Nathan Lilley

Nathan Lilley is a captain at the Houston Fire Department Emergency Medical Services. Lilley was born in Houston, Texas and remained in the city for most of his life. Lilley obtained a finance degree at Houston Baptist University, but later realized he did not want to dedicate his life to the finance world. As a natural helper, someone who loved to give back to his community, and his background as a personal trainer, Lilley discovered joining the fire department was the right choice for him.

When he first began his training as a fire fighter, Lilley was unaware that there was a paramedics department. After the end of his basic training, he was sent to paramedic school. Lilley takes a few minutes detailing what the paramedic training entails. The topic of the interview then switches to Lilley’s experience with tropical storms and hurricanes. Hurricanes Katrina and Ike first revealed to him the significance of natural disasters. Given the intensity of such storms, the fire department needs to prioritize certain units, leaving firefighters to coordinate help on their own. Lilley explains that Katrina and Ike helped stretch normal resources and operate in a different way from the day-to-day operation guideline. Although the experience of past storms can help prepare firefighters for future ones, Lilley admits that he could never be fully prepared for a new scenario, since some aspect is always different. For example, the flooding from Hurricane Harvey required a completely different strategy than the hazards brought by Hurricane Katrina. When warnings of Harvey entered the news, Lilley was off duty in Pearland/Friendswood, an area which received a lot of flooding. To help those in the area, Lilley went out on boats until he received a call-in from the fire department. Lilley was able to enter Houston’s city center with the help of a friend’s truck through back roads – the Beltway had been closed in all directions, as well as I-288 towards I-610. Luckily for Lilley, when he explained his position as a firefighter, those blocking the roads would open up certain areas for him to get through. By the time Lilley arrived at work, Station 49, a lot of other dispatch services were coming through. As a paramedic crew, Lilley’s team was able to split up and combine units to best address situations. Most of the help provided involved evacuating individuals from homes and certain areas. Lilley reflects on one experience in an assisted living home where there was three to four feet of water in the home. Unfortunately, some drowned in such rapidly rising waters, especially for those in wheelchairs. Lilley reveals how hard it was to acknowledge that dispatch units were unable to save everybody. Another tragic component for individuals evacuating in flooding homes was worrying about their pets. In some instances, people had the means to evacuate, but they were waiting for specific resources to help them. Lilley spends a few minutes discussing other issues, such as air conditioning units catching on fire. The significant amount of flooding made in hard for the dispatch units to dispatch close to those who needed help. Lilley recalls that neighborhood communities were extremely helpful in directing the department to those who needed help. In fact, in most instances the communities provided the dispatch units with the most helpful information. However, most of the time, units did not know if the situation called for help evacuating or the need of a paramedic. Lilley spends a few minutes discussing how the department helped evacuees transfer to busses.