Complex Fires.

Donate to Friends Fire Relief Fund


Take a listen to our first podcast episode on Big Basin, recorded just weeks after the fire was contained.

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Cal OES Leads Covid19-Safe Radiological Exercise Sentinel Response 2021

April 20th, 2021

In the words of our guest for this episode, “Table top is one thing. Getting your knuckles dirty is another.” Cal OES Assistant Fire Joe Gear takes a few minutes to sit down and talk with us about his role as incident commander, and that of Cal OES’s role, as well as the overall operations for Sentinel Response 2021. This is a detailed, complex all-of-government exercise that puts local, state, federal and military responders through the ringer during a two-day, hands-on training drill. This annual event usually takes place in Region-2, though it did happen in Sacramento in 2018.  This time, the training site is the Naval Weapons Station Concord, a World War II-era military base that has long-since been decommissioned pending full closure. Nevertheless, the Navy offered it as the site for this year’s exercise.

References and Links

Sentinel Response 2021 Photos


California Fire and Rescue Training Authority

Engine Transfer Photos

Sentinel Response 18 FSE and Interagency Cooperation

INSIDE LOOK: Sentinel Response 2018

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory


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Covid-19 Vaccinations on a Mega Scale: Figuring Out What Right Looks Like

March 9th, 2021

This episode of All Hazards (#84) takes us to the front lines of the fight against Covid-19, the vaccination super site located at Cal State Los Angeles. We sit down with some of the top leadership there:

David Stone, Cal OES Fire & Rescue Branch

Jack Nelson, FEMA

Major LeRoy Cisneros, California Army National Guard

Lt. Col. Andy Olson, Active Duty Army

All four have their own areas of responsibility and face unique and similar challenges. How are they meeting those challenges, and what are they? What is it like to be part of history as they manage (in unified command) the first-ever Type-I Vaccination Super Site, one that’s becoming a model for all others nationwide?

Let’s find out.




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Meteorologist Michelle Mead Faces Wildest Weather of Career in California, Godzilla Storms and Atmospheric Rivers Among Them

February 23rd, 2021

In this episode (#83) we talk with Michelle Mead, Meteorologist In Charge - at the National Weather Service in Sacramento. We talk about the role the meteorologist plays during the response and recovery efforts for a disaster.

Ms. Mead graduated in 1994 with a BS degree in Earth Science with an emphasis in Meteorology from St. Cloud State University. She has been with the NWS since 1994, and has worked across the country in her 27 year career. Sacramento, California, is her current and 6th office.  During her tenure, she has dealt with weather phenomena such as severe weather in the midwest to the Foehn winds, snow, mountain meteorology and Fire Weather of the intermountain west and California. Since her arrival in Sacramento, she has been very hands-on with her office staff and the communities we serve.  She is also a wife and mother of twin 16 year old boys. Therefore, her spare time is mostly eaten up by family duties which, of course, she loves.  She also likes to workout and decorate her home for the holidays, no matter what holiday.


NWS Forecast Office Sacramento, CA


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San Francisco FD Drafts Rookie PIO Who Starts Career in Super Bowl 50

January 19th, 2021

Be sure to visit OES News for more images and podcast information.

In this episode of All Hazards, he’s THE public information officer for his fire department. No, not a small hamlet in rural California. San Francisco, California. Can you believe this legendary fire department has one person handling public information request, media relations, crisis communications, public affairs, education and more? He gets support from his department but that’s a lot of work and responsibility for one person. But he does it, and judging by those who know him, he does it well. 

Lt. Jonathan Baxter will talk to us about how he’s able to be stretched so far and maintain a high standard of work and sanity! One secret I can share with you - he loves what he does. 

Whether you’re a PIO or not, there’s a lot you can learn from this conversation, so grab your favorite hot or cold beverage and settle-in. 

Baxter started his career in Public Safety at the age of 14 working as an explorer scout with the City of Paso Robles Police Department.  He attended EMT school at the age of 17, obtaining his EMT certificate just past my 18th birthday in 1989.  He was shortly thereafter hired with the San Luis County Ambulance service part time as well as the San Luis Obispo County Fire Department.  

At the age 18, he was asked to participate in a trial paramedic program put on by the Community Hospital of Monterey Peninsula, in the Carmel Valley.  He obtained his Paramedic license at the age of 19, becoming the youngest paramedic In the State of California at the time.  

In early 1990 Baxter got hired as a full time Paramedic with Golden Empire Ambulance in Bakersfield California, and part time with Delano Wasco Ambulance service in the Inland Empire as a Paramedic.   From late 1990 to 1998 he was employed full time as a Firefighter Paramedic with the City of Sonoma Fire Department.  

Let it be known that also from 1990 to 2000, in addition to his full-time career, he also worked part time as a Paramedic for AMR SF, Guerneville Fire, Bodega Bay Fire, Sonoma County EMS, and Occidental Fire.  

Additionally, Baxter also worked part-time as a Firefighter/EMT and Fire Investigator for the Glen Ellen Fire Protection District from 1991-2010.  

From 1998 to 2000, he worked full-time for the City of Hayward Fire Department as a Firefighter Paramedic.  

