Todd: I have Mike and snooty with me from San Bernardino County emergency management and we're here to talk about a couple different things. One is a little bit about San Bernardino County and then also his great conference that he puts on himself.
So I got to meet Mike at the CESC conference, like the California Emergency Services Conference here in California and got talking to Mike and said, you know what, I'd love to have you on the show. Talk a little bit about what you do about your background and bring it up.
So Mike, welcome to EM Weekly.
Mike: Thank you. great to be here.
Todd: So Mike, tell me just a little bit about yourself, your background, and how you got involved with emergency management.
Mike: Well, I've been involved in emergency management for many years. I've been in the fire service for 43 years and as part of that I've been assigned, four years I was with the state of California and the office of emergency services.
I did eight years at a fire department in Kern County that I was responsible for emergency management. Also six years in Upland Fire Department, which I was responsible for emergency management and now six years with the county of San Bernardino, which my primary responsibility is emergency management.
So in those 43 years I've had a lot of experience with emergency management and developed a passion for it and was able to focus in on that towards the latter part of my career here.
Todd: So San Bernardino County in California is a really interesting county. So you got parts of the county that are desert and like Las Vegas, no water desert. Some places don't even have cactuses because there's less water. And then you have the beautiful mountains with ski resorts and great tall pine trees and, and those issues that are associated there.
What are some of the challenges for managing the county like San Bernardino?
Mike: Well, resources obviously is one of them because most of the resources where the population is and the populations are in the cities in the valley, mostly in the mountains.
We have a lot of traffic in the desert because of the drive to Vegas on the 15 and 40, going to Havasu which presents as a lot of problems, but the response times are longer. We cover that with aircraft a lot, so we have a lot of, of fire department and Sheriff's helicopters that were able to fly initially to the seen and evaluated while the fire engine is responding.
Other challenges that we have is what we're going through. One of them right now with the, our electric company a has a new program which is called public safety power shut off. And basically what it is when the red flag conditions and fire danger is high, that they have designated high fire zones that they're going to shut the circuits off.
With, that comes a lot of problems that were unanticipated by them, which we're trying to work through now for critical lifeline patients that are at home and have need for electricity to stay alive. We have gas stations because as I said, the county is a lot of the county is rule and with our AQMD, which is the air pollution people, for those of you who don't have a California, they don't allow them to have generators are run generators so that they're not allowed to have backup power so that when the power's out to those people, we have a lot of stranded people that we have to be able to get off the mountain or the deserts.
We have also a water issues, water problem issues, because if the power's off, a lot of the areas are not gravity fed, they're pumped. And without the pumping stations having electricity, we could have some problems.
We're undertaking currently a survey. I put together a taskforce for 60 or 68 water purveyors in the county. We had a meeting last Thursday and gave them the maps of the, a power outage areas, that are potential and they're coming back and bringing me all their pumping stations that are there and which ones have generators, how much fuel they have, how long can they run? Ones that have transfer switches that are available to have generators to in which ones that don't have anything because we'll have to support those in different levels depending upon what they have available to them.
So we have a lot of challenges. We have blizzards, we have snow, we have flooding, we have wildfires. And of course we have the invasive earthquake.
Todd: That's what I mean. And that's all in one county. And it's also the largest county in the United States. Once you start driving through there, like driving into Arizona or Nevada, It's like you're driving forever and forever and forever. And finally you're in a different state.
I grew up back east where you can get lost and you're in a different state.
Mike: I'm From New York.
Todd: Me too, That's awesome.
So yeah, it's, it's kind of, it's kind of funny that then come out here at the vastness of the land. So those are some serious challenges.
Mike: Yes, they are.
Todd: So we talked earlier a little bit about why you created this conference that we're going to talk about here. And I think it's really important for people understand. And so those of us in emergency management, um, we talk about having conferences all time, we've maybe attended them a thought about maybe having a local conference and um, I think it's really kind of cool that Mike's coming up here today and talking about some of the challenges that he had with creating the conference, why he felt that he needed it. And I think we're going to, we should get into that right now.
So Mike, why did you create your conference?
