News: 6th Civil Support Team supports San Antonio Fire Department during the 2011 Battle of Flowers Parade
Story by Sgt. Melissa Bright
SAN ANTONIO, Texas - Most people dream of being in the seat of honor during big city parades; riding on the biggest float and waving to thousands of adoring fans.
However, for members of the 6th Civil Support Team out of Austin, Texas, participation in the parade means getting their job done and staying out of the spotlight.
During one of their most recent missions, a five-man team led by Capt. Michael Torres, operations officer for the 6th CST, traveled to San Antonio, Texas, for Fiesta, one of the nation’s premier festivals.
"More often than not, we are in the background, trying not to draw too much attention and just blending in to the crowds," said Torres.
While revelers enjoyed almost two weeks of parades, car shows, live music and art exhibits, the 6th CST worked with city officials to ensure public safety.
"This is a great opportunity for us to continue working with our partner agencies," said Torres. "Just being on-site allows us additional exposure to our counterparts and ensures we are on-hand to assist in any capacity."
Specifically, the team joined forces with the San Antonio Fire Department Hazardous Material team to begin collecting data for base line radiation readings prior to the start of the Battle of Flowers Parade, held this year April 15.
The initial phase of their mission including sweeping the parade route twenty-four hours, twelve hours and one hour prior to the start of the event to establish base-line radiation readings.
"We do this three ways," said Sgt. Irineo Flores, team leader. "Two of us are in the suburban, two of us go out on a 6-wheel Gator and we are all trained to walk the area and pinpoint specific issues."
Inside the suburban sits a mobile detecting system capable of tracking and archiving both the route the vehicle has driven and any excessive radiation they may encounter.
"This equipment lets us keep track of where we've been what has happened before," said Sgt. John Howard, suburban team member. "For example, last year we had a hit at the same construction site as this year. We still check it out as though it were brand new but when we turn in our final reports, we will include last year's hit for visibility."
In the hours leading up to the parade, the streets opened up to crowds of more than 350,000 spectators, making large vehicle movement through the crowded streets difficult at times and reinforcing the value of the Gators in missions such as this.
"We basically do the same thing as the suburban but we are more agile in that we can fit into tighter places and get up-close and personal even when it's this crowded," said Sgt. Daniel Garcia, one of the Gator team members.
During the actual parade, team members walked among the festively dressed crowds paired with a member of the SAFD haz-mat team, keeping in constant communication with each other and their headquarters. This coordination allows both agencies to maintain situational awareness and hone in on areas of interest as needed.
The teams used devices small enough to be mistaken as cell phones that were easily capable of detecting medical, industrial and weapons grade radiation.
"One advantage of working with the 6th CST is their equipment," said Capt. Andrew Rackner, head of the SAFD haz-mat team. "Their technology really is on a different level than ours. We are all trained to react, but [the members of the 6th CST] are able to detect, giving us a tremendous advantage in any situation," Rackner continued.
Sometimes, safety risks are spotted in unusual locations.
"This year we had a jewelry maker using wire that came up as radioactive, not something we normally expect to find," said Howard.
The 6th CST's Mobile Analytical Lab System, staged just a few blocks away from the parade at the fire station, makes detecting threats to public safety even easier.
The MALS allows rapid on-site analysis of chemical, biological or nuclear contaminants, providing first responders with a critical and timely breakdown of the threat.
"Our whole purpose is to team up with state agencies to fill any need they may have with our equipment and skills," said Torres. "By adding our personnel our equipment our training and our know-how, we are able to provide the best possible outcomes and support our city and state partners."
This work, 6th Civil Support Team supports San Antonio Fire Department during the 2011 Battle of Flowers Parade, by SSG Melissa Bright, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.