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-hour shifts (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.
Allen recently retired from a career in law enforcement and has spent the better part of the past year training with the Department of Emergency Management for just such an event. "Helping out in the Yavapai County EOC provided a chance for all of that training to come together in that 'Big Picture' moment," he said.
People depended on them, and according to their boss, 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.”
Both men agreed their deployment will have benefits beyond this particular emergency.
"There is still a lot of recovery to do, but I do find satisfaction in having served with such a professional staff composed of emergency managers and planners from around the state," Allen stated.
“I can look at how the Yavapai County EOC operated and learn from them,” Rudy said. “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.”