EM Weekly: 13 “EM on the College Campus” Randy Styner

EM Weekly, episode 13 with Randy Styner

[TODD] Hi, this is Todd DeVoe with EM Weekly, and in the studio today, this is my first studio guest, so it’s kind of cool. I have with me the Randy Styner, and Randy is an author and a keynote speaker. And yeah, so Randy, go ahead, introduce yourself and tell me a little about yourself, your background, and why you’re here today.


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[RANDY STYNER] How you doing Todd?

[TODD] I’m doing well.

[RANDY STYNER] I’m Randy Styner, I’m the emergency manager over at Cal State, Los Angeles. Before then, I worked primarily for Orange County Health Care agency and their environment health department, managing and coordinating their emergency preparedness, and also supporting their radiological emergency response team, for the nuclear power plant. Now I’m purely hired as emergency management, and I’m loving it.

[TODD] Cool. And you’re also a marine.

[RANDY STYNER] Yes, sir.

[TODD] So, EM in the higher end is its own animal, and I know this because my stand in higher education in emergency management is really different from any emergency response and/or management that I have ever done in my 25 years on the job. So, but I want to hear about your experience, especially at a large university, like Cal State L.A.; what your challenges are, and making the program work, dealing with academics, dealing with the administration, budget issues, all that kind of cool stuff. So, tell me a little bit about Cal State L.A, and what programs you have running right now.

[RANDY STYNER] Well, Cal State LA in itself, has got… I’m actually the first civilian in emergency management there. It was run through the police department, and they had a very robust system. Unfortunately, because of levels of law enforcement, the actual bodies that they had, they really needed all the cops doing cop work, so they hired me. So, I walked into a pretty good system, we had a decent plan, although it was highly tactical. We had a standalone EOC, which we still have; we have great supplies, great warehouse, a lot of resources on campus. And so, walking into that was really a very good thing for me. I mean, moving up as an emergency manager. What became very clear very early on, I sort of cut my teeth in emergency management in the county, at the jurisdiction level, and what we considered traditional emergency management.

[TODD] Right.

[RANDY STYNER] Although that transfers over to your higher ed, the college campus is its own thing, and when you look at it at the jurisdiction, unless you’re doing a substantial amount of hours to the very jurisdictions, and all the jurisdictions around the campus… I mean, for Cal State LA, we’ve got Alhambra to the East, or the Northeast corner of Los Angeles city limb, so we deal directly with Los Angeles. We’ve got Monterrey Park to our South, we’ve got the county UEC right up the street, we’ve got the Los Angeles county fire department training center right there. So, we’re in the middle of all these areas, and a lot of different jurisdictions, but without the outreach to all of the emergency management functions, not just police or fire, there is a real big lack of understanding of what we do at that level. I mean, on a good day, in the middle of the semester, we can have 30 or 32,000 people on campus; that’s a small city. I grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska, and I can tell you, that’s the size of some pretty decent sized cities in the Mid-West. That’s a lot of people and a lot of resources, which would be required to support those people in an emergency. So, it’s kind of like its own mini jurisdiction that way; so, it’s very appropriate for a university area… any size of college campus have its own emergency response systems, its own EOC, its own capability to reach out to the community around it. So, that was part of the work that I did initially, I started reaching out to all the emergency management functions around the university, and making sure of what we had, what kind of resources were available for us and from us, if it ever needed to come to that. But what I found in doing that was, you know, to a large extent, the surrounding communities really didn’t tap into the university at all. I found that’s true with a lot of places. The university kind of… they’re their own thing, they’re doing it, and therefore we’re not really worried about it, but then you sort of start talking to them, and coming up with the other realization of, if we had to activate our EOC, it’s something that’s probably impacted the entire area, and we’re going to have to all work together. So, bringing that in and making sure that the surrounding community was wired in to our functions and understood the resource that we had for them, as well as what resources we may be asking from them. So, those challenges, just realizing that from the environment that I came from, and moving into that, was a little bit of a learning curve for me, to do that. On the good side, most universities… it seems like there’s a pretty good network within higher ed emergency management, where you can tap into other areas. Cal State system has a… we have a group were all emergency managers from all the campuses get together and teleconference every quarter. Actually, I’m sorry, every other month. And we discuss all the things that are applicable, and that’s been a really, really well functioning group for everybody involved. Turns out there’s plenty of things both to keep us busy in the college campus level, and evolving the certain nature of the college campus, but also there’s a lot of constancy that go on between campuses; so, it makes it possible and a little easier to go and find standards and work for all the campuses. We’re in the process, for example, of standardizing our emergency response plan system-wide. Being that if something happens in Northern California, and San Francisco, or some place, in San Francisco State goes three days and they burn out their EOC, and they need resources, then maybe I can come up there and help out, or some of us, other emergency managers, emergency personnel, can go up and help.