In January of 2000, he started his career with the San Francisco Fire Department.  From 2000 to 2006 he worked around the City as a Firefighter Paramedic, and Rescue Swimmer. From 2006 to 2016, he volunteered to be assigned to Engine 1, which was at the time the busiest fire engine in America, per Fire House Magazine. With over 500 public contacts per month, personal pride and integrity drove he and his fellow crew members to provide equal, and above standard service to every customer (citizen).  

From 2008 to 2016, he worked as a temporary lieutenant on fire suppression apparatus (Mostly Engine 1).   On January the 18th of 2016, he was hand-selected by Chief Joanne Hayes-White to become the SFFD’s Public Information Officer. While in that role, he was promoted to lieutenant in May of 2016 based off my rankings on a civil service test.


Links & Mentions

Rebuilding Together San Francisco

Rebuilding Together Sacramento

Rebuilding Together 

The Bay Area Urban Areas Security Initiative

Citizen: Connect and Stay Safe

FEMA Emergency Management Institute (EMI)


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Supply, Demand and Other Logistical Challenges During the Cal OES Covid19 Pandemic Response

December 16th, 2020


In this episode (#81) we talk with Grady Joseph, Cal OES Assistant Director for the Covid19 Logistics Task Force. Learn about the complexity inherent in the logistical response to this pandemic in California. He talks about the early challenges of PPE procurement, scams, price gouging, vaccines and their distribution, the task forces created, California Medical Stations, alternate care facilities, supply chain breakdown and building hospital system capacity.

Grady Joseph is the Assistant Director of Recovery Operations at the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. In this capacity, he oversees the State’s implementation of FEMA’s Public Assistance Program, California Disaster Assistance Act funding, Statewide Debris Operations, and serves as the executive sponsor for technology modernization of the Recovery Directorate. Prior to Cal OES, he served in key advisory and Recovery leadership roles in the private sector as well as at FEMA Headquarters and Region IX, with a primary focus on process improvement and technology modernization.



Fact Sheet: Explaining Operation Warp Speed

UC Davis Health is prepared to receive Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine

The first shots: Frontline health care workers receive historic COVID-19 vaccine


Covid19 First Vaccinations Reel



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Rebuilding Communities, Lives After Disaster with Cal OES Recovery’s Ryan Buras

November 10th, 2020

Ryan Buras Portrait

In this episode we sit down with Cal OES Deputy Director, Recovery, Ryan Buras. Governor Gavin Newsom appointed Mr. Buras in June, 2019 (just in time for the year of disasters, 2020) to head our Recovery directorate due, in part, to his experience with disaster recovery efforts in the US and American territories.

Buras has been director of the National Qualification System in the National Integration Center at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency, since 2017, where he has served in several positions since 2005, including senior advisor in the Office of Recovery Public Assistance and acting executive officer of the Office of Response and Recovery.


Wildfire Recovery

Cal OES Recovery

COVID-19 Recovery

Individual Assistance

Public Assistance

FEMA Assistance

SBA Assistance


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PODCAST: Lifetime of Emergencies Nearly Sent California Fire Chief Past the Point of No Return

October 27th, 2020

CALFIRE Battalion Chief Mike Mohler


In episode #79 we are grateful to have CALFIRE Battalion Chief Mike Mohler as our guest. Reaching us via Zoom during this pandemic, he speaks candidly about his “implosion” on the job, which led him to seek professional help. Chief Mohler speaks of Post Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI), intentionally differentiating his affliction from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.) What he and other first responders endure is, in fact, an injury not a disorder. Mike also talks honestly about how he contemplated suicide when he just didn’t care any more; he couldn’t numb the noise in his head. Mike is sharing his story because “we have to change that stigma because it’s OK. We’ve got people hurting across… not just our agency as you well know… every branch of military, law enforcement, fire, especially in these times. It’s time to check on our brothers and sisters and our fellow employees.”


First Responder Wellness

Save a Warrior


Career prevalence and correlates of suicidal thoughts and behaviors among firefighters


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CZU Torches Big Basin Redwoods, We Will Make Memories Here Again

October 7th, 2020

In this episode (#78) we talk with Chris Spohrer, District Superintendent,  California State Parks, Santa Cruz District. He talks to us about the devastation to the Big Basin Redwoods State Park done by the CZU Lightning Complex Fire when it swept through beginning on August 16th; It wasn’t fully contained until September 22nd.  The damage inflicted by the CZU was immense: 925 homes destroyed, 562 non-residential buildings destroyed, 999 people evacuated and one fatality.

And the Big Basin Redwoods was smack dab in the middle of it. Every one of the 18,000 acres in California’s oldest state park burned. Every park building was reduced to ash.

Now, many questions are being asked, such as where and how to begin rebuilding, what is the park’s future, and what will it look like?

If you’d like to help rebuild Big Basin Redwoods visit the sites below.

Chris Spohrer and Shawn Boyd



F: @SempervirensFund



F: @SaveTheRedwoodsLeague

T: @savetheredwoods

I: savetheredwoods



F: @FriendsOfSantaCruzStateParks

T: @ThatsMyPark

I: friendsofscstateparks



F: @Mountain.Parks.Foundation

T: @mountain_parks

I: mountainparksfoundation








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