San Antonio Fire Department Battalion Chief Patrick Zepeda has deployed nine times with an incident management team and says his current assignment in New York has been the most rewarding.
He’s one of 39 members of the Lone Star State Incident Management Team assisting with the Hurricane Sandy recovery effort.
Zepeda, 49, has been a firefighter for 30 years. He’s serving the Lone Star State IMT in New York as a branch director covering the Staten Island region. His duties include tracking the activities of the New York Army National Guard personnel assigned to his branch and ensuring that residents in the area Sandy have access to heat and necessary commodities.
“The people I’ve met have all been positive, especially with the Guard,” he said. “They’re cognizant that all the service branches have done a lot for us.
“We’ve seen quite a few people that don’t have heat,” he added. “We came upon an elderly couple chopping wood. This has been an opportunity to help people. I don’t consider this work. It’s a reward to be able to see people, touch their hands and touch their lives.”
Zepeda said the assignment speaks to the success of the Incident Command System, a model used to train emergency responders.
“For us to be a Texas team and come in to relieve the Fire Department of New York team with such a seamless transition really speaks to how well this works,” he said.
Also an incident commander with the Alamo All-Hazard Incident Management Team in San Antonio, Zepeda said he hopes to return to Texas with some new experiences and friendships from the Big Apple.
“As an incident management team, we can go into another state and use the skills and experience we acquired in Texas to help their citizens,” he said. “And if, God forbid, there’s a large incident in San Antonio, they could come and help us. Our brothers and sisters in New York would probably be among the first to sign up.”