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Cal OES Director Secures Fire Management Assistance Grant from FEMA to Assist Response Agencies Battling Fish Fire in Southern California

California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services Director Mark Ghilarducci today secured a Fire Management Assistance Grant (FMAG) from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help ensure the availability of vital resources to suppress the Fish Fire burning in Angeles National Forest of Los Angeles County. The FMAG also enables local, state and tribal agencies to recover eligible costs.

Thus far, the fire has burned approximately 3,500 acres, threatening areas around Duarte and Azusa, Calif. Evacuations are already underway near Encanto Parkway and Brookridge Road. An emergency shelter has been set up at the 1600 block of Huntington Drive in Duarte.

Meanwhile Cal OES Fire and Rescue Regional Coordinators have been on the scene since early in the firefight working with Los Angeles County Fire Department to dynamically assess and address mutual aid needs for the Fish and the nearby burning Reservoir incident.

Strong, erratic winds in the area have fed the flames and caused rapid growth in recent days. The recent high heat, rugged, steep and brush-covered terrain has made for difficult firefighting conditions.

The federal grant, which is provided through the President’s Disaster Relief Fund on cost-share basis, will assist local, state and tribal agencies responding to the fire to apply for 75-percent reimbursement of their eligible fire suppression costs.

Additional information is available at:

Cal OES Launches Newly Designed Online Newsroom

New Blog

The home for disaster and emergency-related news is receiving a makeover.

The California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) has launched a new online newsroom with an attractive design and additional menu selections.

The same great content of blogs, videos, photos and social media links remain the trademark of Cal OES.

The new online newsroom can be accessed now at

Holdovers from the previous online newsroom include Photos, Videos and a shortcut to the Cal OES main page. Among the new additions are tabs on About, Resources and Podcasts on the menu bar.

More on the new features include:

  • Podcasts: We’re launching an all-new podcast show called “All-Hazards Podcast” hosted by the media team at Cal OES.
  • About: Meet the Cal OES media team and access contact information.
  • Resources: See some of the great ideas, support and resources available from our state and federal partners. Links to California My Hazards, The American Red Cross, FEMA and Cal Fire. Others also will be added soon.

Be sure to visit for original reporting, videos, photos, podcasts and more.

Swiftwater Search and Rescue Assisted with Passenger Transportation in Train Derailment


Storms associated with El Niño pounded California throughout a three-day stretch last week leaving some residents fleeing their communities and others needing to be rescued from floodwater.

More rain is on the way.

A train derailment in Northern California was partially blamed on a mudslide due to heavy rain. Four people had to be rescued along the Los Angeles River due to rising water, and Santa Cruz County residents living along Soquel Creek and the Upper San Lorenzo River were evacuated.

Flash floods pose an abundance of problems, the most of which consists to public safety.

The California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) Fire and Rescue Swiftwater Program is designed to perform life-saving techniques in water-related emergency situations.

Swiftwater is a function of Special Operations under the Fire and Rescue Division.

“They’re very valuable,” said Cal OES Fire Chief Kim Zagaris of swiftwater teams. “We work hand-in-hand with law enforcement and coordinate between the disciplines who also have water rescue capability.”

Swiftwater teams from Alameda County Fire Department, Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department and Fremont City Fire Department assisted in the derailment aftermath of the Alameda Corridor Express commuter train derailing en route from San Jose to Stockton on March 7, and assisted with evacuation of passengers waiting for buses Niles Canyon Road by swiftwater teams.

Swiftwater/Flood Rescue Teams is a type of technical rescue that involves the use of 13 highly specially trained personnel and specialized water rescue equipment.

The current locations of 13 Cal OES swiftwater teams include:

  • Los Angeles City Fire
  • Los Angeles County Fire
  • Menlo Park Fire Protection District
  • Oakland City Fire Department
  • Orange County Fire Authority
  • Riverside City Fire Department
  • Sacramento City Fire Department
  • San Diego City Fire Rescue Department
  • Sacramento Metro Fire District
  • Ventura County Fire Department
  • Marin County Fire Department
  • Long Beach City Fire Department
  • Stockton City Fire Department

More on swiftwater search and rescue operations can be found here.

In 2007, Cal OES was granted $1.8 million from Federal Department of Homeland Security for equipment upgrades. Statewide flooding in 1995 and 1996-97 allowed Cal OES to purchase additional equipment to support larger emergency operations. Additional equipment was purchased in 2001 and 2003 to support emergency operations.

“We assisted in swiftwater for Hurricane Katrina and we were on alert for (Hurricane) Sandy,” Cal OES Deputy Chief Lorenzo Gigliotti said. “Something that makes California different than most of the rest of the country is the type of assistance we are able to provide.”

