James Nunez joined the Lab as the Emergency Manager two months ago and had the experience of moving from Alaska to the Bay Area in the middle of a pandemic.
James spent the last 25 years in the Coast Guard, most recently in Alaska as the Chief of Incident Management. Prior to that, he spent active duty tours on the East, Gulf, and West Coasts – including a four-year tour in San Francisco.
As Emergency Manager, James is responsible for planning and executing the Lab’s emergency plans. This includes planning for unexpected incidents, such as earthquakes, fires, and human-caused emergencies. And after last year, James also needs to plan for Public Safety Power Shutoffs, or PSPS, where PG&E turns off power to lessen the risk of their equipment starting a wildfire. All of this is keeping James busy preparing for the real possibility of having a power shutoff again this fall.
Elements: James you have so many things to plan for in an emergency. Do you rank order these emergencies, or is there one situation that worries you more than any other?
James: My top priority is making sure the Lab is prepared for a PSPS event. Responding to such an incident is even further complicated by the ongoing pandemic. We’re working hard in Security and Emergency Service to bring unique solutions for the Emergency Operations Center by combining virtual participation with an open-air tent concept to make sure we can effectively manage a PSPS event, or any other emergency, while also providing a COVID-19 safe work environment.
Elements: What can those who are working on site and those who are teleworking do to prepare for a PSPS or other emergency?
James: Personal preparedness is key. If you’re on site, know where your Emergency Assembly Area is if the building needs to be evacuated. Also, know multiple exit routes out of the building should your normal exit be blocked. Everyone should have a similar plan for an emergency at home. Ready.gov is a valuable resource to help develop your own personal plan for you and your family.
Elements: Alaska has wonderful wildlife, but we have exotic wildlife here at the Lab. How does the Lab wildlife compare to what you experienced in Alaska?
James: The wildlife at the Lab doesn’t have me concerned about my personal safety! I have had numerous run-ins with bears and moose in my 11 combined years in Alaska. Most notably was having an adolescent black bear sneak up three feet behind me in my garage to give me a sniff. Thankfully the wildlife on site doesn’t make my heart skip a beat when I see them that close.