Distinguished speaker series

2019 Programs

Cyber Resilience: A Cross-Sector Approach

August 22, 2019

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Cyberattacks and data breaches are an everyday possibility for all individuals, businesses, and organizations. Five industry leaders shared their experiences responding to and recovering from attacks, such as the 2014 Sony hack. They emphasized the importance of information sharing, they recommended that businesses build relationships with law enforcement prior to an attack, and they suggested that every organization includes cyber in their continuity of operations plans.


  • Stevan Bernard, Founder, Bernard Global, LLC; Former Executive Vice President of Global Protection Services, Sony Pictures

  • Jamil N. Jaffer, Executive Director, National Security Institute; Vice President for Strategy and Partnerships, IronNet Cybersecurity

  • Danjel Bout, Program Manager, Utility Cyber Security Branch, California Public Utilities Commission

  • Joseph Oregon, Cybersecurity Advisor Region IX: Southern California, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISCA), U.S. Department of Homeland Security


  • Eileen Decker, Principal, Pacific Intelligence and Cyber; Former U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California

The First 48: Crises in Ventura County
February 7, 2019


Geoff Dean, Former Ventura County Sheriff
Andy Fox, Former Mayor of Thousand Oaks

November 2018 truly tested Southern California’s preparedness. From the tragic Borderline Shooting on the 7th to the start of the Woolsey Fire on the 8th, Southern California had to quickly respond to two competing crises.

The conversation was an insightful and emotional one as our panelists invited us to see these tragic events from their perspectives. Mayor Fox recalled that “It was a national media frenzy like I had never seen in my entire career, even in LA City... Making sure I had accurate information was really, really important.” Sheriff Dean added, “When I walked in, I thought I would find people alive and suffering. I was shocked when I saw that everyone was dead.... He [the shooter] knew what he was doing.”

2018 Programs

Managing Disruptive technology in crisis management
November 29, 2018


Timothy B. Paydos, V.P., Government Industry Solutions, IBM Corporation
Jon Pedder, Patterns & Practices Solutions Engineer & EPSAP Tech Lead, Esri
Greg Brunelle, Director of Global Engagement, One Concern

Three global technology leaders took the stage to discuss their experiences developing technology in the crisis management arena, their challenges and successes, and their take on the future of technology in the field. 

The panel spoke on the difficulty of creating a culture of collaboration between crisis management agencies, stakeholders, and technology companies and addressed the need for emergency managers to be able to express what they need to technology partners and for technology partners to be able to effectively communicate available options.

Crisis Leadership: paths to success
September 18, 2018

Donna Boston, Director of Emergency Management, Orange County Sheriff’s Department
Holly Crawford, Director of the Office of Emergency Services, San Diego County
Eileen Decker, Former United States Attorney, Central District of California
Ethel McGuire, Assistant Chief of the Office of  Homeland Security and Intelligence, Los Angeles Airport Police

Crisis leaders came together to recount their experiences managing the 2018 event at LAX airport, the San Bernardino terrorist attack, and several wildfires throughout Southern California. All four women spoke about the paths that led them there and where they expect to go from here.

During the discussion, Holly Porter of San Diego County reflected on what she has learned on the needs for continued improvement in crisis communications.  Ms. Porter went on to say that you should always be prepared to answer three questions when walking into a press briefing:

1) What’s happened?
2) What is it that you want people to do? 
3) What are we as local government or first responders doing in response to the disaster?

“I always say if you fail at the public communication part of a disaster then you’ve failed at the response overall,” Ms. Porter added.

Nim Kidd: Learning from Hurricane Harvey and Previous Disasters
January 11, 2018


Chief W. Nim Kidd
Chief, Texas Division of Emergency Management

Hurricane Harvey is estimated to have caused nearly $200 billion worth of damage to the state of Texas. The recovery from Harvey will take at least a decade.

On January 11, 2018, we heard from from Nim Kidd, Chief, Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) as he discussed his first-hand experiences and lessons learned from Harvey and previous disasters.

During the discussion on Harvey, Chief Kidd stressed the importance of the “3-legged stool” concept. Each leg of the stool stands for a pillar of trust that emergency management leaders and agencies must be able to rest upon. The first leg represents local elected officials, who if on your side can act as your champion within other departments and jurisdictions. The second leg is the media, who will always broadcast a message during a crisis – will that be your message or theirs? The last leg is the community, which if mutual trust has been established they will support you in creating an actionable response to an emergency.

2017 Programs

"A Conversation With Craig Fugate"
November 3, 2017


Mr. William Craig Fugate, Former Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

Craig Fugate discussed crisis and emergency management in the United States and how current and future gaps in the field need to be addressed. He discussed his "Seven Deadly Sins of Emergency Management" and how they came into fruition:

1) We plan for what we are capable of responding to.
2) We plan for our communities by placing the too hard to do in an annex (elderly, disabled, children, pets).
3) We exercise to success.
4) We think our emergency response system can scale up from emergency response to disaster response.
5) We build our emergency management team around government, leaving out volunteer organizations, the private sector, and the public.
6) We treat the public as a liability.
7) We price risk too low to change behavior, as a result, we continue to grow risk.

Crisis Management: An Evolving Perspective and Developing Leaders
oCTOBER 11, 2017


Mr. Brad Kieserman, Vice President, Disaster Operations and Logistics, American Red Cross, and Former Chief Counsel, Federal Emergency Management Agency
Mr. Peter V. Neffenger, Vice Admiral, U.S. Coast Guard (Ret.), and Former Administrator, Transportation Security Administration (TSA)

How has our perspective of crisis leadership and leadership development evolved? Our distinguished speakers discussed this question, their roles leading through crises, the development of crisis leaders, and more.  

During the conversation, Brad Kieserman expressed the importance of “mirrors and windows” in terms of leadership. Whereas a “mirror” represented a leader’s ability to reflect on themselves and their own strengths and weaknesses, and a “window” illustrated the idea of being able to look outside your own jurisdiction and learn from it.

Women and Crisis Leadership: A Panel Discussion
October 5, 2017

Captain Charlene Downey, Commander, Sector Los Angeles-Long Beach, U.S. Coast Guard
Assistant Chief Bea Girmala, Director, Office of Special Operations, Los Angeles Police Department
Professor Samantha Phillips, Director, National Center for Security and Preparedness, University of Albany
Ms. Kari Tatro, EVP/COO, Administration, Education & Emergency Operations, BCFS

In the inaugural Distinguished Speaker Series, a panel of nationally recognized public safety professionals shared their experiences in crisis leadership. These four leading professionals discussed challenges, successes, and lessons learned throughout their respective careers, and provided insight into how being a woman played a role in their journey.