New EMA director prepared for the job
When Jody Hitt was announced as the new EMA director for Franklin County on Dec. 9, the former director, Roy Gober, was right there to shake his hand and welcome him to the position. As a native of Russellville and a familiar face to emergency crews including local fire departments, Hitt seemed to be a comfortable fit for the position.
Hitt said he has always had an interest in emergency management and he has always been involved with it.
“I’ve been involved with fire and rescue since I was 16 years old,” Hitt said. “I’ve been at a couple of departments in the area and went full time with the Russellville Fire Department in 1998. I’ve just always had an interest in that kind of thing.”
Hitt is no stranger to emergencies and dealing with the fallout of tragic events. During the aftermath of the tornadoes of April 2011 Hitt was deployed to work with the Russellville Fire Department setting up distribution centers and helping stock and set up the FEMA houses once they arrived.
Hitt said he had a good relationship with Gober and often crossed paths with him throughout the years.
“I’ve known Roy for most of my career,” Hitt said. “We’ve worked together and we’ve come across each other in training through the fire association. He put a lot of work into getting this position set up the way it is.
“I’ve been blessed because everything is already in place,” Hitt said. “I’ve just got to continue it forward and keep moving forward with keeping us prepared.”
The recent passing of the Multi-Jurisdiction Hazard Mitigation plan was a big step for the county, according to Hitt.
“Dealing with any kind of disaster requires teamwork and a team effort, but somebody has to take command,” Hitt said. “We have a good team in place to deal with anything that comes up.
“I’m good at communicating with all the parts and all the people involved with what’s going on,” Hitt said. “The most important thing is to be able to do the job and get it done and be able to go home at the end of the day.”
Hitt has also had the opportunity to visit the plants and industrial areas in the county in order to understand their operations and some of the hazards that could arise there.
“Between the county commission, the police and the fire departments, I’ve talked to a lot of people and gotten a lot of information,” Hitt said. “I’ve been able to do a lot of training on safety and hazardous materials at the industrial plants around the county to figure out what they have going on.”
Being on call at all times is nothing new to Hitt.
“I’ve been on 24/7 for most of my life,” Hitt said. “Being on call doesn’t bother me.”
In the upcoming months Hitt has some ideas that he said he would like to start trying to implement.
“We are going to start having some storm spotter classes coming up and getting weather radios out to folks is another big deal for us,” Hitt said. “I also want to start registering the storm shelters and safe rooms that people have built-on to their houses. That way if a storm completely destroys a home we will know to look under the debris for survivors.”
Hitt said he is always learning and always trying to stay ahead of disasters and things that can happen in the county.
“To me, everything stands out,” Hitt said. “All of it can happen here and every part of the county is important and needs to be looked at. I’m a people guy—I like to help folks and that’s what I’m going to try and do.”