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Feb 23, 2023Back to Veoci Blog
After working with him as a customer for over eight years, Veoci was lucky enough to welcome "Chip" George K. Orton III, MBA, CPM, CEM, TEM, onto the team late last year.
We are thrilled to be working alongside Chip in his new role as Product Manager for Emergency Management where he will work to further existing solutions, generate new offers, and implement innovative solutions. With his almost twenty years of field experience and his extensive engagement with the Veoci platform, he is uniquely qualified to aid in configuring and bettering offerings that the Emergency Management space needs.
Chip first dipped his toe into the emergency management pool during his four years in the United States Coast Guard. During his time in the USCG, he served as a telecommunication specialist, worked with cryptography and satellite communications. After his tour ended, he began working as an EMT, and later, became a public safety dispatcher for four years between two agencies.
From there, Chip shares that he discovered the emergency management degree from the University of North Texas and decided to pursue emergency management as a career. While in school he completed an internship with Denton County Public Health and also began working part-time for an engineering company, focusing on floodplain management. In 2006, he obtained his bachelor’s degree in emergency management and became a full-time employee with his engineering company. His main project? Aiding the engineering company in managing all of the data and corrections dealing with remapping all of the floodplains in FEMA Region VI.
He then moved back to the public health industry, working as the Strategic National Stockpile Coordinator for Dallas County Health and Human Services. While there, Chip was tasked with putting together a plan for, and to find ways to, disseminate information, medication, and more within a certain time frame that is specific to whatever incident has occurred. He found the usefulness of software-as-a-service (SaaS) platforms during this time, becoming a thought leader in how to successfully utilize and integrate with emergency management applications.
Chip continued his work digitally transforming entire operations in the healthcare field, becoming the Crisis Information Systems Manager for the Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council. He then moved to the North Central Texas Trauma Regional Advisory Council where he served as the Director of IT/Operations Center Manager. During his time in these roles he had many successes, notably training emergency management, hospital, and EMS stakeholders across 19 counties in North Central Texas and running exercises in a matter of months; as well as creating a medical operations center (MOC) for 120 hospitals, over 200 EMS agencies including air medical which would serve as a hub during several regional crises.
Chip then took his developer talents to the government side of things, to not only be an Emergency Management Duty Officer, but also an IT Programmer, for the City of Fort Worth, Texas. There he rebuilt their online emergency management process, noting that the years spent in this role were filled with learning as this was his first taste of EM within a local government. These lessons allowed him to ultimately move to the City of Amarillo as their Deputy Director for Emergency Management.
Around six months after starting his position at Amarillo, Chip became responsible for the implementation and development of their EM program within Veoci. This meant that every plan, procedure, training exercise, everything for the City fell onto Chip. Three years later he received a promotion, becoming the Director of Emergency Management, a position that he would hold for over six years.
During his time as Director, he worked with Veoci to implement a number of solutions, but he never let his busy work schedule get in the way of the continuation of his education. In 2019 he received his MBA from West Texas A&M, maintained his Certified Emergency Manager (CEM) certification from IAEM, is a Certified Texas Emergency Manager (TEM), and is a Certified Public Manager (CPM) through Texas Tech University.
It’s always interesting to note what our practitioner’s see changing in their respective fields. Oftentimes there are a few trends that span across multiple industries, other times there is one specific push or mode of transformation that must be acknowledged. When it comes to Chip’s view on the evolution of emergency management, his perspective falls in line with the former.
If we weren’t already aware, COVID-19 solidified the need for a virtual emergency operations center (EOC). When Chip and his team members in Amarillo were activated during the pandemic, 75-80% of users that were participating were on the Veoci mobile app, be it their mobile phone or tablet. This allowed the opportunity for the City Manager, the City Attorney, and other key management team members to feel as though they didn’t have to rush down to the EOC to get information–everything they needed was at their fingertips.
“It’s like Facebook for Emergency Management” was how Chip described Veoci to others who asked about the software he and the City were using. To further prove his point, he would highlight how many users of the popular social media platform taught themselves how to use and navigate the network on both the desktop and mobile app, and that was what his end users experienced with Veoci.
Speaking of social media platforms, Chip’s second point focuses on how to harness the power they hold to communicate with our communities. “Like it or not, it’s here to stay” he shared, explaining that a key question that needs to be addressed is how can social media be used for sourcing? Though it is not anything new, it is still an area that doesn’t seem fully tapped.
Chip’s third and final point falls in line with a powerful movement that has swept through the field: coping with burnout and fatigue.
Chip has his own theory regarding emergency managers, stating that most really struggle with burnout after successfully managing one or two major incidents, especially when they involve a lengthy recovery period. With this thought process, all of us have already had to navigate through responding to an almost three-year long pandemic. At the same time managers have had mass shootings, social unrest, once-in-a-lifetime weather events, just to name a few, leading many to wonder, “How do I keep going?”
There must be support available to everyone – responders and managers alike – to help them move forward after seeing what they’ve seen, and deal with the mirage of logistics, red tape and most of all, the emotions that they have been bombarded with. The hope is that with the addition of mental health support, Chip’s theory of the emergency manager and first responders job’s shelf-life can be extended.
Chip was so moved by this need for mental health support that he started a master’s degree in counseling in early 2023. Chip is also co-hosting a podcast on mental health called “The Unspeakable Protocol” which will be available on social media and common podcast sites.
When asked what motivates Chip on the daily, he had a straightforward answer, “I’m passionate about making the field better. And one of the things that I'm most passionate about, or was as a client, was Veoci.”
He went on to explain that when you find something you wholeheartedly believe in, whether it be a solution to a challenge or a way of thinking, and you genuinely trust that it will help others with a shared issue, a job can suddenly seem easier.
But of course, it’s not always about work all of the time. Another key driver in Chip’s life, perhaps the most important one? His eight-year old son. “You know, having a kiddo who’s really intelligent, asking lots of questions about current events and science, and being a part of watching him grow up and getting to be a dad, is truly the best ‘job’ I’ve ever had.”
When we cover a practitioner on our team, we always like to ask for them to share a nugget of wisdom, tips or tricks of their trade, or an encouraging sentiment to those either venturing into their industry or those who have been in it for the long haul.
When asked if he had anything to share with readers, Chip had one word.
Chip credits networking to him receiving his internship during college. They had a speaker come in and visit one of his classes, and after the lecture he made sure to go and introduce himself. “I think that's really hard for younger folks, especially if you're an introvert. And I'm an introvert so I can speak to that. But you have to be able to network and talk to folks.”
While at Amarillo, Chip’s team created a position that was solely for someone straight out of school, something he believes other state and government agencies are also doing and seeing the value in. With so many positions demanding one to two years of experience, the goal of this position was to find the best and brightest right out of school, train them, and help them develop into a competent young professional. While at Amarillo he saw quite a few recent graduates come in, get the job, excel, and move forward in the field; one even landing themselves on 40 under 40 lists in their county, and one became the new Director of Emergency Management when Chip moved forward in his career.
“You know, sometimes it takes a couple of rounds to get to know somebody, so again, network and then just be a bulldog. Be persistent with what you want to go after.”
It is always thrilling to add another practitioner to the Veoci team, and welcoming Chip Orton aboard has been no different. We really do believe that having a company made up of individuals with real-world experience and true empathy for our customers allows us to provide the best product possible.
If you’d like to learn more about Chip Orton, check out his LinkedIn profile.
Read through the other profiles we’ve put together on Veoci team members by clicking the links below.
Check out Chip's article in the IAEM Bulletin on burn out and mental health in emergency management here.
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