New county emergency management coordinator pledges to build on past success of the office
By Anton Riecher
Chadwick, who on Nov. 21 replaced County Judge-Elect Keith Lutz as emergency management coordinator, boasts more than 36 years in emergency response. He graduates to the Medina County job after 10 years as an emergency response specialist with the Bexar County Office of Emergency Management.
Ideally, the best way that the new Medina County emergency management coordinator Mark Chadwick could make his introduction to county residents would be lifting the burn ban that office has had in place since late June.
Unfortunately, Chadwick says that despite the recent rain the ban must remain in place.
“Right now what we are doing is every night I call dispatch after reviewing the weather for the next few days,” Chadwick said. “I’m looking at things like wind speed, humidity and the soil moisture to determine whether or not it would be safe for us to burn.”
Most important is the Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI) which balances the drought factor against precipitation and soil moisture.
“We’re not doing away with the burn ban because two days from now the conditions could be horrible again,” Chadwick said. “We have to keep looking at that soil moisture content provided by the Texas A&M Forest Service.”
Among a host of credentials, Chadwick is certified as an emergency manager (CEM) by the International Association of Emergency Managers and as a Texas Emergency Manager (TEM) by the Emergnecy Management Association of Texas. Obtaining those certifications takes a minimum of five years documented training.
He serves on one of Texas’ 17 local incident management teams and one of six regional teams in the state. These teams are activated to lend incident management support in emergencies requiring significant local, regional and state resources.
“Incident management teams can deploy anywhere in the United States and the U.S. territories to assist with managing major disasters,” Chadwick said.”
A published author, Chadwick’s book “Organizing Chaos: A Comprehensive Guide to Emergency Management” has been selected by Lone Star College as a textbook for emergency management courses beginning next semester.
Chadwick, 57, is a native of San Antonio. He earned his bachelor’s degree at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene. Originally, his career goals pointed toward law enforcement with six years active duty in the U.S. Air Force security police.
“I initially started in law enforcement then transitioned to disaster response,” he said. “It was kind of a natural thing because you’re always responding to disasters anyway.
Chadwick followed his Air Force service with more than 24 years in the Texas State Guard, one of three military branches comprising the Texas Military Department.
“When Hurricane Katrina hit I was one of the people who was activated and sent to New Orleans,” Chadwick said. “After coming back from that is when I transitioned fulltime to just doing emergency management.”
Before his years with the Bexar County Office of Emergency Management Chadwick spent several years as the disaster volunteer coordinator for the American Red Cross in San Antonio and three years with the San Antonio Office of Emergency Management.
A widowed father of three adult children, Chadwick has a son who serves as chief risk manager and safety officer for the various campuses of the Texas School of the Deaf. Of his two daughters, one is a school teacher in Bryan, TX, and the other lives with her family in Saginaw, a suburb of Fort Worth.
Living just five miles from the county line, Chadwick has many connections with Medina County, including a long friendship with Lutz. Like Lutz, Chadwick, in his capacity with the Bexar County Office of Emergency Management, responded to the Das Goat fire last March.
“It’s not any stretch of the imagination to say that Keith, over the last ten years, has done some tremendous things for Medina County,” Chadwick said. “So the good thing is I inherit all those good things that have already been done.”
Chadwick has made training his forte in emergency management. He is one of seven main trainers with the Texas Division of Emergency Management, the agency that coordinates the state’s emergency management program.
“In the last 13 years I’ve trained over 27,000 people in various courses,” he said. “I’ve done a lot of stuff throughout this region such as development and facilitating exercises in Medina County.”
Chadwick said that he and Lutz have talked about capitalizing on Chadwick’s training experience.
“We would like to actually develop a training center here, not only for the local responders, but for citizens throughout the region, offering the citizens emergency preparedness training,” he said.
The future for Medina County Emergency Management is building on the successes of the past, Chadwick said.
“Medina County is growing,” he said. “Good things are ahead in Medina County. I think we’ve got some great leadership.”