You might think Byron Piatt,
as an emergency manager, has
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
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,
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
“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
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.”
WINTER 2016 3
Photo provided by Byron Piatt — University of New Mexico
Emergency Manager Byron Piatt is an avid marathon runner.
PIATT PLANS FOR THE WORST, RUNS WITH THE BEST
BY BETH COLVIN