Mike: Well, about 12 years ago we got together with a bunch of people and said there's something lacking here. And what was lacking in our opinion was the ability to download information from different disciplines, After an emergency. Years ago when I first started, I started in 74 and 74. It was easy. You run five calls a day, you go take the patient to the hospital or you go after the fire, you meet with the people and you talk to the police on why they parked there instead of where they should have park. You talked to the, the ambulance people. They talk to you, talk to the hospitals, you're able to solve things at a micro level. In today's world with hospital bed delays and running 20, 21, 25, we have stations run 25, 26 calls a day, you just don't have time for that. You're running from call to call to call and their major calls, most of the time they're getting bigger and bigger because of the environment we live in now.
So you don't have time for that. So you're not able to solve those small micro problems and they turn into macro problems. So we said, you know, we have to get the continuing education for nursing licenses and for our paramedic licenses and for EMT and the doc's and everybody else has to have their continuing education. Emergency management is just getting into that now with accreditation and continuing education. So we said, why not? Let's do a conference. We keep everybody there for three or four days. We have general sessions that are for everybody. We have individual tracks of disciplines so we can give them their CE's, and we do.
We have BRN, Paramedic, EMT, EMS conference in EM track, CE's, continuing education credits. We do our own why not do that and keep them all in one place and they can network at night. We'll give them activities to do at night, you know, drink, listen to music, play Cornhole, Bean Bag toss, whatever and just give them.
We come with all kinds of activities, just give them things to do. We have vendors so they can see the greatest equipment, the greatest innovations and in what's coming out and software and different types of, of ems and ems products. And we have about 80 to 100 vendors a year. So there's a diversity through the vendor hall. It's great food and everybody just likes a good time here. You can bring your family and a lot of people go to conferences and their families don't go because of where it is.
This is in a resort area in Indian Wells, which is Palm Springs, for those you don't, don't know the area. And their families can go in the pool and have a great time while they're in class. And then when they finish their class, they go out and join their families and have a good evening together. It's just a great family atmosphere. It's a great educational experience. And we have found for 12 years that it has worked very well for us. Our attendance has gone down, it's gone up. So obviously something's working in. People want to come for some reasons, you know,
Todd: Palm Springs, Indian Wells area in May, It's beautiful weather. Beautiful. I can't get any better than that.
So I have to go on the record though and say that corn hole has to be the worst name for a game.
Mike: I agree. I'll give you a little history on that though. The reason why they called it cornhole, those bags are filled with dried corn.
That's why it's called corn hole because I hate that name. And I went through the whole thing. I got to figure out why they're calling this thing cornhole.
Todd: It's so popular too. It's great, when I heard those and they own like, what is it called Beanbag toss? But. Okay, that makes sense.
Alright. So that's amazing though that, that conference that you're putting together and you're putting people from all over the place to come into one location to get your CE's in a fun way. It's not sitting in a boring, you know, refresher course or whatever. You're not online in a, in a sterile environment. You're learning from fellow firefighters and police officer or not police officer, but ems so forth, getting this information across and being able to have some afterwards breaking bread and having some fun like we'd like to do in this field.
So you've been doing this for 12 years. What are some of the challenges of putting together a conference like this?
Mike: Well, from, from the get go since you talked about other areas wanting to develop their own conferences from the get go, money is an issue. You have to have seed money to be able to do this. Nobody does it because they like you, you know, you have to put deposits down on things and you have to have a good share of money. We started because the uh, um, Firefighters First Credit Union believed in us and they gave us a $25,000, check it as seed money to start to start paying our, our, uh, our bills, you know, our deposits and, and getting things done. They believed in it. And until this day, 12 years, there's still a sponsor of ours. So, uh, they believe in our mission and they know what we do as good. And that's, that's really the first challenge in getting this done.
The other challenges is that you have to build a model that people like to come to, you know, because there are so many choices of conferences out there and there's only so much money to go around, whether it be your personal money, like nurses because they don't get money from their hospitals to do this.
