Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Agency

Department Emergency Coordinator Programs

The Department Emergency Coordinator (DEC) program is responsible for disaster and emergency preparedness, readiness and planning.  It assists management in identifying emergency preparedness needs, provides a link between the Department Operations Center (DOC) and County Emergency Operations Center (CEOC), provides training opportunities to staff and health services stakeholders, and ensures that the Department has an approved Emergency Coordination plan. 

The DEC Program is responsible for the support and coordination of all healthcare stakeholders, both public and private in coordination with the Medical and Health Operational Area Coordination (MHOAC) Program in conjunction with the California Medical and Health Emergency Operational Manual (EOM). 

The Los Angeles County Department Emergency Coordinator (DEC) program was started following the recommendations from the 1987-1988 Los Angeles County Grand Jury Report, which followed the 1987 “Whittier Narrows” earthquake in the San Gabriel Valley.

The program is comprised of the following which focuses on the County’s response and recovery efforts for major emergencies and disasters.  To ensure an optimum state of readiness prior to and during an emergency, it is critical that County departments remain proactive with established procedures and protocols, employee training, and minimum preparedness standards.

  1. Each department must have a DEC and an alternate DEC identified. The DEC shall serve as a 24/7 point of contact for the department.
  2. Maintain a Department Operations Center (DOC) that is properly equipped for activation, and capable of communication with other Department DOCs and the County Emergency Operations Center (CEOC).
  3. Ensure that three (3) or more personnel, including the DEC and Alternate DEC, are registered and proficient using the Operational Area Response and Recovery System (OARRS) software.
  4. Update the Department’s Emergency Plan annually, and submit a current copy to the Los Angeles County Office of Emergency Management (OEM).
  5. Actively participate in the DEC training and exercise program.

The Department of Health Services DEC is Cathy Chidester, Director of the Los Angeles County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Agency, and the Alternate DEC is John Opalski.

Within the DHS DEC program is the Building Emergency Coordinator (BEC) program.  A BEC and Building Emergency Plan (BEP) is required at all County owned or leased buildings if the worksite has ten (10) or more employees.  The BEP is updated annually.

DHS BECs coordinate and communicate the BEP, inspections and safety for hazard awareness and emergency procedures for employees and visiting members of the public.  The BEP provides written documentation for the safety of building occupants, and include the Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP).

The BEC promptly notifies the DHS DEC when a building is physically damaged, evacuated, or closed.  OEM is notified via the DHS DEC.  The BEC serves as the primary point of contact for building related emergencies.


Cathy Chidester
EMS Agency Director,
DHS Department Emergency Coordinator,
Medical and Health Operational Area Coordinator,Regional Disaster Medical and Health Coordinator (RDMHC), Region I
(562) 378-1604


Kay Fruhwirth 
Assistant Director
(562) 378-1596


Jim Eads, EMT-P
Chief, Disaster Response
(562) 378-2445


Michael Noone, EMT-P
Regional Disaster Health and Medical Specialist (RDMHS), Region I
(562) 378-1510


John Opalski
Alternate DHS Department Emergency Coordinator,
Medical and Health Operational Area Coordinator Representative
(562) 378-1504


John Ospital, RN
Los Angeles County Blood Drive Program Administrator
(562) 378-2442


Darren Verrette
Department Services Center
(562) 378-1503

The DHS Department Operations Center (DOC) is the physical site from which internal and external disasters are managed.  It is the location where senior leadership and general staff come together to manage operations, communicate with stakeholders, and ensure continuity of operations.

The Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Agency is the designated County Blood Drive Program Coordinator and as such, assists in developing America Red Cross (ARC) blood donation programs for County Departments. The goals is to have at least 10% of the County workforce voluntarily donate blood on a routine basis.

If you are interested in helping save lives and meet our 10% goal click here to find a blood drive near you https://www.redcrossblood.org/give.html/find-drive