When Texas A&M Forest Service assembled the Lone Star State Incident Management Team for hurricane response in New York, agency leaders hand-picked 39 members based on their diverse skill sets and experience.
The size of an incident management team varies, depending on the severity of the incident and the affected jurisdiction’s needs. A team member with Geographic Information Systems skills can be crucial when, as in the case of New York, the IMT is responsible for coordinating an effort in an unfamiliar location.
That’s where Chris Stokes comes in.
Stokes, 38, is special projects manager for the San Antonio Office of Emergency Management. In that capacity, he manages the city’s critical infrastructure program and tracks the region’s assets. The database he manages can prove vital during an incident.
“We run models to simulate the impacts of an incident and how assets in the area can be affected,” Stokes said. “We can run reports on demographics such as how many people are in an area, where the locations are that we could use as shelters, how many shelters we would need and how many buses we would need to transport people to shelters. We provide that information to the incident commander so he can make informed decisions.”
As a GIS technician with the team in New York, Stokes prepares maps for members of the Army National Guard, who go on daily visits to affected areas, assessing the needs of residents. Maps also are placed the daily Incident Action Plan for use among IMT members and cooperating agencies.
Stokes brings another added value to the team: his skills as a professional photographer. Since the IMT deployed Dec. 26, he’s captured many special moments of the team working in the field and assisting communities in need.
Stokes said the New York assignment – his first deployment with the team – is an opportunity to learn more about incident management.
“I enjoy the type of work I do, making a difference and assisting communities,” he said. “I hope to get a better understanding of the Incident Command System and the roles and responsibilities of the team members.”