Nov 08, 2019
DIRECTING: New EMA Director Bob Jackson said he’s still trying to adjust to his new role, but he already has some goals in mind.
BY Samantha Oyler – [email protected]
The Grant County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) has a new director.
Bob Jackson has been indirectly connected with the EMA for years, but he officially stepped up into his new role last Friday.
He was previously a member of the Local Emergency Planning Committee and the County Communication Plan and worked with volunteer fire departments throughout the county for more than 30 years.
Though the process to become director took about six weeks, Jackson said “the timing was right.”
Jackson said he first got involved as a firefighter as a way to give back to the community that raised him.
Originally from Long Island, the New York native moved to Matthews when he was about 12 and has called Grant County home ever since.
“This is really home for me,” Jackson said. “I could not have had a better upbringing.”
Now Jackson will spend his days coordinating response efforts between the various agencies, making sure things flow as smoothly as possible and trying to make the best of some stressful situations.
“Emergency management is really just that. … We plan for all the things that could go wrong or have gone wrong,” he said. “But within that, there’s 1,001 things that go on.”
Since taking on his new role, Jackson said there have already been some incidents that required his attention, like a recent tire fire and a gas leak that required a small evacuation.
While Jackson does have a hand in day-to-day incidents, he said the EMA team is always trying to be proactive.
He said that a large focus right now is on hazardous materials, specifically industrial materials like anhydrous ammonia, which the Center for Disease Control and Prevention describes as a pungent gas with suffocation fumes that’s used as a fertilizer.
Jackson said that while anhydrous ammonia is not the most dangerous material, according to the state it is the most prevalent.
According to Jackson, incidents involving anhydrous ammonia typically happen in rural areas, though there can be problems in more urban areas as flow studies indicate it’s often transported through the county.
Though Jackson and the rest of the agency are focused on taking preemptive measures, he said he hopes citizens are as well.
“The more the public is involved in their own safety, the better we all are,” he said.
He stressed the importance of preparedness, especially as winter rolls in.
For the chilly season up ahead, Jackson advised that people should make sure their heating equipment is working properly, change the batteries in their smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and stock up enough food and water and necessary medication to last them at least 72 hours.
If all else fails, Jackson said at the very least, people should know of another place to go should a disaster strike.
While EMA does partner with Red Cross and other agencies that can help provide relief, Jackson said it takes time to get everything set up.
One major goal Jackson has set his sights on is to get more involved in the community to help address its needs.
He said he’d like to meet with as many civic groups as possible and see where they can get involved.
Anyone who would like to know more about proper preparedness can visit the EMA’s website at www.grantcounty.net/grant-county-offices/ema/planning-preparedness.