[TODD] So, that’s really kind of cool that you can go, and help… you know, mutual aid built-in between your own university system, and that’s key to a lot of success because… I mean, I know that… working in Orange County, we had that between cities, you know, with the small 33 cities that we had. A lot of small cities, where we had maybe an Alfa team, you know? Definitely is there’s a Brava team, it would have been 3 to 4 people, possibly, but never fully staffed. So, for sure, that’s really great that you guys can do that. So, I mean, some of the examples here, specifically in California, that maybe people out there might not have heard of, but its custom to have an issue where they were… the PD was pulling over a car, did a little mini high speed chase for short distance, the guy is bailed out, and they’re bailed out into Cal State Fullerton. I think that they might have had a gun, I don’t know if they ever recovered or not.

[RANDY STYNER] Yeah, they locked down the campus.

[TODD] Yeah. I think they had a gun, or they thought they had a gun, I’m not sure if they did or not. But regardless, they locked down the entire campus, and I got to sit down with the emergency manager for Cal State Fullerton, and kind of discussed some of the issued that they had there. We went through a table-top exercise with that, and it was bringing in all the different SWAT teams from around the area to help clear the buildings and… it’s crazy the amount of resources that have to be used just to do that.

[RANDY STYNER] Absolutely. Look at what happened in UCLA. It was the same exact thing. Their EOC activated. The whole thing ended in a couple of seconds and it turned out just to be a homicide, but it lasted all day, and the resources that needed to be coordinated in and out of there were pretty intense, so…

[TODD] Santa Monica… again, off-campus issue that came on-campus, then you had the shooting up in Portland, which was… that was on the campus itself, but, you know, we’re not only just dealing with the campus issue, you have to deal with things that are in the surrounding of the campus, so people can come off campus, on to campus. Because I don’t know of any purely closed campus. Maybe one that I can think of around the area here…

[RANDY STYNER] Well, Cal State is enclosed by any means, it’s a public university. But part of… what makes it a big challenge, also, provides us a level of security, and that is Cal State LA the way it’s situated, really only has three main entrances and exits. So, somebody coming on campus to escape, or… they would be very ill advised. They’re not going to make it, our campus PD would be able to handle that situation. Obviously, more on that… you know, the front of everybody’s mind is the shooter on campus. You know, a kid that just comes to class and decides this is the day that he’s had enough. That creates sort of the opposite issue, of either doing lockdowns or evacuations. We had an evacuation from campus a few years ago, that really didn’t go well, because we didn’t really have a campus evacuation plan. It took us two and a half hours, there was a box there, and it took us two and a half hours to evacuate the campus, just because of the way… the logistical challenges. The geographical challenges! So, that made us rethink our plan, and now we have a really solid evacuation plan, we’ve got sort of a coordinated effort if we did have to evacuate the campus, how we would do that. And it’s… although we haven’t had to actually evacuate the campus at that point, it is something we drill on and we keep in people’s minds.

[TODD] Think of a place like, San Diego or Point Lomo, that are right on the beach, or up in Malibu… they have some serious movement issues going on there two, huh?

[RANDY STYNER] Oh, yeah.

