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Iron man: Piatt plans for the worst, runs with the best.

You might think Byron Piatt, as an emergency manager, has trouble sleeping.

For the record, he does not.

"My comfort lies in the capabilities of our university community," said Piatt, who works at the University of New Mexico. "I know that no matter the situation, our folks rise to the occasion."

Piatt is a double graduate from New Mexico--a bachelor's degree in 1988 and an MPA in 2008--and has worked at the university since 2004. He's been the emergency manager since 2008.

Piatt came to the growing field of emergency management as a first responder; he still maintains his EMT license and also worked as a volunteer firefighter and in bioterrorism preparedness. Now, at New Mexico, he plans for, mitigates against, and trains for a variety of emergency situations.

"I like to say that my job is to think about all of the bad things that could happen to us on a daily basis," he said. "Further, I make sure that we have a plan in place to respond to, and mitigate against, and recover from, an incident."

In April 2014, a helicopter crashed into the roof of the university's hospital and started a fire. All three aboard were rescued with minor injuries, but the damage to the building took weeks to resolve.

"We operated two emergency operations centers (hospital and university) 24/7 for the first three days, and then during daytime hours until the roof was repaired," Piatt said. "The facility was recertified as a helipad within two weeks. As emergency manager, I helped coordinate all of our efforts and provide just-in-time training for additional staff. The incident is clear proof that every institution should have and exercise an emergency plan."

He also responds to incidents in other states.

During the August floods in south Louisiana, Piatt spent two weeks working in a special needs shelter.

"This was our second opportunity to work with the Louisiana Department of Health and LSU (and Public Health and many others!) in a shelter operation at LSU," he said. The first was during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Piatt also served during tropical storms Allison and Lilly; hurricanes Frances and Gustav; the Haiti earthquake; wildfires in San Diego; and the 2001 terrorist attacks.

"It has been an opportunity to serve our public when needed and learn from actual incidents," he said. "It has helped me strengthen our preparedness and emergency response plans."

So how does he deal with the stress? Piatt runs. A lot.

"I enjoy participating in marathons and triathlons, and have joined groups including the MarathonManiacs," he said. "To join, I ran three marathons in three months. I've recently upgraded by running two marathons in two days in two different states."

Piatt is also an Ironman finisher (13:36), USA Triathlon race director and race official, and a member of the 50 States Marathon Club.

Of course, he's also a member of Phi Kappa Phi. He uses member discounts and also enjoys the monthly Focus emails. But really, he said, his membership is about education and about reaching his goals.

"I believe that my membership helps facilitate my goal of lifetime learning, and I like to learn about how some of our other members achieve that goal."


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Title Annotation:MEMBER SPOTLIGHT; Byron Piatt
Author:Colvin, Beth
Publication:Phi Kappa Phi Forum
Article Type:Interview
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2016
Previous Article:Letters to the editor.
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