April 22, 2024

Jasper County EMA's new director wants more collaborations and increased public trainings

Prepare for the worst, pray for the best: Jamey Robinson brings experience and a desire to build the department

Jamey Robinson, director of Jasper County Emergency Management Agency, was hired in November 2023 to replace Jim Sparks, who retired from the department. Robinson has high hopes for the department and plans to improve community outreach and other aspects of Jasper County EMA.

Jamey Robinson said his main goal as the director of Jasper County Emergency Management Agency is to plan for the worst and pray for the best, but he is also taking his 16 years experience at Mahaska County EMA to expand collaborative efforts with local law enforcement and emergency medical services.

Robinson took over the director seat on Nov. 20, 2023, after Jim Sparks retired. While many people may recognize Jasper County EMA as the organization to turn to during a disaster, Robinson stressed it does much more than that. Much of the work Jasper County EMA facilitates is primarily focused on preparedness.

“From planning to trainings and developing exercises; I mean just this past week we met with law enforcement and the schools to talk about school planning,” he said. “The next day we followed up at one of the schools doing walkthroughs and looking at plans. We’ve got different days on the books for different drills, too.”

Schools are of a particular interest to Robinson. Jasper County is home to five public schools and even fewer private Christian schools. When Robinson was brought on board, he was glad to see discussions already being pursued about consistent emergency response plans across all school districts.

Robinson also wants to build on to the already established countywide EMS system, which he commended for having standardized protocols across all departments. Rather than buying more resources, Robinson argued it would be more productive to fortify the resources the county already has.

Earlier this month, supervisors authorized the hiring of Steve Ashing as a deputy director for Jasper County EMA. In addition to serving on the advanced life support team at the sheriff’s office — which is composed of paramedics who offer high-level assistance — Ashing is also a captain for Newton Fire Department.

Experience which Robinson said will come in handy in his new role. Robinson, too, has served on an ambulance team in Mahaska County for 23 years; next year he will have served 20 years for the Mahaska County Sheriff’s Office. He also oversaw and built the dispatch center for Mahaska County EMA.

“It’s the only PowerPhone accredited 911 center in the state of Iowa,” he said. “We’ve done a lot of good things.”

With a resume like that Robinson might have earned some time to sit back and relax. In fact, he said was asked a similar question during his interview with Jasper County. But that’s not who he is, he said. Robinson wants to build something in Jasper County.

For those who knew Robinson growing up, they might be surprised to hear him say that. He acknowledged that he was a “horrible” teenager growing up, but his life changed after witnessing someone needing help. Since Robinson did not have any training, the EMS crew forbid him from trying to help.

“So I started looking into getting that training,” he said. “I decided that instead of taking from the community why not give to the community.”

As a new member of the Jasper County community, Robinson very much wants to strengthen the countywide EMS system. He stressed it is not a “service” that is not trying to take over the identity of the smaller departments, which he said serve an “invaluable purpose” in Jasper County.

“We want to grow off of that and build on that for this system,” Robinson said.

In Mahaska County, Robinson created a community emergency response team made up of volunteers. The group started with six people and has since become a full-fledged nonprofit that helps with fire rehab, chainsaw teams and search-and-rescue. He would like to see a similar program introduced in Jasper County.

“All of the departments seem very open to it. It took six to seven years of my life to get that built, so it will take a little bit to find people,” Robinson said, noting he also wants to start more public trainings. “We are also hopefully going to start opening CPR trainings to the public. I’m huge about CPR training.”

According to the American Heart Association, the survival rate diminishes by 10 percent for every minute that passes during a heart attack. For a large county like Jasper, if it takes 10 minutes for an ambulance to arrive to a patient in cardiac arrest with no intervention measures, the chance of survivability is zero.

Teaching people CPR and thus providing them with skills to intervene in these situations until medical help can arrive can mean the difference between life and death. Robinson said he is all about community outreach and making sure people know what Jasper County EMA is all about.

“I don’t want to be a vehicle someone occasionally sees and goes, ‘Oh I wonder what they do.’ Phone is always open and we’re always around,” Robinson said.

Oftentimes people only get to know Jasper County EMA when there is a natural disaster, and while that is the “bread and butter” of the department Robinson wants the public to know it does and will do much more than that. When it comes down to it, Robinson wants to change the public’s perception of the department.

“I definitely want to build a program so people know what it is,” he said.

Jamey Robinson, director of Jasper County Emergency Management Agency, was hired in November 2023 to replace Jim Sparks, who retired from the department. Robinson has high hopes for the department and plans to improve community outreach and other aspects of Jasper County EMA.
Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig has a strong passion for community journalism and covers city council, school board, politics and general news in Newton, Iowa and Jasper County.