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Capt. Genaro Rocha served as an emergency volunteer after recent flooding in Texas.

Salt River Fire Captain Deployed to Texas Flood

Capt. Genaro Rocha of the Salt River Fire Department (SRFD) was deployed to Texas June 4-11 to assist the American Red Cross with Mass Care and Shelter Operations associated with the recent flooding that has impacted that state. He was originally working in the Dallas area, but was relocated to Conroe, Texas, outside Houston.

This opportunity came to the SRPMIC and to Rocha as a result of the recent work the SRFD has done with the American Red Cross on the development of the Community’s own Mass Care and Shelter Operations.

The American Red Cross recognized the SRPMIC and Rocha’s commitment to this project and wanted to offer Rocha this opportunity to further his Mass Care and Shelter management skills so that he could bring the knowledge back to SRPMIC and integrate his experience into our program. The Red Cross also recognized that his great interpersonal skills are helpful in dealing with people who have been driven out of their homes by the flooding disaster.

“I was given the opportunity through the American Red Cross, and my emergency manager and chief allowed me to deploy to that flood to volunteer and also to see the emergency shelter and how it was run,” explained Rocha. He has served as SRPMIC Mass Care Shelter project manager for almost two years.

“When I got into this project, my objective was to mirror the Red Cross sheltering plan for the Community. They are the experts who have done this for over 100 years,” he said. “Same equipment, same training, but with our people here in the Community. If the rest of the state needs the Red Cross in an emergency situation at the same time, those resources could be exhausted, and that was the whole point of [applying for] the grant that funded me for this project.”

Rocha’s relationship with the American Red Cross has been “amazing,” he said, “because of how well they supported us from the very beginning. I went out and learned who their vendors were, documentation and how equipment worked, etc., and so when this opportunity came up to volunteer, I took it,” said Rocha.

In Texas, Rocha helped out at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Conroe, where they set up a shelter in a Spanish-speaking area to provide assistance and meals to people affected by the flooding. This was Rocha’s first actual emergency shelter experience.

The damage and loss of personal belongings a town lost in the flood. Photos courtesy of Capt. Genaro Rocha
“I’ve been to shelter exercises many times, but this was the real thing where I assisted anywhere I could with the shelter,” said Rocha. He worked 12-hour shifts.

The residents he was serving had 6 feet of water come through their community. Many had to swim to safety because they did not receive any fire or rescue response due to the magnitude of the event.

“Everyone had a different sad story on how they lost everything except the clothes on their backs. Many lost family members, friends and animals,” he said when describing the situation. “I did a lot of interpreting and cleaning up and helped out wherever I could.”

Here in the Community, in case of a disaster the emergency shelters would be set up in the Community buildings in Salt River and Lehi.

“In the last two years, we have developed relationships that are very key to assisting us to getting where we are now, and we are very fortunate that this Community is proactive and has good relationships with the county and state,” said Rocha. “We have also included the American Red Cross and have shared our information and resources with other Native communities.”

This is the emergency shelter in which Capt. Rocha served
In December, the San Carlos Apache Tribe needed help because of freezing temperatures and people not being able to have heat in their homes. The Community was able to lend them equipment and help put it together. That night 11 people were helped.

“I would like to personally thank Capt. Rocha for accepting this opportunity on two days’ notice and thank Fire Chief Dash and the SRPMIC government for supporting him and allowing him to go,” said SRPMIC Emergency Manager Cliff Puckett. “This will be a great benefit to the Community.”