Bretagne: The Last Known Living Search and Rescue Dog Who Worked at Ground Zero

20 09 2015

As members of Texas Task Force 1, Bretagne and her mom/handler Denise Corliss had an intense first deployment They joined nearly 100 other search and rescue dogs to find and save people trapped in the rubble of the World Trade Center after 9/11. They’ve had an unshakable bond ever since.

After hearing Bretagne’s story and learning that her 16th birthday was coming up, there was no question in our minds that she deserved a Dog’s Best Day for the ages.

To celebrate her birthday and thank her for her incredible service, we were honored to team up with the dog-lovers at 1 Hotels to bring this New York City hero and her mom back to the city for the ultimate Dog’s Best Day.


TEEX taps Billy Parker to head Texas Task Force I

4 05 2012

As reported in the Texas Government Insider today:

Billy ParkerTexas Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) officials recently selected Billy Parker (pictured) as director of Texas Task Force 1, an urban search and rescue team that responds to emergencies throughout the state. Parker, a 30-year employee of TEEX, has served as interim director of the task force following the resignation of Bob McKee, the former director who is the subject of an ongoing investigation of a complaint regarding his management of the group. A state agency within the Texas A&M University System, TEEX receives state funding for 10 percent of its budget and generates more funding by offering training programs throughout the world and with contracts with numerous businesses and organizations.

Meet the Chief: Interview with W. Nim Kidd

26 09 2010

Last week Nim Kidd visited the Houston region and met with emergency management officials from all over the region, including many from Fort Bend County.  In his two hour session at the Stafford Centre auditorium, he outlined his vision for moving the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) forward.  Besides explaining his background and vision to the audience, he engaged attendees to tell him what they feel is good and what is bad about TDEM operations.  It was a lively two hours and Chief Kidd made it clear that he values bringing solid management practices to TDEM, with a focus on good customer service.  Very refreshing.

To get more introduction to Chief Kidd, please review the following.  The Q & A below was published on Texas Emergency Management OnLine (2010, Volume 57, No. 1). 

San Antonio District Fire Chief W. Nim Kidd was scheduled to take the reins of the Texas Division of Emergency Management on July 1. Hurricane Alex brought him to Austin nearly a week early. Chief Kidd has served as San Antonio’s Homeland Security Director and the city’s Emergency Manager. He has served San Antonio as a firefighter, fire apparatus operator, lieutenant, captain, and District Fire Chief. He has also served as a member of Texas Task Force 1 Urban Search and Rescue Team since 1997, responding to state and national disasters including the World Trade Center attack in September 2001. In this Question and Answer interview, Chief Kidd discusses some of his goals for emergency management in Texas.

What is the most important message you have for the Texas emergency management community?    The Texas emergency management community has a long standing tradition of excellent service to the citizens of this great state. As I begin work as the Chief, my goals are simple: Prepare, Prevent, Respond, Recover and Mitigate. The plan to accomplish these goals are to: Listen to the people that are closest to the issues because they often have the best solution to the problem at hand; continue to build multi-jurisdictional, multi-disciplined collaborative teams to support our collective goals; and empower the dedicated professionals at all levels to make solid decisions that rely on expert education, training and competence.

Looking back on your years of experience working with TDEM during disasters, which event posed the most significant challenge?    I have been a customer of TDEM for seven and a half years. Over the years, I have watched the system develop, mature, and professionalize into unarguably the most solid State Emergency Management Team in the nation. Challenges are opportunities to improve relationships, doctrine and process. Challenges over the years have always been about solving problems: challenges-to-opportunities-to-improvements. The most challenging event that comes to mind is the Katrina and Rita response. The coordination between states needed improvement and Chief Jack Colley led the nation in this effort.

What is the key lesson you bring from your years as a firefighter?    My years serving as a firefighter and emergency medical technician have been some of the best times in my life. I’ve worked alongside the most dedicated men and women of the fire service. The single most important experience I bring from that chapter of my life is teamwork. We were individuals choosing to become a cohesive unit. Living together, working together, laughing together, crying together, and improving ourselves and the system…together.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced as EMC in San Antonio?    I served as the EMC for San Antonio for more than six years, and prior to that I spent a year and a half as one of the Assistant EMCs. The biggest challenge over the years has been to keep the program and the process fresh. Our occupation is not always flashy, and it rarely gets the attention it deserves until the event occurs. We have built a professional, dedicated, solid, self-healing network of people in San Antonio that is ready to respond to any event. The challenge has always been maintaining visible interest during the slow times of the business. I was blessed to work for great visionary leaders like Mayor Phil Hardberger, City Manager Sheryl Sculley, Assistant City Manager Erik Walsh, and a dedicated team of department heads that stayed focused on the mission. Through a 2003 General Obligation Bond Program, our community blessed us with a 36,000 square foot, state-of-the-art, emergency operations center. The facility fosters collaboration and teamwork. The staff that operates the EOC has a true sense of community and dedication to the mission.

