Art Carlton Emergency Planner, Pinal County Office of Emergency Management

Interview by Bea Lueck

GC LIVING: This issue’s interview is with Art Carlton, a planner with the Pinal County Office of Emergency Management. Tell us briefly about yourself.

Art Carlton: I tell people I was born in Syracuse, New York. My folks went there for a funeral, and I was born, and then they came back to Arizona. So I missed out being an Arizona native. I was raised in the Casa Grande area, more so La Palma and went to school in Casa Grande. When I was 16, I started working for the City of Casa Grande, doing drafting, civil engineering, architectural work. I would help Rosa Bruce from the City’s housing department with a lot of her architectural drawings.


Art Carlton: At 16. I was doing architectural drafting when I was 8 for local friends and families.

GC LIVING: That’s an interesting hobby for a very young child.

Art Carlton: My stepfather was a welder and had projects, and we would communicate a lot by drawing. When he was building projects, I would draw them up for him. When the County adopted the building codes in the ’80s I would draw plans for family and friends. Primarily small structures.

GC LIVING: So, you were doing all of this before you actually graduated from high school?

Art Carlton: I was taking drafting classes in high school, and Tom Pifer was my instructor. He encouraged me to apply for a drafting job with the City. I was hired for the job and started working for them at 16 years old. At noon, I’d go over the city and I would work a full eight hours. I stayed with them until ‘90, when I moved over to Pinal County.

My love was always law enforcement. I really wanted to become a Secret Service agent to protect the President. Because of certain things, health conditions, stuff like that, it never panned out. I was approached by Dean Weatherly, who was Pinal County Supervisor at the time, and Ray Jones, surveyor and city council member, about going over to the County and starting up their environmental investigation program. So, in May ‘90 I moved to the County to be their environmental investigator. I graduated from the Federal Law Enforcement Academy. I became a hazardous material technician and a bomb technician — there are a list of certifications beyond that for all the FEMA classes. I’m not a big person to talk about all that.

GC LIVING: And this is all on the investigational level?

Art Carlton: Yes, it’s all investigation. I did criminal and civil investigation, not only on solid waste, but also hazardous waste. You have the three mediums. You have soil, air and water. Air was done by air quality. Of course, the water was done by water quality at the state, but I did the soil and hazardous waste for the County. I did that for about 20 years; we were bounced from one department to the other. Finally landed in emergency management, and I did investigation and emergency management response.

After 9/11, things really changed in our world, emergency management wise. My career evolved into what it is today — my primary role is training and exercising first responders. I absolutely love it — bringing 30 years of full knowledge, and some adjunct instructing for the state — to the table.

GC LIVING: And the training has evolved over the years … From tabletop exercises where you’re penciling paper for the response, to full-out field exercises with hundreds of people in a mock incident.

Art Carlton: I was very much involved with FEMA and Homeland Security on developing what we call HSEEP – Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program. FEMA is all about acronyms. I was one of many people in the nation who helped develop that program. We figured out what didn’t work and we fine-tuned this policy or that plan.
In Pinal County, we look at it from an all-hazard approach; we can fine-tune down to hazmat, bomb response, health response, whatever it may be. I actually love doing that.

GC LIVING: You’ve taken the exercises to a more extreme level than other agencies by way of your artistic side and using moulage. (Editor’s note: see page 62 for the article on moulage)

Art Carlton: Yes. It’s always been a dream once I got in to the training exercise component to actually have a facility in the County to conduct emergency response exercise and training. When the current emergency manager Chuck Kmet came aboard, he asked me, “What do you want to do?” I said, “I’ve got to add more realism to these exercises. I want to add moulage.” Moulage is a French term that we have loosely defined as applying fake wounds to an actor or an individual.

GC LIVING: Taking local to the Hollywood level.

Art Carlton: Exactly. He asked, “OK, what do we need to do for this?” I said, “Well, I need to know how to do it, first of all.” Then I said, “There is a class coming in Phoenix. I would like to attend.” Chuck approved myself and Barbara Elliott, emergency planner and paramedic, to attend the class.
Shortly into the course, I discovered the moulaging techniques were the same techniques I use when I build my railroading models; just a different application. I absolutely fell in love with it to the point of driving people crazy.

GC LIVING: Mostly your wife?

Art Carlton: Yes (laughs) mostly my wife Kim. She ended up being my guinea pig. My daughters were also guinea pigs. I’ve since taught my daughters how to moulage. When I have a big exercise, I call them in to help.

Prior to introducing moulaging, we had 8 1/2″ x 11″ cards attached to the actors detailing their simulated symptoms and wounds.

During earlier exercises, I realized the cards were not providing enough realism for the medical responders like EMTs, paramedics, etc. We were not giving them an opportunity to fine-tune their skills.

