Valdosta Daily Times

March 6, 2013

Coaching the EMA

Tye runs obstacles with emergency management

Jason Schaefer
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — If you’re a sports fan, you know a quarterback is the one calling the plays, the guy the team looks to for direction, the guy who coordinates information and can’t do the job all by himself.

Ashley Tye, Emergency Management Agency Director for Lowndes County, is like a quarterback in many of these respects, but in others, he’s more like the coach.

The EMA responds to major disasters and emergencies that affect residents across the county, like last week’s flooding, and Tye’s job is to coordinate the efforts of governments and responders at the local level across a wide spectrum.

Tye makes plans and delivers them to firefighters, police, government officials, the public, and many other agencies and departments to make sure everyone is playing their own unique part in responding to the situation as quickly and efficiently as possible.

“We coordinate information and response strategies so we’re not duplicating effors,” Tye said. “One of our main jobs is to gather information and know what’s going on, and know what actions need to be taken.”

When there are no pressing emergencies, Tye and the EMA remain busy preparing for “the next big thing,” he said, in attempts to make sure that there is a plan for any and every possible event.

“We need plans in place to keep out the hazards we might be expected to be impacted by,” Tye said. “And we do training to exercise those plans. We do a lot of planning for things that have never happened, so we’re not having to make those decisions and figure it out on the fly, so we have a game plan, and we can spring into action.”

Regarding the sports analogy, Tye believes his job is to manage a team much like a quarterback—everyone has an assigned responsibility and must make that their focus and trust Tye’s direction—but then again, Tye is never “out on the field,” but more often on the sidelines like a coach, whose success is measured by the job others are doing, Tye said.

“My job is to bring them all together and to get them to work together,” Tye said. “As a team, we’re going to get a desired outcome, and we’re going to be successful, but if one part of the team isn’t successful, the others have to pick up the slack, and that’s when we run into failures, when we’re not operating efficiently.”

Using the flood as an example, Tye and his department stayed in contact with the National Weather Service to gauge the flood risk and determine a course of action before the flood reached Lowndes County.

Without Tye’s direction, there would be the possibility of the duplication of efforts in emergency response, and a lack of a coordinated plan. Rather than interested individuals all calling Tye or the EMA for information, their calls would be placed anywhere, possibly overwhelming other agencies that ought to be focusing their efforts elsewhere.

“The calls would have overwhelmed the weather service,” Tye said, regarding the rains and flooding. “I have contacts all over. Say somebody from one of the cities calls and says they need a piece of equipment. Within a few phone calls, I can find it and get it on the way.”

The job might still get done, but not efficiently, and not quickly, Tye said.

In his spare time, Tye enjoys running 5Ks and obstacle courses like Warrior Dash and Tough Mudder, and he works out at a local gym, he said. Tough Mudder is a 12-mile, intense obstacle course, and other than the feeling of great accomplishment at the completion of one of these runs, Tye enjoys the camaraderie.

“The whole point is to get each other through,” Tye said. “One of the obstacles is a 12-foot wall that you have to scale. People I’ve never met in my life, I was helping to boost them up there, and I turned around and the next guy gives me a boost and helps me up. Two minutes earlier, I didn’t know who those people were.”