While wind and rain caused havoc across the state over the weekend, there doesn’t appear to be any substantial breaks in the weather in the extended forecast.

After a dry period for the majority of the week, a wet Pacific storm should bring rain and mountain snow to Northern California, possibly as early as tonight.

Down south, temperatures rose into the mid-70s by mid-week but rain was on the horizon for Friday. Snow should return to the Sierras by the weekend and stick around for as many as five days.

Because of last weekend’s storms, concerns are heightened about potential flooding with the impending weather system.

“Part of the problem is that some of these rivers are already swollen,” Zagaris said. “Depending on what the weather does, we just have to see what occurs and what happens.”

The National Weather Service (NWS) is predicting that this upcoming weekend could be equally as wet as this past weekend, where some counties received more than 6 inches.

The increased sensitivity of rivers and levees puts swiftwater teams on alert.

“It all depends on when it hits, how it hits, do people go where they shouldn’t,” said Zagaris.

Weather systems this week could present minor flooding and travel delays, according to NWS.

Information on flood preparedness and how to react during and after a flood can be found here.


Projected Wet Weekend Offers Promise After Dry February

A major pattern change toward wetter weather is on the horizon.

After a relatively dry February, the first weekend of March is projected to get off to a wet start with possibly 1 to 3 inches of rain in the valley and heavy snow in the Sierras.

A series of weather systems are expected to arrive this weekend, possibly as early as this afternoon. Another storm on Saturday should bring heavier rain and gusty winds, according to the National Weather Service.

Snow levels will lower Saturday with moderate snowfall expected in the Sierra overnight. Rain and snow showers should extend into Sunday, with a threat of thunderstorms over the central valley.

The National Weather Service also suggests periodic storms are likely to continue through at least mid-March.

“The valley will see between 1-2 inches in the southern Sacramento Valley to 3-4 inches on the northern end of the valley from tonight through Monday morning,” said Michelle Mead, a Warning Coordination Meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Sacramento. “A majority of the rain will fall Saturday afternoon/night as a strong storm system moves through.”

Impacts of this storm, according to the National Weather Service, include:

  • Urban and small stream flooding possible
  • Downed trees and power outages possible
  • Potential for debris flows near recently burned areas this weekend
  • Potential for rock slides along mountain roads
  • Chain controls and hazardous travel likely over the mountains
  • Small hail and dangerous lightning with thunderstorms

Prepare for this weekend’s storms with helpful tips from Be Storm Ready.

“This is the strongest system we’ve seen since the end of January,” Mead said.

Light rain is expected today in Southern California, with a more significant amount beginning Saturday. Rain could also impact the Monday morning commute.

Snow levels may lower to around 4000 feet by Monday afternoon, likely resulting in snow on the I-5 near Grapevine.

The statewide snowpack, a source of much of the state’s water supply, is only 83 percent of the March 1 average, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) reported. DWR conducted a snowpack survey at Philips Station off Highway 50 in the Sierras about 90 miles east of Sacramento.

Snowpack conditions can be viewed here.

“This storm will help make up some of what was lost during the dry February, but we still have a long way to go,” said Mead. “Conservation is still the message to convey.”

DWR finalized a Drought Contingency Plan on Jan. 19 outlining the State Water Project and Central Valley Project operations for February-November 2016. The plan was developed in coordination with staff from state and federal agencies, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the State Water Resources Control Board (SWB). It focuses on water project operations as related to SWB Water Rights Decision-1641 and the potential modification requests needed to balance the competing needs and benefits of limited water supplies in the context of consecutive dry years.

California is still in the midst of a historic drought of four-plus years.

The most significant statewide droughts occurred during 1928-34, 1976-77, 1987-92 and 2007-09. The last significant regional drought occurred in parts of Southern California in 1999-2002.

The Drought Contingency Plan can be read here.

“The good news is some of the readings are the best for early March since 2011 but that is not necessarily indicative of the entire mountain snowpack,” said Lauren Bisnett, an Information Officer in the DWR Sustainable Groundwater Management Program. “The statewide readings suggest this may not be a drought-busting year unless California receives heavy rain this month as it did during the ‘March Miracles’ of 1991 and 1995.”

At least one of these three things, according to Bisnett, still needs to happen in order for the drought to be at an end:

  • Statewide reservoir storage would need to be at 90 percent of average levels
  • Runoff forecasts for the state’s water year, which runs October to September, would need to be 110 percent of average
  • Reservoirs on the four major rivers in the Sacramento River basin would have to reach flood control stage

Most of the state’s major reservoirs still hold much less than their historical averages for early February. On average, 75 percent of California’s annual precipitation occurs from November through March, with 50 percent occurring from December through February.

