Responding to Disaster

When a disaster strikes, time is of the essence.

Mere minutes could mean the difference between someone living, and someone dying.

But coordinating a large scale response takes training.

This week, officials with the Texas Department of Homeland Security, Texas Forest Service, and the State Department of Emergency Management are teaching the Wichita Falls Incident Management Team the skills they'll need to deal with disaster.

"The intent of the training is to teach these folks how to operate as a team, manage any type of incident, leadership principles, decision making and the process that we use according to the National Incident Management System across the United States," said Bob Koenig, the State Incident Management Team coordinator.

But it's not just fire fighters, paramedics, and police officers taking the course.

Members of the Public Works and Public Health Departments are also training.

"Because in an all hazards environment, any one of those disciplines can be touched," explained Koenig.

Wichita Falls Fire Chief Earl Foster will be the head of the Wichita Falls Area Team.

He said this training is vital so his team can be prepared and ready to act when called upon; not just in our region, but all over the state.

"If there is a big incident," said Foster, "a major wildfire or hurricane, a tornado hits a community, they can pull these incident management teams in and we would respond to help the local municipality get set up and manage the incident."

Chief Foster said it's basically a case of neighbors helping neighbors, on the grandest of scales.

"Not everybody has the resources that it takes to be able to manage these types of incidents," said Foster, "They need help, and our goal is to get there and help them."

While the Wichita Falls Incident Management Team made up a large portion of those taking the training this week, members of other Incident Management Teams from around the state are also receiving the training.

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