It was 1989 and the San Francisco Giants were playing against the Oakland A’s in the World Series. Fans waited for the highly-anticipated game three of the series to start. Then an earthquake happened.
“I always think back to the Loma Prieta earthquake at Candlestick Park during the World Series. After the shaking stopped, there was an element of chaos, while people were also very supportive and respectful while leaving the stadium,” reminisced Josh Gale, SFPUC Emergency Manager. What Gale remembered vividly was that there was a sense of compassion as fans listened to their hand-held radios and began to fully understand the impacts and devastation that ensued.
Gale went on to study Public Administration and brought with him this impactful childhood experience along with his interest in how governments coordinate, respond, and support citizens during emergencies. He began his work in emergency management at the SFPUC in 2014.
Gale is part of the SFPUC Emergency Planning and Security team, where they are responsible for ensuring the security of the agency’s employees and assets, and promoting and practicing emergency response actions through the development and update of emergency plans, and coordinating and conducting exercises. Throughout his career, he has learned and seen firsthand how emergency management is a balance of constantly adjusting and adapting, while at the same time relying on planning and preparation efforts.
“Although it is difficult to account for all variables during an event, emergency managers rely on rely on the Incident Command System (ICS) to coordinate and respond with partner agencies,” shared Gale. “ICS is designed so all personnel involved in response efforts are responding and coordinating using a common and recognized response framework.”
In April 2017, served as the infrastructure branch coordinator for the City and County of San Francisco’s emergency operations center (EOC) during a large power outage, affecting over 90,000 people in San Francisco. Traffic lights were not functioning, emergency workers responded to numerous elevator rescues, schools lost power, hospitals had to rely on emergency generators, and many businesses in the Financial District had to close for the day, costing the City millions of dollars in revenue. All emergency activities were coordinated at the EOC.
“Luckily there were no injuries resulting from the event,” said Gale. “It was great to see how many city departments came together to coordinate and share information during such a large-scale emergency.”
For Gale, a big part of emergency management is not only serving the jurisdiction he is a part of, but also serving others when help is needed the most. To him, helping others is the hallmark of public service and why he chose this field.
“People helping people, or Mutual Aid or Assistance agreements, are critical during any emergency. It is human nature to help others in need, and being a part of these networks that assist in coordinating requests for personnel and equipment during emergencies ultimately help expedite a return to normal operations,” shared Gale.