“We’re in a position better than last year, but still way below what would be considered adequate for any reasonable level of recovery at this point,” said Bisnett, adding. “The greater the snowpack content, the greater the likelihood California’s reservoirs will receive ample runoff as the snowpack melts to meets the state’s water demand in the summer and fall. We’re hopeful as it will likely bring heavy precipitation and heavy mountain snow, but as you know, things are subject to change with Mother Nature.”


SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans Available to California Small Businesses

SBA Logo

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Small, nonfarm businesses in 14 California counties and neighboring Arizona counties are now eligible to apply for low‑interest federal disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). These loans offset economic losses because of reduced revenues caused by the drought in the following primary counties that began January 1, 2016, announced Director Tanya N. Garfield of SBA’s Disaster Field Operations Center – West.

Primary California counties:  Imperial, Marin, Mendocino and Trinity;

Neighboring California counties:  Glenn, Humboldt, Lake, Riverside, San Diego, San Francisco, Shasta, Siskiyou, Sonoma and Tehama;

Neighboring Arizona counties:  La Paz and Yuma.

“SBA eligibility covers both the economic impacts on businesses dependent on farmers and ranchers that have suffered agricultural production losses caused by the disaster and businesses directly impacted by the disaster,” Garfield said.

Small, nonfarm businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small businesses engaged in aquaculture and most private nonprofit organizations of any size may qualify for Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs) of up to $2 million to help meet financial obligations and operating expenses which could have been met had the disaster not occurred.

“Eligibility for these loans is based on the financial impact of the disaster only and not on any actual property damage. These loans have an interest rate of 4 percent for businesses and 2.625 percent for private nonprofit organizations, a maximum term of 30 years, and are available to small businesses and most private nonprofits without the financial ability to offset the adverse impact without hardship,” Garfield said.

By law, SBA makes EIDLs available when the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture designates an agricultural disaster. Secretary Tom Vilsack declared this disaster on March 2, 2016.

Businesses primarily engaged in farming or ranching are not eligible for SBA disaster assistance. Agricultural enterprises should contact the Farm Services Agency about the U.S. Department of Agriculture assistance made available by the Secretary’s declaration. However, nurseries are eligible for SBA disaster assistance in drought disasters.

Applicants may apply online using the Electronic Loan Application (ELA) via SBA’s secure website at

Disaster loan information and application forms are also available from SBA’s Customer Service Center by calling (800) 659-2955 or emailing Individuals who are deaf or hard‑of‑hearing may call (800) 877-8339. For more disaster assistance information, or to download applications, visit Completed applications should be mailed to: U.S. Small Business Administration, Processing and Disbursement Center, 14925 Kingsport Road, Fort Worth, TX  76155.

The deadline to apply for these loans is November 2, 2016.


Nuclear Program is ‘Bedrock’ for Emergency Management

Nearly 40 years ago, a nuclear meltdown in Pennsylvania changed how power plants in the United States are regulated. The Three Mile Island accident on March 28, 1979, occurred in reactor number 2 of the nuclear generating station in Dauphin County.

It is the worst accident in the history of U.S. nuclear power plants.

Failures in the non-nuclear secondary system, along with a stuck-open pilot-operated relief valve in the primary system, allowed large amounts of nuclear reactor coolant to release. Unknown amounts of radioactive gases and radioactive iodine escaped into the environment.

Cleanup at the plant spanned 14-plus years and cost about $1 billion. The accident triggered instant reaction from other states.

The California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) joined together with the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and affected counties to investigate the consequences of a serious nuclear power plant accident. Based on site-specific studies in 1980, Emergency Planning Zones (EPZ) around the plant sites were established in detail and integrated plans were developed.

The Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) Program was developed post-Three Mile Island nuclear meltdown and covers emergency planning issues related to the state’s one operating nuclear power plant – Diablo Canyon Power Plant – and one decommissioning nuclear power plant – San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS). The NPP program also continues coordination with two retired nuclear power plants – Humboldt Bay and Rancho Seco.

The Rancho Seco plant in Sacramento County was shut down in 1989 while Humboldt Bay, the first commercial power plant built in the state, has been shut down since the early 1980s.

“The nuclear power preparedness program is the nation’s bedrock for professional emergency management,” said Bill Potter, Senior Emergency Services Coordinator for the Radiological Preparedness Unit at Cal OES. “After the 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear accident, standards were issued by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to prevent an accident from occurring again. Those standards, which our state embraced, were the first standards established that required states with nuclear power plants to have EOCs, communication systems for emergencies, Emergency News Centers (JICs), and organized response agencies to deal with emergencies.”