What do you bring from your San Antonio experience that might help other communities?    I don’t think the lessons I’ve learned differ much from any other Emergency Manager across the state. I’ve worked closely with many EMCs, and I usually call on them for their advice to unusual situations. All communities in Texas play a critical role in evacuation and sheltering coastal evacuees during major events, not just the City of San Antonio. The San Antonio community chooses to participate in the preparation for coastal events because they know working the issues of another community’s disaster strengthens our local capabilities and prepares us better for our next local event.

San Antonio is fortunate to have a great group of emergency management professionals from all disciplines in the community. James Mendoza leads our Monday Morning Meeting (“M3”) every Monday at 08:30 in our Policy Room. It is full of liaisons from every aspect of disaster planning, response and recovery. Chris Stokes built a Geospatial Information Systems (GIS) team that is second to none. Within minutes of notification, the GIS team provides life saving information to emergency managers and incident commanders. They truly are a great group that believes in, and understands, the mission.

Our medical professionals are second to none. Eric Epley, STRAC, and the Regional Medical Operations Center (RMOC) add a layer of integrity, community support and professionalism to our team that makes San Antonio shine. We wouldn’t be successful without them. Tom Polonis and the dedicated men and women of the Alamo Area Type III Incident Management Team are always ready to tackle any task. IMTs will save the world: our city is in safer their hands because this team has trained together and operated together for over three years.

What are the main three things you plan to do in your new job?    Listen, listen, and listen. Listen to the TDEM team, listen to our emergency management partners, and listen to our community. Leaders cannot make good decisions without knowing the issues. In order to know the issues, we need to listen to those who are closest to the problem. As we listen, we can begin to gain understanding and see the issues in solvable terms. The fourth thing we will work on is organizing the Division to address the issues we learn by listening to the team, partners and community.

What importance do you place on drills, training and exercises?    Education, training and exercise save lives. As a firefighter, EMT and Emergency Manager, I know the value of preparing for the routine task as well as the high risk/low occurrence events. Complacency kills. If we are not educated to the situation, cannot get it right in training and fail to exercise, we will never be successful. We should always use education, training and exercise to improve the system. Otherwise we end up recreating the same mistakes.

Anything else you’d like to say to the emergency management community?    We all know we are in the business of taking care of people, but I think we often forget to take care of ourselves and our families. Many of you know that my family is the most important aspect of my life. My wife, Emily, and I have three amazing children. Emily, Garrett, Abigail, and Parker are the inspiration and unsung heroes in my life. When Emily and I are gone, our most important and longest lasting legacy will be our children. I would be remiss if I didn’t take this opportunity to thank them for being my safe haven and support network.  In addition, I want to thank the TDEM staff and the emergency management community for the tremendous outpouring of support I have received since the announcement of my appointment.  Preparedness is not a destination, it is a journey, and I look forward to the trip with you. Thank you for allowing me to be part of the team.


Texas Task Force-1 Not Traveling to Haiti

18 01 2010

As printed in the Houston Chronicle on January 18, 2010:

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — An elite search and rescue team from Texas will not fly to earthquake-devastated Haiti and has been demobilized by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.  The Texas Engineering Extension Service in College Station on Monday said the United Nations mission in Haiti has declared that search and rescue teams in the country are sufficient.

Texas Task Force One was called up by Gov. Rick Perry on Thursday, two days after a massive earthquake rocked the Port-au-Prince area. The urban search and rescue team from Texas, with about 80 personnel, plus search dogs, had been on standby in Houston since then.  Flights in and out of Haiti’s capital city airport, which suffered damage, have been limited, with commercial service halted to clear the way for military and other recovery flights.

Governor Perry Offers More Disaster Response Assistance to Haiti from Texas

14 01 2010

News Release from the Office of the Governor, State of Texas is provided below.  This was released on January 14, 2010.  In the release, the Governor speaks to his decision to send search and rescue personnel to Haiti.  He also sent a letter to President Obama offering additional resources and support.

AUSTIN – Governor.Rick Perry today sent Texas Task Force One, the state’s elite search and rescue team, to provide assistance in the aftermath of Tuesday’s earthquake in Haiti. He also sent a letter to President Barack Obama offering additional state disaster response resources to assist emergency response teams, rescue workers and medical personnel. Since the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is leading and coordinating the U.S. response effort to this disaster, Texas must receive federal authorization before state resources can be deployed.