[TODD] So, that’s another thing, too. Think about the evacuation… I know that the university where I’m at, we have two points of entry, that’s it. And we also have residents that are on either side of those. So, you’re talking, I think 78 homes on one side, and 100 or something on the other. You know, all those people would possibly be evacuated as well. So yeah, evacuation plans are key… it took us a while to work in ours, and I think we have a pretty solid one, but yeah, think about… we’re not moving 35,000 people. I’m only moving…

[RANDY STYNER] Yeah, and that’s an issue. I mean, when you think about an earthquake, and you add in infrastructure damage, and you know… I would imagine that any college campus in a catastrophic event affecting the entire campus, the objective is going to be to clear the campus as best you can, so you can deal with the issue. That’s the advantage that college campus has over a jurisdiction or a city, is that our objective is going to get people out of the way, fix whatever has to be done, and then resume our operations.

[TODD] Do you have housing?

[RANDY STYNER] Yes, we do.

[TODD] How many students do you have?

[RANDY STYNER] I think we have about 2,500. It’s not a lot. But we’re going to be expanding that…

[TODD] Still, 2,500 people that you have to either house feed, or…

[RANDY STYNER] But then you drag in the other group of people that just can’t leave, that can’t navigate their way home, or are afraid to go home.

[TODD] Right.

[RANDY STYNER] That are stuck there on campus. During a normal school day, we can have almost 1,500 minor, unaccompanied minor children on campus. We have two high schools on campus, on our campus, and we have a child care center. So, reunification issues are going to be a huge thing, with any college campus. And most college campuses have the same setup, so they’re going to have to be dealing with, you know, what to do with these kids. How do you take a bunch of infants through 6th grade, and they march out to their assembly area, and well… you’re going to leave them there? There’s a lot of things to be figured out with that.

[TODD] Right. You know, seeing that, Troy High, in Orange… Fullerton, just had a scare, for lack of a better term, it was in the news yesterday, regarding two students that were plotting, and they caught them. And they, obviously, nothing happened. But that’s right across the street from Cal State Fullerton.


[TODD] So, that would have impacted that school for sure.

[RANDY STYNER] Absolutely, absolutely. If there were a lockdown in the high school, probably at least a portion of the campus would have been locked down, not the whole thing, but yeah.

[TODD] And if they ran, you know…

[RANDY STYNER] Yeah, they’ve got this big, wide campus. They’re just going to hide in there.

[TODD] That’s one of the things that you think about, on a university, is that you also have your surrounding community that’s going to impact you as well. Now, do you guys do any sheltering, or do you offer that, for red cross shelter type-thing, or do you guys have partnerships with the cities that you’ll take additional people if they can’t?

[RANDY STYNER] We don’t really have an official use, we really just have understanding of, this is what we’re going to be dealing with… the jurisdictions surrounding any major university cannot ignore the needs of the university. They have to be part of that whole… you know, overall plan. So, in terms of MOU’s, we don’t have… well, that red cross, part of the issue with having a red cross shelter on your campus, at least the issue that we would have, is that the red cross… if they open a shelter, it’s going to be open to all the public. And the last thing that we’ll be doing in a situation… or we’re going to want to be doing in a situation where we’re trying to evacuate the campus is bring people into the campus.

[TODD] Right.

[RANDY STYNER] So our plan with the red cross, not requires an MOU, it simply requires a call to the city’s red cross person during an event, and say: where are the nearest shelters? And we would provide transportation with our campus assets to bring people to various shelters if that was required; versus having a shelter stablished on campus. That being said, there would still be a lifetime of… who knows how long until the shelters are stablished. So we do still have to… we’re going to have that issue, there’s going to be people that just can’t leave, they have no place to go, they have no transportation.

[TODD] Right.

