Marcus Brown is a lieutenant with the Waxahachie Police Department, and has served as the Emergency Management Coordinator for city of Waxahachie since March 2013. The Daily Light continues its weekley “Behind the Badge” series, to be published each Sunday, in an effort to get to know the officers that serve and protect us on a daily basis.
Exactly what does an emergency management coordinator do?
Coordinate response and planning efforts of all of the city of Waxahachie’s department and agencies. So if a disaster were to occur here, it would require some type of response from every department in the city. What we try to do, as best we can, is to formulate plans and protocols to be put into place, so that if something like that were to happen we would have the ability to switch into an emergency response mode while continuing to operate and manage the city.
We have an Emergency Management Plan and it has just finished development, and is currently under review by the city council. If everything goes well, we’re hoping to submit for adoption on Feb. 15. Once the city approves and adopts the plan, we’ll submit it to the state, because the state and the governor sanction all of the Emergency Management Plans.
So the Emergency Management Plan is a required document?
Correct. Every municipality is required to have an Emergency Management Plan, and a good majority of communities who don’t have a plan, or perhaps don’t have the resources in place will fall back on the county’s Emergency Response Plan. There are some requirements that they have to meet to participate in the planning process. So as communities grow, they will begin to put their own plans in place so they can manage their own resources and address their own needs.
With the ongoing growth and expansion of the city, and as new industries and businesses come into the community, do you revisit your Emergency Management Plan to address new technologies?
Our Emergency Management Plan already has built-in, predetermined review schedules where we will address new growth, any new industries and infrastructure changes within the community. If there were changes to the structure of the city’s government, such as the addition of a new service or change in core function of an existing service, then we would update the plan to accommodate those changes. The document has to be resubmitted to the state for review every five years. It is an ongoing process that we constantly look at, so it’s truly an evergreen or living document.
Given the fact that most disasters impact a broad area and can involve a number of different agencies and communities, how are you able to bring all of those moving pieces together so quickly?
It’s a direct result of planning and training. All of these components are able to come together because of excellent working relationships, and there’s one thing I can say about Ellis County, and that is we work well together. I can remember in 2013, when Milford had a pipeline explosion and it tugged at your heart a bit when you walked into that command post, and you saw all of these people working so hard on so many different levels to provide every kind of resource and aide imaginable. Things were happening so fast, and it made me proud to be in emergency management and in Ellis County. After that incident, we were invited to Tarrant County to talk to their emergency planning committee about the incident and how we responded. We were able to tell them some of the things that went really well, and we were also able to tell them some of the lessons learned. It was a really great experience. We were able to evacuate a town of 700 people in one hour. That’s no small undertaking, and efforts like that happen because we had an engaged county judge, the sheriff was on the scene quickly, we had trained and professional first responders out on the ground. I like to use that event as an example of how well this county works together.
When you talk about the umbrella of resources that emergency management oversees, one would have to be well-versed in a little bit of everything, wouldn’t they?
I think the best way to describe an emergency manager would be to say that they are a jack-of-all-trades. I’ve got 18 years experience in law enforcement, which helps a great deal. While certainly not an expert in firefighting, I understand the equipment and assets so that we can anticipate those resources needs. But then you get into the public works side of emergency management and utilities, and some of the things we take for granted, you begin to understand what a big undertaking that is. It’s not as simple as calling a 1-800 number and telling someone your lights are out. There’s a lot of hard work and dedicated people who make those things happen. Where we are really learning a lot is in the recovery component of emergency management. That, like the other areas of emergency management is a huge undertaking.
There are essentially four core functions of emergency management. We deal with mitigation, where we try to take preemptive steps to reduce the impact on the city. Then we have the response, where we coordinate and marshal resources and assets. The third function is the recovery phase, and all of these are encompassed in the fourth, and maybe the most important, which is planning.
So you’re now 20 years into your career and going into your third year as the emergency management coordinator. As Waxahachie grows, is this something you want to continue to do?
Absolutely. I think that passion and dedication is still as strong as it was in March 2013, when I first took on the job. We recently added a new member to the emergency management staff, which has been a significant help. We’re working with both existing and new industries on mitigation plans. So at the end of the day, we’re building a lot of valuable and crucial bridges of communication and coordination. None of this gets done with just one person. It literally takes an entire community working together to make this work. I’m just fortunate that the relationships we’ve built have been tested and proven. We’re very fortunate.