As we enter National Preparedness Month, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is thankful to have Anthony Buck as its Emergency Response Coordinator.
Buck was recently awarded the public service commendation medal—the fourth highest public service decoration the U.S. Department of the Army can bestow upon a civilian—from the Army’s Sixth Civil Support Team for exceptional and continuous support.
“Over the past nine years, you have demonstrated extraordinary dedication to protecting the public, responders, and the environment during incidents such as the West explosion, Athens, CHEMSTROY, Hurricane Harvey, HP Gas, ITC tank fire, Hurricane Laura, and many others,” the award states.
The Sixth Civil Support Team had worked with Buck many times in training and emergency response missions and wanted to recognize his contributions to their organization Texas Military Department Commander of the 6th WMD-Civil Support Team Major Sean M. Thurmer said.
“As the Emergency Response Coordinator for TCEQ (the lead State agency for Oil and Hazardous Materials response), he responds to some of the largest and most complex incidents in the state. He is one of the best in the business and cares deeply about the safety of the citizens of Texas and the safety of response personnel,” Maj. Thurmer said. “Over the past nine years, time and again he has made sure the 6th WMD-CST had what we needed to be successful while executing our duties in a safe manner. If we get a call and I know Mr. Buck is on scene, I know we are in good hands.”
Although he has years of experience responding to natural disasters, the award took Buck by surprise.
“I was blindsided by the whole thing,” he said. “They were going through a whole bunch of awards and then at the end they said, ‘We have one more,’ and everyone started looking at me. It was both an honor and a bit embarrassing because all the guys I worked with for years were there and had worked just as hard as I had.”
Buck expressed being humbled and surprised and sees the award as a team effort, saying that no one person can respond to a disaster on his own, but his experience and qualifications in emergency management are clear.
With a military background, Buck already had been responding to various emergencies and when he returned from a Bosnia deployment in 2000 he began working for the Texas Division of Emergency Management as a hazard materials disaster planner for about a year where he responded to hurricanes and enjoyed the emergency management aspect of the position.
In that role, he kept running into the Sixth Civil Support Team during drills and planning and a friend encouraged him to apply to the team, where he was offered a position and became a member until 2010, when he left for another unit and then retired from the military in 2012.
“We’ve tried to maintain a working relationship with the Sixth Civil Support Team because they are very good at hazard materials response,” Buck said. “We’ve used them during hurricanes and other high-level events and their professionalism has always been on point.”
During all the crises he’s worked on, he reminds those coming out to help that, “We’re here to help Texas get back to normal, whether that’s getting a drum of hazardous materials out of someone’s backyard or getting potable water when you turn on the tap or being able to flush the toilet.”
“Helping Texas get back to normal is very rewarding to me. I love going out post landfall of a hurricane and helping Texans get back to normal. That’s my guiding star and why I really enjoy it even though it’s really hard work sometimes,” Buck said.
And as someone who has been helping Texans recover from natural disasters for years, Buck encourages all Texans to have a plan for your family and your home and to be ready to execute that plan in case of an emergency, especially if you live in a flood plain or hurricane zone. A good rule of thumb is always to have a few weeks of food and water in the pantry.
“During Winter Storm Uri, we were as affected by that storm as anyone else, but I had enough food in the freezer and pantry to carry my family through,” Buck said.