[RANDY STYNER] And so, for a while, that’s going to be a concern. Yeah, of course, in our EOC we have our caring shelter person who’s going to be dealing with that, so… our EOC, we’ve got a very… our EOC structure is based on ICSNMs, same basic positions, may not be as large as other jurisdictions, or something like LA, where it’s a whole page. I believe I have 28 positions in my EOC, 28 seats I got to fill, and I can cover pretty much everything. Different campuses vary; although we talk about standards, planning, you know, every campus has its own thing. When I talk about standards, I don’t mean templates. That’s something we were very clear when we talk about that in the Cal State emergency management group. Everybody sort of lashes on this idea of standardization and understanding that without any really formal mutual aid… if San Francisco calls LA, and says: hey, we’re spanned, can you send us a couple of people? We’re going to do that.

[TODD] Right.

[] But the idea is understanding of, when I pick up that plan, I’m going to know pretty much what’s in it, but I’m also going to know it’s not going to be exactly like mine. Templates don’t work in emergency management, we all know that.

[TODD] Right, right.

[RANDY STYNER] But standards are good. Understanding the common threads that run through all these campuses and being able to plan around this, is a good thing.

[TODD] Right. And just to clarify that, especially for my students that are listening here, when we talk about templates, he’s talking about the cut and paste… there are templates that are out there that will give you guidance on how to build an emergency operations plan. So, it says: “section one should have this information, and section 2 should have this information”; those are good templates to use. But the ones that are just boiler plate, if you just hire some consultants, some of these smaller firms sometimes have these boiler plate plans that come in, and they just kind of like, stick your name in here, and control each… those don’t work, because they need to be specific for your needs and for what you guys are going through specifically as a jurisdiction, or a business, or a university. You know, my university where I’m at, we have 1,500 undergrads, we have 900 kids that live on campus, we have another few thousand graduate students that come on a part-time basis. So, obviously, ours is going to be a lot different than somebody who has 35,000 students walking around on any given day, plus the geolocation of that facility. So think about that, when we’re talking about the planning process.

[RANDY STYNER] Yeah, and you know, a template is a good thing to use, like you said, as a guidance document. But a lot of times in emergency management you’ll find, especially on smaller jurisdictions, that templates are just used to fill in the name here. Anytime you use a template here, you have to go and do a full hazard analysis, you have to really understand your specific situation. Because although templates are a good guidance document, you’re going to latch on to those standards. And if those standards have been stablished, it becomes very challenging. But knowing… one of the great things of being in a system like CSU, is that there’s a lot of people, like Fullerton, like San Francisco, like Monterrey Bay, who have built these amazing emergency response systems that is so easy to tap into, and get the best management practices from… I’ve got a whole wealth of places. If I’ve got a question about some operation in my EOC, or some task that needs to be done, I’ve got this whole resource that I can go to, to talk to people and find out what’s worked, and where people have run into problems. I can develop my checklist and my processes around that, and it’s really a great thing to have.

[TODD] That’s a good point. Yeah, and I do agree with you there. Ok, so it’s time for a break and we’re going to have to hear a word from our sponsors. All right, that was a nice word from our sponsors, and it’s people like that that keep us going. So thank you for listening to that. So, ok… so just to recap a little bit here. So we talked a little about the planning process, we talked about some of the challenges of working in the university, as far as geopolitical fences that you have around you. Now, what are some of the challenges that you have, specifically, getting out the word about emergency planning, emergency response, those things, to your faculty staff and to your administrators and to the students?

[RANDY STYNER] Well, it’s all about communication, and the ability to get information out. It’s the same issue that any jurisdiction has, you know? Public information is public information. Whether it’s going to the staff faculty, students, or the general public. So, those challenges are always going to be there, they’re the same challenges that everybody has, but finding ways to reach the audience… for example, one of the things that we did at Cal State LA is we prepared an emergency preparedness video, working with our Film and Media school, they gave us some students, we produced this really great video, it’s online now. And we used that, and we encourage our faculty to use that in the classes, as part of the orientation process, to show people this 5-minute video that covers emergency preparedness. This is geared towards the student population, although the message is universal. So, doing things like that, finding innovative ways to reach out. We do a weekly newsletter that goes out on the weekly brief, our campus brief, that sort of talks about all the things that are going on, and that’s got an emergency preparedness section in, so we can always push our team, or any events that are coming out. On that note, we do plan and carry out emergency preparedness events on campus. This fall, we’re going to be doing a whole emergency preparedness day, where certain teams are coming out and partnering with the community around us to bring any assets in, we’re going to make that a really big thing.

