Thomas Quinn took up firefighting to help people. Now as Lewisville’s new emergency management services coordinator, he’s in a position to help more people than ever.
“It’s kind of like firefighting, but in a larger scale,” he said. “A much larger scale.”
For Quinn, 44, emergency management is his second career. He spent 20 years as an El Paso firefighter, finishing his master’s degree in public administration at the University of Texas at El Paso, and he spent the last four years of his career as the emergency management coordinator assistant for both the city and the county.
Assistant City Manager Melinda Galler said Quinn was by far the most qualified candidate that came forward for the position and that his hands-on experience and his experience maintaining grants was particularly important.
Preparation was about 30 percent of the job, Quinn said. Mostly, he has prepared for flash floods and inclement weather, but emergency management extends to some things that aren’t so sudden — the biggest job he’s ever been a part of was planning for and securing Pope Francis’ visit to El Paso’s sister city, Juarez, in 2016, he said.
“We got two months of warning, and he was going to visit on the Ciudad Juarez side right on the border and address El Paso. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the maps, but they’re right next to each other,” he said. “It was right next to our downtown area, so there were a lot of high points. Secret service was involved. It was an enormous planning effort, about 80 different agencies involved. We stood up for that whole day, when he came.”
Quinn said both of his daughters are now at the University of North Texas in Denton, so the job opening in Lewisville represented an ideal opportunity to both move his career forward and be closer to them. He said he’s taken with the friendly, easy-going culture and is adjusting to the local emergency concerns — where El Paso was set apart by its much larger population and proximity to Juarez and Las Cruces, New Mexico, Lewisville is a much smaller part of an even larger whole made up by the DFW Metroplex. It is protected by a dam, making severe flooding a more present risk and is right in the middle of Tornado Alley.
Quinn said citywide plans are already in place for major disasters and that going over them would be part of his immediate priorities, but in the long term, he wants to help individual residents be more prepared. He plans to increase the number of residents opting into the citizen alert system on their cell phones.
He is also a certified Community Emergency Response Team, or CERT, instructor. The CERT training system was conceived by the Los Angeles Fire Department after the 1985 Mexico City earthquake saw many residents die well after the quake itself trying to render aid. The idea is to make sure residents know how to properly respond in an emergency. Quinn said he wants to hold two or three classes per year, specifically targeting high school students.
El Paso battalion chief Jonathan Killings, who worked with Quinn in the city’s emergency management office, praised him effusively.
“He was pretty much the face of our office just because he had the personality and real good people skills,” Killings said. “But on top of that, he backs it up with the good knowledge, skills and abilities to perform the job really well.”
Lewisville residents can sign up for the emergency warning system at ltjne.ws/warning.