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Johnson named Emergency Management Director of the Year

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By Stephen Lega

Hayden Johnson was named the Marion County Emergency Management Director a year ago, and he's made quite an impression in that position.

So much so that he was named the Emergency Management Director of the Year by the Kentucky Emergency Management Association during its conference Sept. 6 in Louisville.

Johnson said he learned he won the award "when they called my name."

"It was pretty neat to be recognized and honored by my peers," he said.

Marion County Judge Executive John G. Mattingly said Johnson has brought a new level of service to the county.

Mattingly said Johnson has helped with collaborative projects involving multiple county emergency services, and he has assisted with efforts to reestablish a Red Cross chapter in the county.

"He's the right guy for the job," Mattingly said. "He's stepped up to the plate and knocked it out of the park."

The announcement of the award noted that Johnson "sets the bar high for all of us, and he does it all while being a part-time director."

Johnson's full-time job is working in pretrial services for the Administrative Office of the Courts.

KEMA President Doug Tackett, who also serves as the Pike County Emergency Management Director, said the director of the year is selected from nominees from throughout the state. The nominations are sent to the KEMA regional vice presidents, who then vote on the award.

"It's a pretty good honor," Tackett said. "It means you've gone above and beyond what's required."

While Marion County was not directly affected by a natural disaster in 2012, Johnson did assist Hodgenville and West Liberty, two communities that were affected by tornadoes earlier this year.

Nevertheless, Johnson said the ice storm in 2009 and the flooding that affected parts of the county in 2010 should serve as reminders that it's important to be prepared. Johnson was appointed deputy emergency management director before the flooding in 2010.

Johnson is also an advocate for bringing E911 to Marion County. He knows personally the value of the service. A friend of his recently died in Western Kentucky after being involved in a tractor accident. Johnson's friend called 911 from a cell phone before passing out. Because that community has E911, the dispatcher was able to locate the signal. While his friend did not survive, Johnson believes that incident shows how E911 could assist emergency personnel when responding to a scene.

"We've got to have it," Johnson said. "We're one of the few counties in the state that does not have E911."

In the meantime, Johnson tries to utilize social media and the Code Red phone notification system (which replaced One Call Now) to inform the community when bad weather is possible.

He said his award is also a reflection of the county's overall preparedness.

"It shows how proactive we are in Marion County and interested in making it one of the best services in the state," Johnson said.