COLLEGE STATION – Billy Parker, founding member and Director of Texas Task Force 1 urban search and rescue team, is retiring on March 31, after 35 years of service to TEEX and the state of Texas. Parker played a significant role in the development of TX-TF1 and of the internationally recognized search and rescue training facility, Disaster City®.
As a member and team leader on Texas Task Force 1, Parker served on many missions, including Ground Zero after 9/11 and the Space Shuttle Columbia Recovery. He was team leader on the TX-TF1 deployment to downtown New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, where the team rescued thousands of citizens from nursing homes, rooftops and apartment complexes.
Widely recognized as the “father of US&R,” Parker has been a driving force behind the team’s growth from a small advisory board in 1996 to a statewide and national FEMA US&R team that today includes more than 670 members representing organizations from throughout Texas. He also played a key role in the creation of Disaster City as one of the top training locations in the world for emergency responders, and supervised a training partnership that brought 700 emergency responders from the U.K. to train at Disaster City.
“It amazes me how quickly we accomplished the goals we set forth in 1996,” Parker recalled. “We received a lot of support, and it was the right people at the right time it was like it was meant to be.”
Parker has also served as a firefighter, paramedic and fire service educator. As the coordinator of the TEEX Recruit Firefighter Academy for more than a dozen years, Parker trained hundreds of Texas firefighters. A native of Beeville, Parker began his career in the fire service as a volunteer firefighter in the Clyde Volunteer Fire Department.
“His legacy includes the establishment of Texas Task Force 1, the development of Disaster City, numerous deployments that include the World Trade Center attacks and Hurricane Katrina, and the establishment of the new Regional Texas Task Force System,” said TEEX Director Gary Sera. “As Director of Texas Task Force 1, Billy has set up one of the finest FEMA task force teams in the nation. If there is anyone who best represents the commitment, courage, skill, selflessness and honor of the emergency responder, it is Billy Parker.”
Former Texas A&M Dean and Vice Chancellor of Engineering Dr. G. Kemble Bennett added: “Billy Parker has had a tremendous impact on search and rescue operations in the state of Texas. He planted the seed that search and rescue operations would grow in the fire service, leading to the establishment of Disaster City and Texas Task Force 1. He led the team on its first deployment to flooding in Del Rio. Billy was also one of the first responders to arrive at the Texas A&M Bonfire Collapse and assisted in developing the search plan. He has had a brilliant career responding to countless state and national emergencies, which include Ground Zero and the flooding in New Orleans. Billy’s quiet leadership style, commitment and steadiness in any situation have served the people of Texas well.”
In 2006, the Texas A&M University System Board of Regents honored Parker with the prestigious Regents Fellows Service Award, its highest honor reserved for senior-level professionals who have provide exemplary service to their agency or university, and to their community, state, nation and world. He also received the Distinguished Service Award from the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service and the George Hughes Instructor of the Year Award from the Texas Association of Fire Educators. He was appointed by the Governor to the Emergency Medical First Responders Star of Texas Award Advisory Committee, and also served on the Cache Development Team Committee of FEMA’s Urban Search & Rescue Program.