Meet the team: Les Rogers

Rogers

When a team of 39 Texans was requested for the Hurricane Sandy recovery effort in New York, many Lone Star State Incident Management Team members seized the opportunity to learn from their neighbors and lend a helping hand.

One such team member is Les Rogers, Texas A&M Forest Service’s chief law enforcement officer and a longtime firefighter.

While attending West Texas State University several years ago, Rogers worked for the Canyon Fire Department and later was recruited to go through the law enforcement academy. During an arson outbreak in 1997, Texas A&M Forest Service sent a team to Canyon for an investigation. Paul Hannemann, who was serving at the time as a TFS regional fire coordinator, recruited Rogers to join the state agency.

Hannemann is now serving as incident commander on the New York recovery assignment, and Rogers is his deputy IC, slated to take over command when Hannemann leaves this weekend for another commitment.

Rogers has served as incident commander on numerous wildfires and on hurricanes in Florida and Louisiana, but he’s never been to New York. His previous experiences on hurricanes were in rural communities – a different way of life than what the team is seeing in the Big Apple.

“On the other hurricanes, they basically had no government because everybody left,” Rogers said. “Working up here, it’s so large in scope, we have to make sure everybody knows what we’re doing. I really like this from a public service standpoint, but also every time I go out, I learn something. We can use this experience in Texas.”

For example, he explained, Texas hurricane response typically occurs during balmy summer conditions.

“We always focus on power restoration, food, water and ice,” Rogers said. “There’s a whole new element here of thinking about cold weather. We don’t associate that with hurricanes in Texas. This could help us in planning for unusual conditions, even a contingency plan for extremely hot weather.”

Rogers said he hopes to accomplish a feeling of success among all the team members at the end of the assignment.

“I’d like to leave with a sense that we’ve done a good job, that we’ve helped, that everybody’s grown personally and professionally,” he said.

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Meet the team: Boo Hinton

Hinton

Boo Hinton has responded to wildfires in 29 states, but his current assignment in New York is his first related to hurricane recovery.

Hinton is with the Lone Star State Incident Management Team working as a branch director and Operations section chief on the team’s three-week Hurricane Sandy recovery assignment.

The Texas A&M Forest Service task force coordinator said the experience so far has been an excellent training opportunity.

The team is working for the New York Office of Emergency Management and coordinating the Army National Guard’s effort to assess the well-being of New York residents and ensure they have heat, commodities and a safe place to stay.

“I’ve been gaining experience and building close bonds with the Guard,” Hinton said.

A firefighter since 1988, Hinton said the assignment also has offered an opportunity to better his skills in public speaking and leadership.

“One of the very first assignments that I went on back in Indiana, I noticed that the team leadership, the overhead, weren’t really looking out for the boots on the ground. You’d see them at morning briefing and then you wouldn’t see them again until the end of the day,” Hinton said. “I determined that if I ever got in that kind of role, I didn’t want to be like that. I wanted to make sure that everyone was taken care of, top to bottom. I hope to demonstrate my competence with the team in a leadership position.”

Meet the team: Robert McCaskill

McCaskill

San Antonio Police Sgt. Robert McCaskill has been a law enforcement officer for 25 years, currently working in the patrol division at the city’s Prue Road Substation.

McCaskill joined the Alamo All-Hazard Incident Management Team when Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana in 2005 and displaced thousands of residents who found shelter in San Antonio.

“I was able to see what the Incident Command System can do to manage an incident – and I was very impressed,” he said. “I knew I wanted to be involved. I’ve been in the public safety business for a long time but I’d never done anything like this. Experiencing an opportunity to help people on this scale is both honorable and addictive. The lessons learned and friendships made are heartfelt.”

McCaskill joined the Lone Star State IMT for the Hurricane Sandy recovery in New York, where he’s contributing his skills in the Plans section. His experience with sheltering on Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Ike has made him an ideal addition to the Plans section of both the Alamo IMT and the Lone Star State team.

The strength of an IMT, according to McCaskill, is its diversity.

“Having professionals from varying disciplines allows us to pull from a varied range of experience,” he said. “It’s an education that’s priceless because it gives us the opportunity to help our fellow man.”

Meet the team: Chris Stokes

Stokes

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.”

Meet the team: Mark Trevino

MTrevino

San Antonio Fire Capt. Mark Trevino is a trained firefighter, paramedic and HazMat technician – but he’s learning a new craft while on assignment with the Lone Star State Incident Management Team in New York: computer specialist.

According to Trevino, an individual’s job title doesn’t matter when an IMT deploys for emergency response. It’s all about working together to best serve the public, he says.

“I’m here to do anything I can to assist the citizens of New York,” Trevino said. “As a firefighter, I’m a servant to citizens. When my children ask what I do, I don’t tell them I’m a firefighter. I tell them I help people. That’s what we’re here to do.”

Trevino said he’s fortunate to be able to work alongside his comrades from San Antonio as well as personnel from Texas A&M Forest Service, Fire Department of New York and the New York Army National Guard.

“I appreciate the opportunity,” he said. “I’m proud of our guys who are building themselves into better team members and getting good experience.

“I’ve worked with an IMT on numerous hurricanes and other disasters, but even though I’ve got some experience, I also have a willingness to work at any level,” Trevino added. “I’ve been in the fire department for 20 years and I’m a firm believer that you can learn something from the chief on down to a technical specialist. I’m bringing back technical expertise from a large incident. That’s going to make us better as a team on future incidents.”

Meet the team: Jesus Ramon

Ramon

Jesus Ramon is one of 39 members of the Lone Star State Incident Management Team tasked with overseeing the complex hurricane recovery effort in the New York boroughs of Queens, Staten Island and Brooklyn.

Ramon, 30, has been a firefighter with the San Antonio Fire Department for the past five years and joined the All-Hazard Alamo IMT in 2010.

He got a taste for big-picture incident response during the unprecedented 2011 Texas wildfire season. Ramon worked alongside Texas A&M Forest Service personnel on the Riley Road Fire, which burned almost 20,000 acres and destroyed 73 homes.

“It was an eye-opener to see the big picture and the day-to-day operations of managing an incident,” he said. “It’s so much more than going to one house fire. These incidents last several days or several months. I thought it was something I wanted to be part of.”

The Hurricane Sandy recovery effort has been ongoing since October, and the Texas team is the second to assist with incident management, following Fire Department of New York’s IMT.

“Working with FDNY and the National Guard has been awesome,” Ramon said. “I like seeing how they operate, the way they do their jobs. I feel good about what we’re here to do and how we’re helping these citizens get back on their feet.”

Meet the team: Jesse Davila

Davila

As an incident command technician for the San Antonio Fire Department, Jesse Davila has gained 10 years of experience managing and documenting emergency response efforts.

But the day after Christmas 2012 marked Davila’s first deployment with the Lone Star State Incident Management Team. The group is in New York assisting with Hurricane Sandy recovery.

Originally assigned to serve as a deputy branch director for the IMT, Davila has adapted to the needs of the team and is assisting the Situation Unit leader and Resource Unit leader.

“I’m hoping to enhance my management skills and become more organized when it comes to the operations of an incident,” he said. “I’m learning the dynamics of how incidents are managed. You can sit in a class and talk about it all day, but you don’t really understand it until you see the flow of the Incident Command System.”

Davila said the assignment has been a unique opportunity to meet new people and get to work alongside co-workers from his home agency.

“We’ve got a diverse mix of agencies represented here, so this is a chance to build relationships and camaraderie with San Antonio PD and other agencies,” he said. “You become pretty good pals. Even within our own department, you know who people are but you may not have had the chance to work this closely with them.”