It’s hurricane season and Hendry County residents are stocking up again – water, batteries, nonperishable foods, and so on. This year, residents probably won’t notice anything different, but Emergency Management is under new leadership.
Brian Newhouse’s first day on the job was May 4 – just 28 days before hurricane season officially started. This 20-year Navy veteran retired as a Master-at-Arms and has served his country in several varied capacities. He was a combat medic and Military Police investigator. He was an Anti-Terrorism team leader and Disaster Preparedness Ops and Training Specialist. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Disaster and Emergency Management with an undergraduate in Fire Science and is working toward his dual Master’s Degree in Disaster and Emergency Management and Homeland Security.
Brian was raised in Stuart in a family with three generations of law enforcement officers. At age 16 he became a member of the Civil Air Patrol and at 17 was a first responder with his Explorer Post. After graduating from high school he became an EMT, then entered the Navy, becoming a hospital corpsman. He went into law enforcement and was in the academy when terrorists struck on 911. He said he had been considering leaving the Navy, but at that point didn’t feel it was the “right thing to do.”
He deployed to the Persian Gulf as a Military Policeman, then returned stateside.
In the Navy he traveled the world, even to Antarctica as corpsman at a remote field camp where they refueled aircraft and did scientific research and helped with geomagnetic surveys. He was cross trained in weather and became a ham radio operator.
After retiring from the service, he lived in Yulee, Nassau County and, with only four classes remaining, he continued getting Emergency Operations Center training from the Navy American Military University. He decided it was time to move on and applied for the job here in Hendry County.
After his short time here, Brian said he loves it here, with its small town feel. He said he feels welcome from this cohesive community, just two hours from his family in Martin and St. Lucie counties.
He feels it’s a good spot for him to be in and he is working hard, familiarizing himself with every aspect of the EOC. He explains that there is a large knowledge base here and that everyone wants to help.
He noted that Hendry County EM uses the Incident Command System, similar to the military chain of command – a flexible, scalable system that can be adjusted to changing needs.
He already knows he wants to rebuild the inactive ham radio system RACES.
The EOC has 18 emergency support functions – two teams, each with a local expert in that particular field. In an emergency, these Incident Management teams work 12 hour shifts at the command post. Eventually, Brian would like to expand that to three teams.
After hurricane season passes, Brian said he will know better what needs are to be addressed. He already knows he wants to improve the flow of communication/information and possibly change some positions.
He believes the department can do better with less, using more grant money. At this time, it’s just him and Emergency Planner Amy Howard. He will need to fill an administrative tech position.
EM has three dispatchers – HCSO in Port LaBelle, Clewiston Police Department and Big Cypress and he hopes to upgrade their computer software, eventually combining them into one main system.
Located just west of LaBelle on approximately ten acres of SWFMD land, the Hendry County EOC is now six years old, and was designed to be expandable. As new Emergency Management Director, Brian Newhouse provides a strong background in dealing with disasters of all kinds.