Emergency Operations Expert Detective Omar Ruiz was one of the first people that City of Arnold Mayor Ron Counts and Police Chief Robert Shockey contacted when severe flooding devastated parts of the City during the 2015 holiday season.
When disasters occur, Ruiz, age 55, manages the city’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in the basement of City Hall, and he became the City’s “go to guy” for flood-related directives during the flood emergency.
As part of his job as an Arnold police detective, Ruiz also investigates crimes involving child and sexual abuse. In addition, he is the City’s criminal evidence custodian.
Ruiz has served as a police officer and detective for 24 years. To date, he has served the Arnold Police Department for 12 years in addition to previous service with police departments in St. Louis County. Ruiz also previously worked for 8 years in the American Red Cross Jefferson County office.
“I entered law enforcement as a career because it complements my personal value system,” says Ruiz, an Arnold resident who is married and the father of four grown sons.
“One of my professional commitments is to help get criminals off the street and get them convicted,” he says.
“Emergency management is a personal passion,” he continues. “I do not like to see people get hurt or suffer during disasters or emergencies – I want to help get peoples’ lives back on track and where they need to be.”
During the 2015 holiday season flooding, Ruiz opened the EOC in the basement of City Hall the day after Christmas. The 20 ft x 80 ft room was equipped with a chalkboard, City maps, long tables, 5 computers, 6 hard phone lines, and every EOC team member had cell phones.
“The EOC was the hub for everything,” says Ruiz. Staffed by City and fire department employees, it constantly buzzed with activity and phone calls. It was open daily from 8 am to 8 pm for 10 days, and no one from outside was allowed inside without authorization. The EOC also served as the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Small Business Administration information center during the flooding.
Every resident of Arnold and Jefferson County can participate in the CodeRED emergency notification system.
This system is run through Jefferson County 911 to send significant emergency information to your phone for both natural and man-made disasters.
CodeRED participation is free of charge. You must sign up for this free service through Jefferson County 911 on their website or by calling the dispatch center at 636-797- 9797. Sign up for CodeRED today!
As the disaster “go to guy,” Ruiz worked closely with City department heads, Mayor Counts, and Chief Shockey in addition to State of Missouri and Jefferson County agencies, and leaders of scores of volunteer teams from Arnold and across the U.S. that arrived to provide assistance in flooded neighborhoods.
“In a major disaster, you try to meet all the needs of every person and family affected by the emergency, but that is not always possible when so many people are involved.”
“You have empathy and compassion for every person affected by a disaster – I can’t fathom the heartache and loss that many people encountered during the flooding.”
“You have to look at every detail in an analytical way, and use that as a learning experience to make improvements for the next time a major disaster occurs.”
In 2012, Ruiz earned Missouri Emergency Management Association Certification, and he was recertified in 2015 – becoming one of only 7 disaster recovery specialists in Missouri who gained recertification.
In Arnold, he is well known for extensive community involvement. Ruiz often visits Neighborhood Watch groups, Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, senior citizen centers, nursing homes, schools, as well as conducting women’s’ self-defense clinics.
He also participates in State of Missouri emergency management conferences and seminars, and is a member of Jefferson County’s Long-Term Recovery Committee to identify and assist people whose involvement in a disaster created long-term problems.
“I really enjoy what I do and am proud to serve our community as a member of the Arnold Police Department,” he says. It definitely keeps him busy.
As Ruiz says, “We are always on the lookout for the next disaster, whether natural or man-made.”