12-hour overnight shifts aren’t most people’s idea of a good time, but Rudy Perez says deploying to Yavapai County to help protect people from the Goodwin Fire was an assignment he couldn’t turn down.
“I went home, grabbed my ‘go bag’ and some clothes, and left for Prescott,” he said of his recent assignment across county lines.
Many Maricopa County residents followed the story of wind-swept flames, evacuations, and emergency declarations on television or social media as the Goodwin Fire went from timid spark to raging disaster in a few short days.
Rudy Perez and Allen Young—both Emergency Services Planners with the Maricopa County Department of Emergency Management—were a little different. They were in the thick of it, sent to Yavapai County last week as part of the State Mutual Aid Response Team (SMART) program.
“It gives Arizona city, county, tribal and state emergency management agencies access to a pool of qualified personnel to assist with disaster support when needed,” Emergency Management Director Robert Rowley explained.
“I decided this was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down,” said Rudy. “In emergency management, real world emergency experience is something that is irreplaceable.”
The fire was the top priority in Arizona during the time Rudy and Allen were deployed.
Both men worked 12-hours shift (Rudy’s was 7 pm-7 am) as Logistics Section Chief at the Emergency Operations Center, a position that involved ordering and coordinating resources for overnight evacuee shelters as well as pet and livestock shelters. People depended on them, and their boss says, Rudy and Allen delivered.
“The SMART program not only provided Yavapai County with much-needed staffing relief,” Rowley noted, “but also gave Rudy and Allen valuable experience they can bring back to the county toward our own disaster preparedness and response…something we hope we never need, but are certainly happy to have.”
Rudy agrees his deployment was good for his career and for his department.
“I can look at how the Yavapai County EOC operated and learn from them,” he says. “I will write an After Action Report from my assignment that will identify strengths that I saw and also things that I believe we can implement here at MCDEM that will better prepare Maricopa County to respond to an incident.”