UTRGV’s Mendez named chair of UT System Emergency Management Committee

BY Amanda A. Taylor

Pablo Mendez is a man with a plan. After all, it’s his job, and his decisions can carry the weight of life and death.

As UTRGV’s emergency management coordinator in the Office of Emergency Preparedness, he is responsible for connecting the dots during a crisis and making sure students, faculty, staff and the public are safe.

Now, he has been tapped to be chairman of The University of Texas System Emergency Management Committee.

The committee includes directors, managers and coordinators across the System who are responsible for emergency management and preparedness from each of the UT institutions. The chair also organizes two meetings a year, designed to develop and implement programs that will serve as an exchange of information and cooperation.

“The University of Texas System Emergency Management Committee (EMC) is thrilled to announce Pablo Mendez, from UT Rio Grande Valley, as its new chair for the next two years,” said Patrice Reisen-Hicks, emergency management coordinator in the Office of Risk Management for the University of Texas System in Austin.

She said the EMC is campus driven, which is why officers are only elected from the campuses, not UT System staff.

“Pablo joined the officer ranks in 2015 as the EMC secretary and will continue his current position as chair until December 2019,” she said. “His expertise in emergency management and dedication to campus safety and security rates among the highest of the UT institutions. The EMC looks forward to his leadership and direction during his term as chair.”

Mendez, a former New York City police officer, currently oversees campus strategies in emergency preparedness, planning and procedures. With the new appointment, he will be responsible for overseeing those procedures on a larger scale, to include all 13 UT institutions.

“My job comes into play when we need outside resources,” Mendez said. “We don’t have campus paramedics or a fire department and we have a set number of police officers, so whenever there is an event that needs more than what we have, that’s where I come in.”

Mendez, who has been with the university for almost nine years, said the appointment means making sure each campus in the UT System has what it needs to operate effectively during an emergency. This includes correlating a complex network of departments and entities, including branches in public health, police departments, FEMA, facilities, and transportation offices on and off multiple campuses and university properties.

His role includes bridging the communication gaps that can complicate an emergency situation, like a hurricanes, disaster evacuation or catastrophic incident.

In other words, Mendez needs to be prepared for anything.

“I know I’ve written a successful emergency plan when I can hand it to anyone, whether they’re familiar with the university and emergency management or not, and they can effectively follow it,” he said. “This year, I’m hoping to standardize exercises and drills we practice at our campuses.”

Ben Reyna, associate vice president for Campus Safety and Security, said Mendez understands the value of teamwork and relationships in his work, and now has been recognized for his dedication and service to the overall Emergency Management mission at UTRGV.

“I was very pleased to personally witness when Pablo was selected by his peers to serve as the next chair of the UT System Emergency Management Committee,” Reyna said. “At UTRGV, we are delighted that our EMC colleagues within the UT System share the same values and have selected him for this key leadership role.

“We support Pablo in his new role and recognize the exceptional attributes that each member brings to this important committee,” Reyna said.

For more information on the Emergency Management department, visit www.utrgv.edu/emergencypreparedness.