The NPP program works with federal, state, local and utility officials in emergency planning, training and exercises to test emergency readiness. Together, through these combined preparedness efforts, the State of California provides reasonable assurance that appropriate measures can be taken to protect the health and safety of the public in the event of a radiological emergency at a nuclear power plant.

Legislation mandating the NPP program has been continuous since the Three Mile Island accident, enacted as Government Code and Health and Safety Code sections, called the Radiation Protection Act.

Read here for additional information about the NPP.

Today, Cal OES participated in a five-hour drill at DCPP in San Luis Obispo County. The focus of the drill, which is performed four times per year, is to train staff, evaluate procedures and identify areas that need improvement.

PG&E exercised one of their control room teams and their internal emergency response organization to ensure they are ready to respond to any emergency that could occur at a nuclear power plant. The local and state agencies also participated in the Unified Dose Assessment Center to calculate public protective measures.

About 250 people participated.

“These reoccurring drills are very important to the operating utility at Diablo Canyon Power Plant,” said Potter. “They give each of the operating teams and the response organization the opportunity to respond to an emergency, develop a response, implement the solution, explain to the public what has happened, and to perform an analysis of their performance for the NRC.”

DCPP has two operating units (Units 1 & 2) that are licensed until 2024 and 2025, respectively. The two units produce a total of 18,000 gigawatt hours of electricity annually. DCPP also has an Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation with spent fuel in dry storage.

“Any items identified as lacking are reported to the NRC and corrective measures are implemented,” Potter said. “The NRC then evaluates the plant’s performance and report and institutes enhanced monitoring of the plant if additional corrective actions are necessary. No other industry is required to perform at this level or to involve the locals and the state in their activities.”

The Nuclear Emergency Response Program (NERP), in the Environmental Management Branch of the Department of Public Health, is responsible for preparing an emergency response plan and training program, and conducting training programs for local, state, and federal officials for implementation in the event of a nuclear power plant accident.

More on NERP can be found here.

This Month in Cal OES History: 1986 Floods

One of the most devastating floods in California was 30 years ago this month.

Thirteen deaths and 96 injuries were confirmed in the 1986 floods, and more than 50,000 people were evacuated from their communities.

The heaviest rainfall (17.60 inches) ever recorded in a 24-hour period in the Central Valley occurred at Four Trees in the Feather River Basin on Feb. 17, 1986. Calistoga received 29 inches of rain over 10 days.

Floodwaters ripped bridges from their foundations and caused levee breaks.

Snow levels ranged between 7,000-8,000 feet in the Sierras. About 15-20 feet of new snow was registered above 8,000 feet, while the Truckee Ranger Station recorded more than 17 inches of rain.

The nine-day storm raged throughout California accounting for half of the average rainfall for the year. Extensive flooding paralyzed most of the northern part of the state, including the worst flood to date in Napa and levee breaks along the Feather River in Olivehurst and Linda.

Flooding in the small San Joaquin County town of Thornton was caused by a levee break in the Mokelumne River. Lake Tahoe rose six inches alone in that span.

Nevada also was decimated by rainfall. Carson City absorbed nearly 10 inches of rain in nine days, and the Third Creek canyon above Incline was walloped by an avalanche estimated at 300 yards wide, snapping trees 200-feet high at their base.

Casinos had to sandbag their structures as floodwaters surrounded Reno. Mud and rock slides closed numerous roads in the Tahoe Basin.

Approximately 42,300 residences and businesses spread across Fallon and Lake Tahoe were without gas for more than a week after a 12-inch natural gas pipeline ruptured near Wadsworth due to the heavy flood pressure on the Truckee River.

Due to extreme flooding, new floodwalls were built for creeks in Sacramento and stronger levees were constructed on the American River. At the Folsom Dam, crews raised the dam wall and created a new spillway for water release control.

Flood concerns were raised this winter with projections of El Niño. While no extreme flooding has been reported, the Sierra snowpack was 94 percent of normal as of Monday and reservoirs throughout the state continued to slowly fill. Rainfall totals in several Northern California cities were at or near historic averages to date – San Jose, 87 percent; San Francisco, 87 percent; Eureka, 132 percent; Oakland, 76 percent; and Redding, 102 percent.

The majority of the state has had a relatively dry month of February, some with as much as two weeks without precipitation. The next chance of rain is expected to arrive sometime this week, possibly as early as Thursday.

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