SAFD chiefs explain how massive collaboration between local, federal agencies keeps community safe

Collaboration seen last month during active shooter situation in south SA

SAN ANTONIO – A massive collaboration across the San Antonio region has first responders constantly training and preparing to keep us safe.

We saw that collaborative effort firsthand last month when a man killed his neighbor, set his house on fire and opened fire in the neighborhood.

Seeing that incident prompted KSAT to look further into how that seamless teamwork happens.

Part of it is in great part to an enormous, special training exercise combining hundreds of people from agencies local to federal. KSAT got an exclusive view of that training in 2017.

Preparation for mass casualty events translates to smaller scale situations, like that response three weeks ago to an active shooter in south San Antonio three weeks ago.

"When I got there, there was gunfire," SAFD Chief Charles Hood said. "It's a smaller scale but you're going to have fire trucks, ambulances respond, command vehicles, we're going to have to stage. We're not going to pull up in those areas if we know there's shooting going on."

He said they've had to learn from the past.

"Say the Columbine shooting where there was no coordination or little coordination. PD was calling in specific fire units, fire units were going in unprotected.

Chief Hood says the heightened emphasis on coordination started three years ago while the city began preparing to host last year's NCAA Final Four Tournament.

"We've spent about $725,000 so far," he said.

Some of that money was spent on training and consultants, but $500,000 of it was spent on ballistic gear. Firefighters and EMS were wearing those helmets and vests during that active shooter situation last month.

"When you look at how violent this society has become, now how do you look at responding to something even bigger?" Hood said.

The answer to that, lies in a dim room covered in monitors.

The Fusion Center is San Antonio's hub for gathering intel and communicating across agencies.

In the Fusion Center there are people from the fire department working right next to people from the Police Department. No uniforms are required. They all wear the same shirts because they're on the same team.

Douglas Berry is the SAFD Tactical Services Division chief. He oversees the Fusion Center as the fire department's liaison to all other agencies.

"We have partners in the business community, we have partners in federal law enforcement, military, school district police officers, VIA, SAWS, CPS, they all have a relationship with us so if anything happens we're all in the know," Berry said.

So when disaster strikes, the community and the first responders are as safe as possible and know they're in good hands.

About the Author

Courtney Friedman anchors KSAT’s weekend evening shows and reports during the week. Her ongoing Loving in Fear series confronts Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She joined KSAT in 2014 and is proud to call the SA and South Texas community home. She came to San Antonio from KYTX CBS 19 in Tyler, where she also anchored & reported.

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