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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Health Concerns with the Toxic Soup that is Wildfire Smoke

September 22nd, 2020

Woman wears mask to protect against smokeIn this episode (#77) we talk with two experts on the dangers of exposure to wildfire smoke. Our guests are:

Sumi Hoshiko is an environmental epidemiologist with the Environmental Health Investigations Branch, Center for Healthy Communities, in the California Department of Public Health. She has conducted research on health effects related to climate change, including wildfires and heat waves. Just recently her research has been cited in a New York Times online article on the California wildfires. She is currently the principal investigator of a research study funded by CAL FIRE that will examine the public health impacts of prescribed fire. Other areas of work have involved investigation of a variety of environmental exposures and health conditions, including tobacco smoke, chromium, perchlorate, radiation, cancer clusters, and asthma. She holds a Master’s degree in Public Health from UC Berkeley and a bachelor’s degree from Oberlin College.

Janice Prudhomme is a Public Health Medical Officer (PHMO III) who works in the Environmental Health Investigations Branch (EHIB) within the Center for Community Health at the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). Dr. Prudhomme is trained in Internal Medicine and Board Certified in Occupational and Environmental Medicine, having completed a fellowship at UCSF and a Master’s degree in Public Health (MPH) at UC Berkeley. Following initial work in clinical occupational medicine, she transitioned to public health roughly 2 decades ago. She has served as a Public Health Medical Officer in the Occupational Health Branch at CDPH and subsequently led Cal/OSHA’s Medical Unit. She also served as the Branch Chief for EHIB from 2014-2015. Her interests and expertise are broad-based across many occupational and environmental topics and hazards, including infectious agents, chemical exposures and physical hazards, including heat stress and wildfire smoke exposures. Current projects include updating EHIB’s educational documents pertaining to wildfire smoke and the intersection with COVID-19.

For more information, resources and links go to and find this episode (#76).


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California Contact Tracing: On the Job with Brittani Peterson

August 4th, 2020


This is part-2 of our conversation with contact tracer Brittani Peterson. In part-1, episode #75, Brittani was just wrapping up her training and was about to begin her work reaching out to people who had recently tested positive for coronavirus.

Now, Brittani is more than a month into her job and shares with us what she’s experience so far.

Contact tracing is an important step in slowing the spread of COVID-19. It’s when health workers notify you that you’ve been in contact with an infected person, and you should also get tested. Public health departments have used contact tracing for decades to fight infectious disease. 


All you have to do is answer a phone call


Contact tracing is an anonymous way to do your part. The more people answer the call, the more lives and jobs California saves. Your information is always kept confidential.

Early awareness helps you protect your friends and loved ones from exposure. And early medical care can improve your outcome.

The sooner we can reach you, the sooner you can get advice, testing, and support.


Contact Tracing at


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Contact Tracing to Help Stop the Spread of the Coronavirus Pandemic

June 26th, 2020

Brittani Peterson

In this episode of All Hazards we take a look at “contact tracing.” We began hearing about this in earnest shortly after the coronavirus hit. Health officials are trying to find out who’s had it, where they might have gotten it and with whom they’ve been in contact.  And to do that they employ the dedicated services of contract tracers.  We talk with one of our Cal OES colleagues, Brittani Peterson, who was recently tasked with becoming a contact tracer and she tells us about her training and what’s she’s expecting in her initial weeks on the job. 


Cal OES Home Page

OES News

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Legislative and External Affairs and Their Own Challenges During Emergencies

May 26th, 2020


This is the return of All Hazards after a Covid19 Hiatus. We hope you’re all safe and well.

We sat down with members of the Cal OES Office of Legislative and External Affairs in January 2020 with the intention of posting it asap. Then the coronavirus hit. It seemed there were more pressing issues on everyone’s minds, so we didn’t want to post this episode at that time. But it’s here now.

Lori Nezhura, Patricia Utterback and Paul McGinnis bring us into the world of elected officials and how they affect each other during disaster response.


Cal OES Legislative and External Affairs

California State Association of Counties (CSAC)

League of California Cities



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Mitch Medigovich: “Athleticism” is a Self-Imposed Requirement for Success in Disaster Logistics

February 18th, 2020

In this episode (#73) we talk with Cal OES Deputy Director Mitch Medigovich, who oversees the Logistics Management Directorate. We concentrate on some of the more recent incidents Logistics have been challenged by including the Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS), the Camp Fire, Ridgecrest Earthquake and Hurricane Florence. Topics include disaster logistics, base camps, supply chains, personnel support, points of distribution (PODs), whole of government, Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) and more.   

Mitch Medigovich has a 37 year history of public service and currently serves as Deputy Director in the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.  In this capacity he is responsible for overseeing Public Safety Communications, Information Technology Operations, and Disaster Logistical operations for the agency.   He was appointed by Governor Brown to the Office of Emergency Services in December of 2012, and reappointed by Governor Newsom in 2019.  Prior to this appointment, Mitch worked in the California Military Department as Chief of Staff where he retired as a Colonel.  His other key assignments in the military were as the Combat Aviation Brigade Commander, Director of Army Aviation and Safety and Inspector General.  He is a combat veteran, Master Army Aviator and recipient of numerous medals and citations to include the Legion of Merit and Bronze Star.