I told Chuck, “Hey, I need to bring this in to make it realistic for them.” Barb helps me set up all the various type of injuries whether it’s an active shooter, hazmat response, nuclear incident, whatever the exercise may be. She says: “We’ll need these made,” and gives me pictures of the wounds we need for the particular exercise. I then make the wounds.

Compound fracture, bone sticking out of the leg, femur fracture. I can make any part of your body, or I can cast your whole body. I’ll reproduce an organ, eyeballs, intestines, the whole 9 yards.

GC LIVING: So, it starts with liquid latex in rough molds that you then manipulate, carve and paint?

Art Carlton: It typically starts with a ball of clay I carve and manipulate to make a mold. I have latex. I have silicone. I have a mixture that’s sugar and gelatin because people react differently to products. Some are allergic to latex, somebody might be allergic to silicone. I’ve used white glue on people to make a wound. I use white glue to make people look older.

I can reproduce all body fluids, all smells. I could actually reproduce the smell of a burnt hand. Smell, people don’t realize, is very critical. Active shooter incident — you got cops running through a building where the active shooter is going on. You not only have gunpowder, but then you have all those body fluids smells, because things happen to people when they’re in trauma. So, you try to make it as realistic as possible, so if they ever, God, I hope they don’t, run into these things they know what they’re up against.

GC LIVING: I saw on your Facebook page that you were making glass to resemble automotive glass.

Art Carlton: In a drill exercise involving a car accident, you’re going to have broken glass. So, you add the glass into the wounds so they actually must irrigate and clean out those wounds. I’ve actually had exercises where the patient went from our drill site to the hospital where the hospital emergency room was playing in the exercise. Some of the wounds I make, they can actually be sutured without hurting the actor, because of the way the product is made.

If a vein is cut, it will spray blood out until they get a tourniquet on them. Once the tourniquet is applied properly, it will stop the bleeding. All these things are in play. So yes, glass is one of our components and we use it fairly often.

If we can train these guys as realistically as possible … I’ll give you an example. We were going into the basic format of doing an active shooter exercise in 2019. So we did a mass casualty drill. I obtained decommissioned vans from the prison that still had their cages in them. And then we were able to get an old casino bus from Gila River.

GC LIVING: I remember the photo. The bus is laying on its side next to an overpass.

Art Carlton: That was the San Manuel one. This drill simulated accident involving the bus and two prison vans. We turned one of the vans on its side. We utilized Pinal County Pubic Works staff as the actors, which included dressing them up like prisoners. And, one of the wardens looked at me. He said, “You sure some of these guys weren’t actually in prison?” They played the role so well. We did the moulage on them and everything. And we did three days of the same scenario.

In those three days, we did a morning session and an afternoon session, so we could capture every EMS, every responder in the County who wanted to participate; we could run them through without hampering with their day-to-day operations. And during those individual sessions, we were actually able to to have the responders switch roles and have them come back through again.

So, they went through this whole thing, and it was no more than a few days later when Coolidge had a mass fatality accident involving a bus. And what they learned from that exercise, they were able to process all their injuries, all the patients quicker and faster because of what they learned at the drill. And that to me is saying, we were successful at what we did for them. If it saves one life, I’m happy.

GC LIVING: Of course, we’re going to cycle slightly into COVID-19. So illnesses, any health emergencies, this, too, was something that would have been covered in the training?

Art Carlton: We drilled giving vaccines because of the annual flu. We drafted a scenario that was a pandemic or something. You use those tools in your toolbox to make it as realistic as possible.

GC LIVING: Now, Pinal County has actually scored well in Arizona in many ways. We’ve had supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE). We’ve gotten ahead of the curve in a few areas.

Art Carlton: Yes, we have.

GC LIVING: We are distributing vaccinations in a better fashion than some other counties.

Art Carlton: We were the first county to move into the 1B category. We’re able to supply all of our stakeholders, whether it’s a hospital, doctor’s office, or responding agencies with the required PPEs that they need.

All the training and exercises have paid off to allow us to be able to move forward with what we’re dealing with, which makes me feel good. Tells me everything we’ve done is working.

GC LIVING: You alluded that your past has helped you with the current: You’ve been a railroad bug long before I ever met you. How did you get into railroading?

Art Carlton: We’ll go back to my young architectural days. As I was drawing structures. I wanted to know what they look like 3D, so I would make models using milk cartons, cereal boxes, Popsicle sticks, wood matches, toothpicks.

I always had a fascination with trains. I asked my parents for a train set for Christmas, and it took off from there.

I still had that urge to do what we call scratch building. I wanted to know how did Disney do it in his movies. I was fortunate enough to know … I don’t know if you remember Bruce Smith, who used to do signs around here? Bruce was actually John Wayne’s stunt double in a lot of movies, and he was from that part of California. He moved there from Wisconsin to California; him, Disney, a guy named Doc Andres, who was another famous modeler. These guys learned each other’s techniques.

I was fortunate enough that Bruce moved to Casa Grande, became an electronics teacher at the high school. That’s where I met him. We found out we had trains in common. He also had a manufacturing company that made model trains; he also built stuff for Hollywood.

