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Town firefighter gets hands-on disaster training

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A year after the tragic damage Hurricane Harvey inflicted on Houston, Texas, Lt. Joe Lee Rape of the Collierville Fire Department traveled to College Station, Texas to attend an Incident Management Course at the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service.
Hurricanes weren’t the only topic on the agenda, the course focused on the processes used while working in an Incident Command Post and the key decision-making requirements to respond to all hazardous events – whether a natural disaster or an act of terror.
The course is 100 percent federally funded by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)/Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Rape applied for the course in January of 2019 and was on a waiting list until he was accepted into the August 2019 class. In the 28 total hours of the course, Rape experienced rigorous, large-scale incidents, and practiced applying disaster management techniques in real-time.
“We learned how to implement the planning process in disaster management, and it was very realistic,” said Rape. “While the instructors ran the live scenarios, our class was plugged into different positions from the command post to the field to experience how all the different areas worked together.”
Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service is world-renowned for its training in emergency response and homeland security. The Incident Management Course was held at the Emergency Operations Training Center and Disaster City facility, a 297 acre, full-scale community featuring collapsed structures and rubble piles designed to simulate various levels of disaster and wreckage.
“I was assigned to operations, and while working in that position, I was able to see how all the pieces come together. While in the Emergency Operations Center, you have to rely on performing your job’s tasks, from finance to logistics, to planning, with everyone on the ground that you can’t see. When we are all effectively working together, emergency operations run like a well-oiled machine,” said Rape.
Rape shared that the networking among the emergency response professionals and other government employees was an invaluable resource while attending the course. Attendees ranged from law enforcement, emergency medical services, public services, fire personnel, city managers and communication professionals.
“It was good for me because I don’t have experience in some areas such as law enforcement. Being able to work beside them, and see some of the challenges that they face during a disaster, is going to make me better prepared to handle that situation from the emergency operations center or incident command post,” said Rape.
“The knowledge gained from this course can and will be used during our normal responses to fire and EMS calls, as well as on any major or larger scale events such as large commercial or residential structure fires and natural or man-made disasters where the incident expands past our normal response capabilities,” said Tommy Kelley, Chief of Operations, Collierville Fire Department. “Another great benefit to our community is that the course is fully funded by DHS and FEMA.”

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