[TODD] Cool.

[RANDY STYNER] And just keeping it in people’s minds you know? We have two campus-wide evacuation drills every year, where we evacuate every building on campus. One of them is a shake-out every year, and we always do one in the spring as well, so both semesters. Usually, we get really good response with that. You really know how engaged people are when you look at your evacuation exercises, and you hear about professors shutting the door, and everybody has that issue. But it’s pretty rare on our campus. We really try to throw the culture out there, and make people understand that this is important, you know? And without this, things could get very bad. So, it’s good to support this, and most people agree with that. And you can always tap into that. Of course, there’s going to be people that are in the middle of a midterm when the exercise goes, and they get a little peeved, and I mean, that’s a drag. But also, earthquake doesn’t care. We try to be, of course, conscious about all these times, but with all the overlapping classes you’re never going to be able to hit them off perfectly. So, that outreach is very important. And you know, our staff… trains people for our EOC, and providing training that is applicable. One of the biggest challenges we have in high ed, is the same challenge we have probably in most jurisdictions, which is lack of time. That people don’t have time to go to ICS 300, 400. So, we’re in the process of integrating training and developing training that’s more applicable, that’s easier to deliver in a shorter time period, and really focus… ICS and SAMs are all very important to our overall understand of what it is we’re doing and why. When somebody is sitting on a chair in front of the computer for the next 12 hours, they really just want to know what are they supposed to do. And so, the training is really there to develop that, and it’s engaging people on that level. Getting them trained from the ground up makes then want to learn more, then it’s easier to go back and say: well, there are these training opportunities out there. You know, of course, the requirements in SAMs and NEMs are very flexible with that, there’s not any hard fast with that. So, being able to develop those trainings, and making those trainings something that really benefits the responders is very good. Cause if they understand what they’re doing, they’re more likely to be engaged. They’re not going to be fearful. That’s the biggest thing that keeps people from becoming… it’s like I say in some of my talks, the people that do this, we do this for a living. And it’s great. I gave a speech one time, in front of a emergency management… the California Emergency Services Association, so it was all emergency managers. It’s like preaching to the choir. It’s like, we do this for a living. But for all these people in that room, to the people that fill those sits at EOC don’t. And that’s universal. I mean, some do, you’ve got some… the police department, other jurisdictions, the people that have the fireplace…

[TODD] Even with the fire… well, they’re not EOC people.

Randy Styner[RANDY STYNER] It’s not… yeah, and that’s a big challenge as well. It’s separating the fact that EOC is not a tactical asset. We train in ICS, IS 100 or 200. We have our mobile command vehicle, that’s where that happens. But in the EOC, the EOC is a tactical element, it’s there to coordinate. It’s there to document.

[TODD] Right.

[RANDY STYNER] It’s there to deal with all these different resources at the higher level, so… people who are emergency managers that develop their EOC in a tactical level… and that’s how I learned ICS, it was from the tactical level. I think probably you too…

[TODD] Me too, yeah.

[RANDY STYNER] So going to an EOC and getting tactical, you really start getting clogged up there, so you really have to get out of that. So developing that non-tactical, more coordination-based, emergency structure is key to that.

[TODD] Yeah. You know, coming from the field, you know, as first responder running EMS, and getting into the EOC, there’s benefits and there’s definitely some double-edge swords for sure, because you think of a tactical element, you know what I mean? And it’s hard to put yourself out there sometimes…

[RANDY STYNER] It’s really hard to put yourself out. You know, when you go into the Coast Guard planning, what’s the first blue square? Tactics meeting.

[TODD] Right.

[RANDY STYNER] I had to take that… it took me a while, when I was developing my planning for my EOC, it took me a while to actually see that, and be like: you know what? I need to take out tactics, I need to put in coordination.