But fire departments and emergency management and EMS, they only have so much money to go around they can't send you send you to every conference. So we have to give them something that's a little worth, a little more than other conferences. And that's, I believe that's what we do. That's why we're wildly popular amongst our peer group because we give them that, so after that you have to put a team of people together that believe in your mission that will do it for nothing because if you paid all these people, you would be cost plus a thousand dollars a ticket for people to get in. Right? So we have any given year 62 to 68 volunteers that volunteer their time to believe in the mission that formed these teams of logistics and finance and operations and education teams and speaker escorts and you know, we treat our speakers very, very well. We pick them up at airports, we drive them here, we give them their rooms, we make sure that they're taken care of and get their presentations ahead of time, make a run through with our AV people, And it's good.
We have a professional AV company that does like the movies that does it, so we don't have any mix ups. We try to do it our own ones that doesn't really work. You can't. You can't afford to have the latest and greatest equipment all the time. They do. That's their business, so we do that, we contract with them and it just goes from there. It's just a lot of hard work. It's an 18 month planning cycle for a conference and a lot of times your multi, you have two years where the conferences and a short period of time that you're working on.
Todd: So you're telling me earlier that you actually have your team working on next year's conference when you're in the middle of the current conference?
Mike: Correct. We'll be starting around January on 20 on 2020 conference. Uh, we've been involved for at least six months on 2019 already. Yeah. January. We'll start booking speakers in and logistically making sure our contracts are, are correct. We try to get contracts that are three years so that we don't have to do that every year. The same contracts and you get a better price if you do a long-term contract with a vendor.
Todd: So how do you choose your speakers?
Mike: We choose a mostly by people that have seen these speakers talk before by, by events, current events that are going on. For instance, just as an example, last year we had a team from the Las Vegas area that were involved in the Las Vegas shooting at the route 66 country concert. We were able to get the EMS Chief from the fire department, the Ambulance Supervisor, the Trauma Doctor that was in charge of the Sunrise Medical Center and the Emergency Manager all there at the same time to give their different perspectives what was going on.
We tie into that. We have a lot of connections throughout the nation with different people we know and we're able to get those, those connections and do it that. Some of the how we get speakers, the other ones we get from speakers bureaus we get from going to a conference and seeing somebody who is amazing and saying I need to book them and ask them if they can talk about a certain topic that is relevant to our group, our people. Anyway, it's a constant, constant work. Always looking for speakers and always evaluating them. And the other part of it is that we have to be able to run their presentation in front of our Education Committee to be able to give them the CE's, so we have to get the CE's for and if their topic is nothing that we can give CE's for, then we can't have them as a speaker because people come from the CE's, they leave with a year's worth of two years’ worth of CE's.
Todd: Wow, That's amazing. Right? That's, that's worth the price of admission right there.
Todd: So that, not saying that it's like picking your favorite child, but what was your favorite speaker that you've had, or at least somebody who you thought was like really uplifting
Mike: As a motivational speaker, Joe Theismann was amazing. He was just an amazing speaker and talked about when they broke his femur and the Rehab and recover from that. It was really good. We've had, uh, multiple, speakers from different studies that they've done that affect our industry and our business and how it affects us too, to whether it be a "Tonto" remember Tonto from the embassy, uh, shootings that a
Todd: "13 Hours",
Mike: 13 hours. He, he was a speaker and talked about his experience and how the whole system interface and, and, you know, bullets flying everywhere and how they abandoned them. He's done a really good job for us and that those are really favorite speakers.
There's also a lot of great speakers that make you think, for instance, on relationships, on what's going on in our industry currently with people being depressed and committing suicide and the first responder field, it's, it's kinda getting out of control with academic and we're not giving them the help that they need.
Todd: That's are highest number of losses is suicide.
Mike: Yes, absolutely. More than, than the in the line of duty deaths. And that's, uh, that's, it's very preventable. And so we're focusing a lot on that. We it with some of that information, uh, but not in a way that gets you all down and depressed in a way that makes you think and pick up people and recognize signs and, and they have a way to help yourselves and realize that, you know, it's not macho to sit down and say, I need help. I've done this.
You know, one of the very first calls ever had an up in Sacramento was a Candy Lighteners daughter. Candy Lightener was the one that started Mothers Against Drunk Drivers. I had my first call as a paramedic was I had her hit by the car and that, and I didn't know if I would make it a second call because that was one of my first calls as the paramedic.
