Alum’s new role powered by CHDS degree

More than 10 years after earning a master’s degree at the Naval Postgraduate School Center for Homeland Defense and Security, Christopher Vicino will be putting his knowledge of critical infrastructure protection to tangible use.

The longtime law enforcement professional and 2006 CHDS graduate joined the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power in November as the Director of Security and Emergency Management. LADWP is the largest public utility in the United States.

“The critical infrastructure protection course taught the basic ideas about all the different lifelines of our society for which we hang in the balance,” Vicino said. “That was an eye-opening course and I did greatly reflect on it when I took this job.”

Vicino comes to LADWP with 32 years of law enforcement experience including the past six as Assistant Chief with the Riverside Police Department and 26 years with the Pasadena Police Department, where he worked while a CHDS student. In Pasadena he worked first-hand on homeland security challenges such as securing the world famous Rose Bowl and Tournament of Roses Parade. That experience was enhanced by his education.

“I don’t think I get this job without having the CHDS degree in my background,” he said. “It’s a difference maker in terms of understanding the challenges we face in homeland security.”

He will oversee security and emergency management for a mammoth agency serving 674,000 water customers, 1.4 million electricity customers and which employs about 10,000. The sheer size of the agency makes it an innovation leader in the utility business. Vicino will oversee 300 employees in his department.

“If you just move the dial here a little bit here you set the trend for the rest of the industry,” he said. “I found that intriguing. How do you not want to do that?”

Christopher Vicino

Among his duties will be security planning for a sprawling agency with facilities in Oregon, Washington, New Mexico, Nevada and Arizona in addition to its California base. That will require the CHDS mantra of interagency collaboration with federal, state and local partners in identifying threats and information sharing. In security planning he will work with architects and engineers in providing technology that reinforces security.

A major component of Vicino’s new role is ensuring compliance through the Western Electricity Coordinating Council, a non-profit that works to ensure reliability on the western portion of the continental U.S. electricity grid. A review is set for March and he is part of the team ensuring compliance.

“We have to meet its guidelines for protecting the infrastructure which in term protects our electricity on the grid so we don’t have outages that cause cascading effect across the country,” Vicino said. “There is just a whole spectrum of issues we deal with to make sure we are in compliance.”

The job also involves emergency management with a no-fail mission of keeping the lights and the water flowing. Restoring electricity during recent storms that soaked Southern California was one many recent challenges. The precipitation was a mixed blessing though, as it also offered sorely needed water supply for a region that was previously in a years-long drought.

“Supplying and keeping water coming to our residents is as important as keeping the lights on,” Vicino noted. “It is an essential life element. Our water infrastructure is going through major overhauls as it is very old in Los Angeles. We are restoring this aging infrastructure to ensure our customers get what they need.”

CHDS education and his years of experience have prepared him for the challenge. He commended the focus on writing in the master’s degree curriculum, as well as the emphasis on public speaking and persuasion. And, studying with varied disciplines and listening to other viewpoints are things he keeps in mind in his current job.

“In law enforcement, whether on the streets or in administration, it’s not always your way,” he said. “You have to find that compromise point and get the job done. I do that here with the people I work with, as their opinions and expertise matter a great deal to me.”

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