President Nixon commissioned him to build a Pacific Electric car that Nixon’s dad operated. I have a picture of Bruce and Nixon with the car and the letter from Nixon thanking him for building the car.

I had a very good mentor; I just took off from there. I do some commission stuff. I try to hold it back because I never wanted my hobby to become a business. Right now I’ve orders from Phoenix, California, Washington and New York on the table.

Trains, we get to the train part of it. I was so fascinated by them that in the late ’80s, I became what they call a hobby hobo. There were people like doctors and lawyers and myself that actually jump on trains like hobos and rode them to wherever they went, and jump off.

I wanted to buy a pair of Tony Lama boots from the factory. When the order was ready I’d jump a train to El Paso. I would have my hobo gear, my bindle and everything, and I would stay in the hobo jungle down in El Paso. Back then, it was a misdemeanor if you got caught on the train. Wouldn’t do that today, because it’s right on the border and it’s not a good place. Of course, all the Homeland Security stuff the penalty is much stiffer now.

GC LIVING: OK, back to railroading. You build by hand these very intricate dioramas?

Art Carlton: Yes.

GC LIVING: I saw one on your Facebook that was a red brick building you were showing the detail work of the old-fashioned ice box outside, and then a figure of a man in one of the woven vinyl lawn chairs. How long does it take you to build things like that?

Art Carlton: That’s always been a tough question. Picture me in a workshop sitting at a bench, and I’ve got the period of music going on of what I’m building. I’ve got photographs of the period of the structure. I lose total track of time. I’m going to say those four chairs probably took me all of six to eight hours total, because you have to allow for drying time to happen and paint to dry, and then I move on to something else, and come back to it. Time is tough for me to put down, because I get so absorbed into the thing that I totally lose track of time. To a point where, I will walk out of my shop and it’s like a flash to the future, because I have put myself in a period of time.

GC LIVING: History is also a passion of yours. Are you still actively involved with the Casa Grande Historical Society?

Art Carlton: I was a few years ago. I can’t remember how many years it’s been, but I started doing displays for the Casa Grande Museum, aging myself here, 25, 26 years ago or so, maybe farther back.

If you go into museum, you will see several displays I built. One is the mining cave. My oldest daughter was 3 when I did that. I’ve got pictures of her covered in plaster, because she was right there, getting into everything.

I just love history. I’ll dig into it. I know they’re wanting me to come back and do a couple other displays, and I’ve done displays for other museums as well.

GC LIVING: If you could do any display that’s been rattling around in your mind, what would it be?

Art Carlton: The life-size figures of the different individuals that founded Casa Grande, the diversity of individuals that it took to develop Casa Grande in these early years; the Chinese railroad workers, which then leads into all the merchants, the Chinese merchants, the Hispanic influence, the Native American influence, the American influence, European influence, I should say. The Irish influence that we’ve had.

GC LIVING: You’ve been with the county for 30 years, which is retirement time for a lot of people.

Art Carlton: Four years ago I could have retired.

GC LIVING: When you do finally make that decision, do you have a goal or something that’s on your horizon you’d like to do?

Art Carlton: The bucket list is long. I’m waiting for Kim to retire. I want to travel and ride as many of the tourist railroad lines. My first one is Ely out in Nevada. That whole town’s a museum.

I would absolutely love to spend whatever time needed to go through the Smithsonian. I would like to spend more time at the Huntington Library, the California Railroad Museum in Sacramento, researching everything possible to Casa Grande railroading, Pinal County railroading, even more in-depth than what I’ve done.

GC LIVING: Steam or diesel?

Art Carlton: They both have their beauty. I would have to do steam, due to the fact each steam engine has its own character. No matter if you have two alike that were manufactured from the same company, they all have their little quirks to make them run. Diesel, you turn it on and it goes.

And one day I’d like to do more cosplay. I do some cosplay costumes and am starting to get a little more into that.

GC LIVING: What genre?

Art Carlton: Whatever they throw at me. I’m working on a Boba Fett (Star Wars) helmet right now for an individual.

GC LIVING: Do you do more of the old school manufacturing sculpting or are you into 3D printing and such?

Art Carlton: I haven’t gotten into 3D printing. Yet. There’s a printer for plastic; you’ve got printers for various metals; you’ve got printers for this product and that product, and it’s like, I want one of each. Right now, I’m struggling with which one do I get first? That’s going to be coming in, because there are times when I do have a client that wants something built, especially historic.

GC LIVING: What model do you plan to do next?

Art Carlton: My next one’s going to be the Maricopa station that was out there. The scale I’m building it in will make it a large model, complete with the water tower. We have built the water tower on the display at the museum, and I actually went out and photographed everything on there. Of course, lucky enough for me, the drawings for those towers are still around. I was able to get the actual dimensions and everything. I just need the photographs to capture the rest of it.