EMA staff no longer taking home vehicles

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By Damon Lawrence

You can drive up Cumberland Street in Kingston at night and see some of the changes that have taken place with Roane County’s emergency management department.

A row of emergency management vehicles sits parked near the courthouse.   

“Some of them have been pulled in,” new County Executive Ron Woody said.

“They’ve been pulled in because we want to centrally dispatch,” he explained. “It’s kind of like your ambulance department and your rescue squad and your fire department. People don’t drive fire trucks home or ambulances home, and the reason that is you need them at a central place so you can cover your entire county.”

Emergency management falls under the county executive’s supervision. With that as one of the issues at the forefront of his platform, Woody defeated then incumbent Mike Farmer in the Aug. 5 election.

Woody promised to address the issue of take-home vehicles during the campaign.

In an interview given before the election, director Howie Rose said emergency management personnel responded to emergencies all hours of the night, and having take-home vehicles allowed them to get to a scene quickly.   

“Like the night of the ash spill,” he said. “Midnight, we’re at home in the bed, because of these take-home vehicles, we were able to get there quick and assess the situation, assist the fire departments and rescue and get a handle on what was going on.

“That’s the reason for the take-home vehicles.”

Woody, who took office on Sept. 1, said his administration has approached the take-home vehicle issue from the aspect of what is most beneficial for the mass of Roane County.   

“You have some advantages to driving a fire truck home, because you can protect that house and the next,” he said. “But you don’t put your fire stations that way, nor your ambulances, so we’re looking at the emergency management situation the same way.

“You want to take your assets and be able to deploy them to cover the most people the quickest.”