[TODD] Right.

[RANDY STYNER] Cause that’s what that first meeting in an EOC is. Is a coordination meeting, you’re not doing tactics in the EOC. I mean, you can, but that makes it not an EOC. That’s a subtle difference, but that’s also very important when you’re dealing with the type of responder that I have coming in.

[TODD] Right.

[RANDY STYNER] These people that are not emergency response people, they’re administrative people, they’re executives, they’re vice-presidents, they’re administrative staff, they don’t do it for a living, and all of a sudden something happens and they have to come down and do it all. It’s a whole different… it’s not a different structure, it’s a different way of looking at that structure. Exactly. So having to rotate a little bit and look at it from a different perspective.

[TODD] Right. I had that conversation… I mean, obviously, the university where I’m at right now it’s a small university. And again, we have staff issues.


[TODD] So, I really went through this process with… you know, we want to develop an EOC, you know, we had the physical room, had all the stuff, and then when we start drilling, my… the boss right now, he’s a former police chief, you know what I mean? So he’s a doer.

[RANDY STYNER] Very tactical.

[TODD] Very tactical. And so, I told him: before we do this tactic stuff, we’re going to have to rethink an EOC, and make it more like an instant management team…

[RANDY STYNER] Yeah, exactly, an IMT. Where does the IMT work? They work at an ICP. You know, the EOC… you can use an EOC as an ICP, but if you’re doing tactics, it’s not really functioning as an EOC.

[TODD] That’s what I told him.

[RANDY STYNER] It’s hard to get people out of that mindset sometimes.

[TODD] Yeah, maybe… like I said, sometimes… and kind of going back of this, depending on the size that you have, maybe the traditional EOC that we’re thinking about might not be what you need. Maybe you might need to run like an IMT, where you have tactics coming out, and…

[RANDY STYNER] And that’s completely depending on your plan, on your program…

[TODD] Right. Size…

[RANDY STYNER] And how you’re setting it up. Yeah. IMT is obviously… I got, really… when I took the O3 O4 course, my eyes were wide open. I’ve taken… how many times, how many classes did you take before you took your… yeah! And there’s all these different classes, and how to work and… the unified community. Until I took O3 O4… O3 O5, I had really no actual concept of what goes on in an emergency command post, or the tactical operations that occur. That course really opened my eyes to that. But it also… and I kind of went with that. And I think to… where I was at the time, I think it was appropriate, but I try to bring that same system to my Cal State EOC, and it wasn’t working.

[TODD] Right.

[RANDY STYNER] Simply because of that tactical element. But all I had to do was remove that tactical element, turn it into more of a coordination element, and get people’s mindset. What does an EOC do? An EOC documents the incident; an EOC coordinates the resources; an EOC moves information. You know, beyond that, one or two other probably very important things, but beyond that, they’re not doing tactics. They’re not telling people in the field what to do.

[TODD] No.

[RANDY STYNER] That’s why they’re EOCs, they step up above that instant command post.

[TODD] You know, I’d like to talk about… when I teach about EOC, I talk about levels, right? And you know, when we get in tactics, this is when you’re out there and you’re doing contact.

[RANDY STYNER] Right. The tactics are for guys around the bed of a truck.

[TODD] Right.

[RANDY STYNER] That’s where the tactic’s at.

[TODD] And then you move to IMT, and you know, instant management team, and the instant management team, you’re like, at the 1,000-foot level. I mean, you can do…

[RANDY STYNER] You’re dipping into tactics…

[TODD] Right.

[RANDY STYNER] But you’re moving also into coordination of resources.

[TODD] Right. And like in the military, you can do a quick… parachute in, and you’re going to be able to get boots in the ground quick, you know what I mean?


[TODD] And then, you know, and then the next level up is going to be your EOC, and you’re going to be at the 10, 15,000 foot, you know, and that’s a special operations jump in to get down there.

[RANDY STYNER] That takes a lot of coordination, a lot of planning.