“In the wake of the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti, Texas is standing by to deliver much needed assistance and supplies to the victims of this disaster,” Governor Perry said. “Already this morning a team of brave men and women from Texas Task Force One departed for Haiti to provide vital search and rescue assistance. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, rescue personnel and medical workers in Haiti as they continue to cope with the aftermath of this quake.”

Texas Task Force One is capable of responding to mass-casualty disasters and is trained and equipped to locate and rescue people trapped by collapsed structures in confined space in highly populated areas.

Additional state resources available for deployment include:

Medical Personnel:
·    Medical Assessment and Coordination Team with 4 personnel from Texas A&M/University of Texas
·    TxMAT (Texas Medical Assistance Team) – 2 teams – 7 personnel each; one from TX A&M and one from Angel Staffing – 1 physician, 2 nurses, 2 paramedics, 1 respiratory care
·    Department of State Health Services (DSHS) Command Assistance Team (1 team of 7 – 10 personnel) – from DSHS central and regional staff; incident management team
·    Community Assessment Public Emergency Response Team (CASPER) 3-5 person team to augment U.S. Public Health Service

Medical Supplies:
·    40 shelter push packs – support 100 people for three days with over-the-counter medications and other shelter supplies
·    40 shelter supply augmentation kits for infection control focused on preventing infectious disease, including gloves, masks, sanitizers, etc.

Medical Equipment:
·    2 mortuary refrigerated trailers with body bags and supplies

Baptist Child and Family Services: San Antonio (Shelter Medical):
·    Two 500 bed shelters including tents
·    70 staff for Incident Management Team
·    60 kilowatt generators
·    Medical staff (nurses and paramedics)
·    Communications package for satellite and local radios 

Texas Baptist Men:
·    Water purification equipment and personnel capable of providing drinking water for 65,000 people.    
Texas Military Forces Aircraft:
·    Two C-130s capable of transporting large quantities of equipment, supplies and personnel

TX A&M (Boat):
·    600 foot boat capable of housing responders

Search and Rescue: Texas Task Force One – TX A&M (already approved by federal government for deployment):
·    Highly trained urban search and rescue team
·    80 personnel
·    Search and rescue, K-9, logistics, communications and medical capabilities

Search and Rescue: Texas Task Force Two – DFW Area:
·    Highly trained personnel to augment Texas Task Force One
·    Conduct search of small structures

Texas-related volunteer organizations providing financial and other assistance in response to this disaster include The Salvation Army, Victim Relief Ministers, Billy Graham Ministries, Texas Baptist Men Disaster Relief, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, American Red Cross, and Baptist Child and Family Services.

For additional information on the response effort and situation in Haiti, please visit

Texas Task Force-1 Heading to Haiti Today

14 01 2010

I have learned today that Texas Task Force-1 has been ordered to deploy to Haiti.  If this does make you feel Texas Proud, not much will I imagine.  The members of the TX-TF1 are heroes in my book——— not sure they always receive the heartfelt thanks they deserve. But, really, they members of the Task Force do not need to hear the thanks—- they are just happy to respond; render assistance to others, and do a great job helping their fellow citizens.  I have friends on the Task Force and I am always impressed by their personal sacrifices to be part of the team; their willingness to go through immense training on a continual basis; and their readiness to risk their lives to help others. 

Texas Task Force-1 originated in response to the bombing of the Murrah Federal building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995. The Texas Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) – the primary agency responsible for coordinating urban search and rescue (US&R) efforts under the State of Texas Emergency Management Plan – became acutely aware that a similar event could very well happen within our state. In October 1996, TEEX assembled an Urban Search and Rescue Advisory Board.

The advisory board included three representatives from within the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the US&R response system, and representatives from ten Texas departments and agencies. The group wanted to accomplish the following goals:

1. Create a US&R Task Force for the State of Texas,
2. Create a Regional Search & Rescue Response System,
3. Create a Training Center for Search & Rescue,
4. Develop Regional Training Capability.

In December 1996, FEMA issued a request for proposal (RFP) to add two additional task forces to the existing 25 task forces. The advisory board decided to submit a proposal even though the task force had not been officially formed.

The advisory board and TEEX staff devoted countless hours to solicit applications, interview and appoint 124 members to the task force prior to January 1, 1997. Dr. G. Kemble Bennett, Director of TEEX, allocated $700,000 of agency funds to begin procuring the necessary rescue equipment.   On February 14, 1997, Texas Task Force I (TX-TF1) assembled for its first organizational meeting. The advisory board then sought state funding to equip the task force. In May 1997, the Texas Legislature allocated $2 million dollars over a two-year period to equip, train, and operate the task force.

TX-TF 1 has responded to a variety of disasters including Hurricane Ivan, Hurricane Katrina, and the World Trade Center bombing.  For more information on TX-TF 1:

I wish safe travels for the deploying TX-TF1 team.  Do your good work and come back safely to Texas!