MOUNT VERNON — After being named interim director for Knox County’s Emergency Management Agency, Brian Hess is working on securing a smooth transition, not only for EMA staff but for first responders as well. Meeting with the county’s Fire Chiefs Association on Friday morning, Hess laid the foundation to build a solid relationship between the association and EMA.
“The reason I brought them in was to talk about communication and that they can trust EMA and use EMA as a resource — as we were set up to be used,” Hess said. “I wanted to get all the chiefs in the room at once to let them know that is what I would like to see take place. Not just because of the events that have transpired of late but because the EMA office, the fire chiefs, law enforcement, EMS — that’s a working relationship that needs to be there for the whole county. We are a lifeline to citizens of the county and that resource needs to be trusted by the citizens.”
Hess said that although he is the interim director, he feels it is his responsibility to make sure the lines of communication are open between the first responders and EMA regardless of who is at the helm.
“The nature of the beast of EMA is inherently different,” Hess said, comparing his interim position with that of any other entity. “A two-week period in EMA — being in disaster prevention, terrorism awareness type of situations — I felt as being in a safety position, anything can happen in two weeks; anything can happen in the 20 minutes we are talking right here. So, to establish that trust with the chiefs, even if it is only for two weeks, can be beneficial to the county.”
Hess has also spoken with law enforcement throughout the county as part of his open-door, open-communication commitment.
EMA serves the citizens of Knox County in the event of a disaster or terrorist attack, and ultimately serves as the pulse of the county to coordinate efforts following such emergencies.
“EMA is a resource for all local firefighters, law enforcement and EMS personnel to use in the event of a disaster,” Hess said. “We also work hand in hand with all the townships in the area, especially during the wind storm, to make sure they have the adequate equipment, funding, things to operate to repair damage in county.”
Hess also said EMA is responsible for writing state and federal grants that help fund the agency. He said the state of Ohio determines its funding for Knox County’s EMA based on population and need for funding, which includes past grants and past money utilized. The county commissioners then match the state’s contributions.
Hess was named interim director Thursday morning after the EMA board placed director Marie Blubaugh on paid administrative leave pending a board investigation into her conduct as director.
When asked why the EMA board approved a raise for both Blubaugh and Hess one week and then placed Blubaugh on administrative leave the next, Knox County Assistant Prosecutor Charles McConville explained that the information that led to the investigation was received after the meeting took place.