[TODD] Right, yeah! It’s not just about jumping on it.

[RANDY STYNER] You need a bunch of guys in the front of the plane, figuring stuff out, before you go jumping out the back of the plane.

[TODD] Right. So, you’re up there, you’re not getting down to those weeds quickly.


[TODD] You’ve got a long way down.

[RANDY STYNER] The weeds are way down. Don’t have to worry about the weeds.

[TODD] Yeah, so… yeah, I mean, and that’s the problem… that’s one of my issues, I was a responder, I want to be in the weeds. And you got to pull yourself out.

[RANDY STYNER] But I think this whole concept of what an EOC is, is evolving. I think it has been. I mean, really, you think about it, two decades ago, nobody knew about any of this, other than firefighters. This whole emergency management vocation has kind of evolved over the last 15, 20 years.

[TODD] It’s a 30-year-old industry.

[RANDY STYNER] Yeah, exactly. And it’s been pretty much dominated by the firefighters for years and years.

[TODD] Well, two levels, right? You had your national… not national defense. You had your civil defense, right? And those guys do a nuclear, everything that’s nuclear back then, right? From the 1950’s to the 1970’s, everybody was… you know, it was all nuclear.


[TODD] And then you had your firefighters back in the day, and then obviously, with the fire scope in the 1970’s, it became an instant command system. So, and then in California, obviously, we had it after the Oakland Hills fire. But you know, so… that being said, the whole development of EM and… I did a piece on this before. The whole development of EM is either: “hey, you got to develop a plan”. And you’re a broken firefighter, or a broken cop, like your knee is busted out, or whatever like that, so here you go… and you could type. So guess what? You’re going to write the plan, or you’re…


[TODD] You’re the secretary, and so you got to type it out. You’re the dispatcher, and you got to type it up. And you became the expert, so when the chief had a question, he would ask you, and you’re like… you know, here’s our person. And it wasn’t really developed into a traditional thing. So yeah, I mean, we are a young, young industry, you know? We’re… pretty much since Jimmy Carter and FEMA.

[RANDY STYNER] Yeah. That stuff they’re teaching in universities now, this emergency management master’s degree, that all comes from stuff that we developed.

[TODD] Right, right!

[RANDY STYNER] These people go back 15, 16 years, they would get: yeah, that would make sense to do it this way. But that’s how the whole EOC… the EOC as an entity has evolved, and its continued to evolve. And it’s very… one of the very interesting things about being in a college, being in Cal State LA, was being able to look at the EOC and how its evolved, and being able to structure it, and bring in these new… not necessarily new, but innovative things, into the EOC to make it work better. And there’s always that opportunity to do that, you know, in any EOC. But so, as we were talking about before, it took me a little bit to get out of that tactical mindset.

[TODD] Right, right.

[RANDY STYNER] And to really see it as, you know, I mean… tactics are happening, and obviously the results of those tactics have to be monitored. But there’s the EOC… function in that, doesn’t necessarily have to be about building tactics, it could be the people are building the tactics, and we’re supporting those tactics. And that’s pretty much how our system is all set up. I’m not going to be telling somebody from the EOC how to turn off a wire line, or fix the gas line, or fill a hole, or anything. They’re going to be developing that on their own in the field. But I will be providing them with whatever resources they need, I’ll be making sure that they have everything they need to keep their cruise healthy and safe, and we’ll continue to monitor. I’ll be able to tell if it’s going to start raining, and that’s what the EOC is there for, that’s why it exists.

[TODD] I like to… and you know, going back to the military, specially the marine, is the commander’s intent, right? I mean, from the EOC we pushed down to the instant command, saying: this is what our intent is, this is what the director of emergency management of the county X, he wants this to occur. And he pushes that down, and it’s up to the field guys to make it happen.


[TODD] How they do it, doesn’t make a difference if it goes left, left, left, or right, right, right; but as long as he gets in that circle to put whatever he’s doing out, you know, that’s their job to figure that out. Because they have a better understanding, they have a visual of what’s going on in a tactical level, where in the EOC we know what we want on the strategic level.