She was throwing the dishes, the two telephone poles, and she looked like a burn victim because she ran around through the asphalt so much and she was alive and when I got to the hospital I remember just sitting on the, on the tailboard and just crying and I didn't know if I could do this again. I, it's the first call you get, it's like out of the Getgo. And uh, you have to learn how to cope and work through those things. And that's what our industry is lacking right now.
Todd: No, you're so right. You know, um, we were talking earlier today about what, about responding to this big event that we had here in Orange County where I've talked about it on the show before about the mass shooting and we weren't allowed to leave that place until we talk to a counselor. And at the time I'm like, I don't even talk to a counselor. I got this. I've been to 100 calls. This is just the worst one of the ones I've been to. And not realizing how much stress you're under until after you kind of sat down and went, Oh crap, I am under a lot of stress and that really helps you out.
So I think those of us that are in this field to really take that seriously, I'm number one as responders and slash or you know, emergency managers that we are under stress lot on these things. And to understand that we are number two as supervisors and managers, we really owe it to our employees and to our troops to get somebody in here to really do a decompression on when we have these major calls. Because when we're dealing with people's lives, it's a lot of layers of the onion that gets on top of you before you realize that you have to have kind of pressure going on.
Absolutely. And as a supervisor, I think it's your responsibility to recognize that we had the big waterman shooting and the Waterman shooting had 23 people that we knew killed in it because we work with public health all the time and the environmental health people. And uh, I had to get a bunch of counselors, behavior health counselors into the EOC as they started releasing the names to make sure that my people who knew them could still, be able to cope with what was going on because it was horrific incident and we were, we were privy to all the information. We didn't need to know, the gory details.
Todd: Know that's not true. And you know, it's, it's interesting when you talk to people that they want to know those details and you're just like, you don't, you don't really. These are things that you just, if you don't want, if you don't have to know them, you don't need to know, you don't want to know them.
So that's great. And I'm so glad that you're doing this and that we're working towards number one, building that, that the bridges, number one between disciplines and then number two, you know, really doing, doing the work of getting mental health back into what we do and on a daily basis,
Todd: So okay, so we're getting here close to the, uh, to the end of your time. Um, so there are two questions that have left. One is if somebody wanted to get ahold of you, how would they be able to find you?
Mike: Well, they, they can call San Bernardino County Office of Emergency Services at 909-356-3998.
I could give you my email, but it'll probably need shorthand because it's so long, but I'll give it to you anyway. email@example.com
Todd: now you know what I mean. For those of you who are that are driving and your pencils aren't sharp, don't worry about it. We'll put that information in the show notes so you can just go ahead and go and click it. You can fight it on EMWeekly.com or whatever listening device that you're on and you can find those in the show notes
Mike: If your interested in the conference we can be found at www.cfedwest.com
Todd: Yeah. We'll put the link to that as well into the show notes.
That's awesome. All right. My toughest question of the day. Yes. Book Books or publication do you recommend to somebody in emergency management? Well,
Mike: I think all the books on your show that you've mentioned before are very good books, but I have one probably that you haven't heard of before and I think it's a great management book. It's called the "Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun" and it's by West Roberts and uh, it's a good read and it's a great book and I think that, uh, you will see what I mean when you read it.
Todd: That is a great title. Never think about Attila the Hun and his leadership skills, but he had to lead, right?
Mike: Yeah, absolutely.
Todd: That's amazing. Well, before we let you go, is there anything else you'd like to say to the emergency manager out there?
Mike: Just hang in there. We're changing. I think everyday disasters get worse and our relevance get more important. And I think if you have the opportunity, you need to push our field very heavily to whatever discipline you work for and show them how valuable that we are to the responding community.
Mike: We can bring calm to chaos and a lot of organizations can't do that, but we can. This is what we do and I would say that you need to pursue those, those passions and keep it, keep it in the forefront of everybody's mind and say, yeah, we can do that. Instead of trying to shy away from it because you haven't done it before.
Todd: Oh my. Thank you so much for your time today.
Mike: Thank you very much. I appreciate it. Stay safe out there.
Titan HST https://www.titanhst.com/
The Blue Cell http://www.thebluecell.com/