Meet the DEMA Team

Joseph K. Cox, Director of Emergency Management

DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond appointed Joseph K. Cox, Director of DeKalb Emergency Management Agency (DEMA), effective July 25. He had been the acting DEMA director since February 2020. Previously, he served as DeKalb County Fire Marshal for three years. “Director Cox has served DeKalb County with distinction and dedication for nearly four years,” said CEO Thurmond. “During these challenging times, we need his steady hand and extensive experience as we deal with COVID-19 and other threats to the health and safety of our citizens.”

He has been responsible for activating, coordinating, and operating the 24-Hour DeKalb County Unified Command Emergency Operations Center, continuing since late February 2020, for the COVID 19 Pandemic impacting DeKalb County, as well as, the early summer Civil Unrest/Protest activity, multiple Tropical Storm(s) effecting DeKalb County during the late summer/early fall seasons, and most recently, supporting/assisting the DeKalb County Board of Election Early Voting and November 3rd Election Day activities. Furthermore, he has served on the DeKalb County Executive COVID 19 Task Force, assisting/supporting all daily preparedness, response, mitigation, and recovery efforts throughout DeKalb County since March. Additionally, the DeKalb County Emergency Management Team has coordinated, secured, and facilitated the distribution of almost 487,000 individual pieces of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and Sanitizing Materials, to #25 DeKalb County Front-Line Departments, #12 Incorporated Cities, #7 Assisted Living Facilities/Day Cares, as well as, MARTA, Stone Mountain Park, and DeKalb County School System. DEMA is also responsible for CodeRED and the FEMA IPAWs Mass Public Emergency Notification, of which has been implemented on #6 individual occasions in 2020 due to the COVID Pandemic and recent Civil Unrest/Protests in DeKalb County. This opt-in system provides rapid notification to residents and businesses about emergency events within DeKalb County. Director Cox manages a staff of six and an annual budget of nearly $1 million.

A native of North Carolina, Cox’s experience includes a 20-year career in the fire service, specializing in emergency management, fire investigations, fire inspections, and fire prevention. Cox is an accredited ProBoard IAAI Certified Fire Investigator, NFPA Certified Fire Inspector II, IFSAC Fire Life Safety Educator, and GA Certified Firefighter. His education includes an Associate degree in Fire Science and a Bachelor’s degree in Fire Administration from Columbia Southern University, as well as, Master’s and Doctorate degree in Theology.

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Captiain Yolanda Harkley, Emergency Management Supervisor

LEPC CHAIRWOMAN AND SAFETY OFFICER 

Yolanda Harkley is the longest tenured county employee within the DEMA team. Captain Harkley began her career with the DeKalb County Fire Department over 23 years ago. She recently expanded her career with the county, transferring to DEMA in 2020. She serves as the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) Coordinator and the Safety Officer with DEMA. Yolanda brings a treasure trove of knowledge, talent, and experience to DEMA and looks to promote more emergency preparedness within the community and stakeholders through awareness and training. Her future plans are to ensure each citizen is personally aware and prepared for any natural and man-made disaster that may affect our community. She believes that we should always do unto others as you wish them to do unto you.

 

Thalia Kennedy, Emergency Management Specialist

Logistics & Resource Support Manager

Thalia Kennedy is one of the newest additions to the DEMA Team. She is responsible for DEMA's warehouse inventory and maintenance of emergency supplies, vehicles, trailers, and other specialized equipment.  Thalia also coordinates & communicates with stakeholders to keep them abreast on significant events in disaster logistics planning.  Her experience and background include FEMA, Public Health Emergency Preparedness (DPH), and higher education. As a two-time graduate of Savannah State University, Thalia as earned her master's degree in Public Administration, and aims to help communities of all shapes and sizes within DeKalb County to recover from disasters.

 

Melody Hardwick, Emergency Management Specialist

Policy/CERT Program Manager & Mass Care Coordinator

As the Policy and CERT Program Manager, Melody Hardwick develops and refines DEMA's policies, plans and procedures that assist the agency in remaining prepared to respond and recover from the unexpected.  She also educates and trains volunteers in disaster preparedness, and basic response skills such as team organization, and light search and rescue. Her background includes Firefighting, Emergency Medical Services, Crisis & Emergency Planning, Business Continuity and Community Event Administration.  She holds a BS in Emergency Response Management, and a master's degree in Emergency Management & Homeland Security with a concentration in Community Resilience from Arizona State University. Ms. Hardwick looks forward to using her education and experience in a continued effort to ready the DeKalb County Community.

 

NeKilya Blackmon, Emergency Management Specialist

PIO & Community Outreach Manager

NeKilya Blackmon serves as the Community Outreach Program Manager and Public Information Officer. She is the primary content creator for DEMA's social media outlets, where she provides the public and the DeKalb Community with up-to-date information on current events and/or incident responses. She is responsible for coordinating outreach activities and providing community-based education by developing relationships and collaborating with various agencies and organizations within DeKalb to educate and assist in building resilience via emergency readiness and preparedness. Her background in media & communications includes working with state government at the Georgia Emergency Management Agency & Homeland Security, and the Atlanta Journal & Constitution. NeKilya earned her MBA and undergraduate degrees in Business Administration.  She is currently pursuing a Doctor of Management degree in Homeland Security at Colorado Technical University online and looks forward to serving DeKalb County.

 


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