[RANDY STYNER] Yeah. And there’s a very clear line between the field elements, the EOC, and the policy group, in the university setting. I mean, the presidents may concern… not people potentially being injured, killed, whatever, not withstanding, obviously, any president is going to be worried about that. But their question to the EOC is going to be, can we continue to operate? Are we having classes tomorrow? That’s going to be the main question that any president of any university is going to ask if it has been catastrophically impacted. And they’re going to after report that up to the chancellor’s office. So, you know, we have to have a really good understanding, fairly quickly, just because of the time crunch, and you know… I don’t have to tell you, a university closing for a couple of days, just a couple of days, can destroy people’s semesters, can destroy research, you know, the implications in the university setting are huge.

[TODD] Oh, yeah.

[RANDY STYNER] So we have to have a system in place that allows us for a very rapid assessment of our university. But that’s… you know, any university, we have an advantage of that compactness. That we can… in our university, I divided basically the entire campus up in sectors, I have teams assigned to these sectors, with the idea of being able to do a rapid assessment of the campus, and have that information to the EOC very quickly, of which buildings are damaged, which ones aren’t. And of course, we’re always thinking about the catastrophic earthquake, but you know, a fire in our engineering building is going to require us to open our business continuity plan at some point.

[TODD] I think… I’d like to bring you back at some point to have a conversation regarding a university business continuity operations plan.

[RANDY STYNER] Business continuity.

[TODD] Yeah, business continuity.

[RANDY STYNER] We have business continuity plans.

[TODD] Yeah, it’s a…

[RANDY STYNER] I don’t know what the difference is.

[TODD] They’re the same thing, I guess. I guess it’s just the way you say it, right?

[RANDY STYNER] Yeah, exactly.

[TODD] So yeah, I think that would be a great conversation for another podcast, you know, for coming up here on our marker here. But yeah, so let’s plan another date, and we’ll get you back here again, and we’ll be talking about business continuity and operations continuity here, specially at the university level. Because I think that’s some really important stuff, and I know that we’ve had this conversation in the past, with a couple of smaller universities around us, and we have a gentleman’s handshake that if something happens, we can start doing classes over at those other universities and stuff. So, but that’s a story for another day.

[RANDY STYNER] Yes, sir.

[TODD] All right, well, I want to thank everybody here for listening to this podcast. And Randy, I have one final question for you for the day. Ok? This is going to be a tough one. If you gave away one book to somebody in this industry, what is it?

[RANDY STYNER] It’s probably a stretch to say it applies directly to emergency management, but it kind of does. But the best book I have ever read in my life is called “Death Valley in ’49”. By guy named William Louis Manly, who was in Death Valley in 1949 and walked his way out. It’s very interesting, a really good story. It really makes you understand what humans are capable of, the value of planning and having a plan, and how to implement things when you need to on the fly. It’s a very great description of this journey, and this guy as human being, it’s always been inspiring. So, I always recommend that book.

[TODD] That’s great. So, “Death Valley in ’49”. Awesome. All right, well, we’re going to go ahead and say goodbye, and thank you Randy for being here.

[RANDY STYNER] Thank you, Todd.





About Todd De Voe 62 Articles
Involved in Emergency Response, Emergency Management, Education and Volunteer Management for over 25 years.Served as a Corpsman assigned to the Fleet Marine Force of the United States Navy. I now teach Emergency Management at Coastline Community College, I am also the Host of EM Weekly.

1 Comment

  1. Thanks Randy and Todd. This was great and the tactics discussion was spot on. There’s been a big push over the last few year for states and the feds to tactically apply resources, ignoring the response authorities of local governments and the traditional role of an EOC as a coordination center. I believe it’s part of the ongoing evolution of the post Katrina response and the rise of social media. If managed properly, it’s not a bad thing but I think it’s breaking down some of the basic tenants of SEMS and NIMS. My two cents (for what it’s worth).

    Keep up the great work.

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