He has directly supported response efforts in every recent major disaster in California that includes nine(9) Presidential Major Disaster Declarations since 2017, the Oroville Dam evacuation, Loma Prieta and Northridge earthquakes, LA riots, floods and many wild land firefighting operations.  Deputy Director Medigovich earned his Bachelor of Science from California State University Sacramento and holds a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, as well as, a Master of Arts in Strategic Studies from the United States Army War College.

The Disaster Logistics Planning and Coordination Branch implements the Cal OES Continuity of Operations/Continuity of Government plan focusing on essential functions and ensuring continued operations during emergencies. The Branch maintains mission-critical operations after an emergency or disaster and provides logistical planning, synchronization, accountability, and delivery of resources to support California’s catastrophic disaster plans.  The branch oversees and provides support for over fifty locations throughout California including capital outlay construction projects.  Logistical Services provides day-to-day operations of business services and facility support, including property management, facility leasing, records and forms management, courier services, shipping and receiving, and reproduction services. Also responsible for fleet administration, contracting and procurement, and property inventory control. Another service provided by this branch is Information Technology, which provides all necessary Cal OES information technology systems including enterprise applications, desktop and mobile PCs, mobile and desk phones. Provides email, remote access, network printing, Cal EOC, file sharing, and web services to the public, partners, and staff.

Also included under Logistics Management is Public Safety Communications, which is responsible for design, installation, maintenance, and repair of the statewide microwave network and public safety radio communications systems used by the State’s public safety agencies’ first responders on a 24 hours/7 days-a-week/365 days-a-year basis. Responsible for oversight and support of the 9-1-1 network serving the State’s 452 Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs). Operates as the point of contact with the National First Responders Network Board of Directors to implement the National Public Safety Broadband Network.


Cal OES Disaster Logistics

Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC)

Podcast Episode 52: Cal OES Team Returns from Hurricane Florence Assistance and Shares Experiences, Part-1

Podcast Episode 53: Cal OES Team Returns from Hurricane Florence Assistance and Shares Experiences, Part-2




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Helen Lopez Leads Cal OES Behind and Beyond the California Borders Via International Affairs

January 21st, 2020



This episode takes a closer look at how the International Affairs Office, at the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, is the central hub for matters of  international policy and guidelines, working relationships and special international projects. As the focal point of Cal OES’s engagement with the international emergency management community, International Affairs is primarily responsible for:

  • Annually participating in the Border Governors’ Conference
  • Coordinating and facilitating all foreign delegation visits to the Cal OES headquarters
  • Developing Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) between Cal OES and their international counterparts in order to facilitate the exchange of emergency management best practices
  • Participating in the Chile-California Council
  • Participating in the California-Mexico Border Relations Council
  • Working side-by-side with the Governor’s Office to organize large international events such as the Trade Missions to China and Mexico

Helen Lopez is the International Liaison for the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES). As assistant director, she leads the International Affairs Office where she works with the international community on emergency response efforts and coordinates delegation visits for countries from all over the world. She has been instrumental in developing Memorandums of Understanding on emergency management with various countries including Chile, Mexico, Australia, and the Aga Khan Development Network. Ms. Lopez has a long history in public service. In 2008, she was appointed Assistant Director and later, in 2009, Deputy Chief of Staff to the newly created California Emergency Management Agency. In 2010, she was promoted to Chief of Staff.

During 1991 to 2007, Ms. Lopez served at the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) as the Executive Director of the State Board of Food and Agriculture, Director of the Grant Management Program and Audit Director of the Internal Audit Office, as well as the Mexico liaison. In 1991, Ms. Lopez graduated from the California State University, Sacramento with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a concentration in Accountancy.



Cal OES International Affairs

Bracero Program

Indigenous Mixtecos

Aga Khan Development Network


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Cal OES Legal Chief Alex Pal Sets High Bar to Ensure a Resilient California

December 24th, 2019

Alex Pal Photo

In this episode, Cal OES Chief Counsel Alex Pal sits down with Shawn Boyd at headquarters to talk about the role he and his office played during a few recent California emergencies, and the importance legal affairs plays as a whole. Alex was appointed to this position by Governor Brown in 2018 and was reappointed by Governor Newsom in 2019. Prior to serving as Chief Counsel, Alex served in various attorney positions at Cal OES since 2013, including Assistant Chief Counsel and Senior Counsel. Alex has provided legal counsel to Cal OES on many disasters that have struck California, including 11 federally-declared Major Disaster Declaration events and nearly 100 state-only events for which the Governor proclaimed a State of Emergency. Alex earned his Juris Doctorate from Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego and his Bachelor of Science degree from Rutgers University in New Jersey.



Cal OES Legal Affairs

California Emergency Services Act


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