Looking Back At Texas A&M’s Response To The West Disaster

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COLLEGE STATION - Even a year later, Texas A&M University personnel are assisting in the aftermath of the West fertilizer plant explosion that resulted in 15 deaths, more than 160 injured and more than 150 buildings being damaged or destroyed.

The Aggie reaction was immediate on several levels: students loading up cars with donations and caravanning to the small town north of Waco and also volunteering to assist in recovery operations; Texas Task Force 1, the elite search-and-rescue unit of the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) responding in force, and faculty and staff from the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Science being dispatched to assist with the handling and treatment of injured animals.

Currently, faculty and staff at the Hazardous Reduction and Recovery Center,(HRRC), part of the College of Architecture at Texas A&M, are assisting officials and civic leaders in West in the continuing recovery initiatives — and further devising guidelines to avoid any such tragedies in the future anywhere in the state and nation.

Some of the students who were involved in the immediate responses to aiding the residents of West have graduated, but the HRRC is still soliciting volunteers for its continuing work. Those wishing to assist the HRRC in its recovery efforts in West should contact Michelle Meyer at 979-862-1414 or mmeyer@arch.tamu.edu.

Following the explosion, one of the first things university officials did was to reach out to students who had family members residing in and around West and various student groups on campus mounted efforts to provide needed supplies and other forms of support for citizens in the affected area.

One student group, the Memorial Student Center’s Freshmen In Service and Hosting (MSC FISH), collected cash and other donations. Other organizations held impromptu fund raisers and collected things like bottled water, food and clothing.

To help with this effort, and to keep the campus community informed as to which organizations were doing what, the Division of Marketing & Communications set up a website where these activities were listed.

Texas A&M had a role in events beginning long before the disaster because many of the first responders were trained at one of the many TEEX industrial emergency courses at Disaster City on campus or at one of the many municipal training courses for firemen and other first responders.

Aggies are well- known for selfless service and for service to the community. One year ago West, located approximately 100 miles from the Texas A&M campus, became an Aggie community.