KATY MAGAZINE l JUNE 2019
By Natalie Cook Clark
Katy Magazine is profiling a series of notable first responders in our Every Day Heroes section.
Lieutenant/Public Information Officer
Harris County Emergency Services District 48 Fire/EMS
A Chance Meeting
Ten years ago, Simon VanDyk and his family attended an open house hosted by the West I-10 Volunteer Fire Department at Station 3 near Maud Marks Library. He had a chance meeting there that would change his life forever.
"The kids had a blast, and while I was talking to the station captain (Bobby Olsen), he asked if I did anything to give back to the community." At that time, VanDyk hadn't truly found something he was passionate about.
"He told me that if I was looking for a way to give back and do it alongside the kind of people who would get up at 2:00 am to help a complete stranger, I wouldn't find a better place to do it."
VanDyk joined the department in 2009 and started fire academy in 2010.
A New Career
"When the agency transitioned from a volunteer fire department to and Emergency Services District based combination department in August of 2015, Chief Hevey asked me to consider applying for a new paid role as the community education officer which would require me to become a commissioned fire fighter," explains VanDyk.
Over the next several months, VanDyk worked and completed all the training internally to challenge the state tests and become the agency's first volunteer to receive my commission with the state of Texas.
"I thought this would be my new career path until a few weeks later when I was asked to instead become the agency's dedicated Public Information Officer (PIO) and help introduce our new department to the Katy community," says VanDyk. "This was perfect for me because not only had I already pursued the training as something I was personally interested in but it blended my love of public speaking with the my passion for promoting the people and programs our agency has become known for in our short nearly four-year history."
Katy Area Safety Fest
"The project I am most proud of is the Katy Area Safety Fest," says VanDyk. Katy has ten different fire departments and almost as many law enforcement and EMS agencies. Knowing who to call when you need help can get very confusing, and VanDyk wanted to help residents and first responders to connect.
"The Katy Area Safety Fest was launched with the goal of helping people meet and get to know the men and women who make up the many agencies who serve them, in a fun and educational environment."
The program is in its fourth year, and nearly 20,000 people have attended this event over those years.
"It has been exciting to see how our initial goal of introducing us and our fellow fire departments to the community has blossomed into the largest public safety event in the state of Texas," says VanDyk.
Busy Off-duty Life
"I also run a business when I am not in uniform where I help special purpose districts (like MUDs and other ESDs) in the Houston area better communicate with their residents much like what I have done for ESD 48 but on a smaller scale."
VanDyk is married with four children ages 9 to 14, two in elementary school and two in junior high.
"Between competitive cheer with our two girls and baseball with the boys, we are always having to be creative with juggling our schedules to make it all work," says VanDyk.
Katy Magazine would like to thank Simon VanDyk for all he does to benefit the Katy community and make Katy a safer place.