Kirby Felts, Emergency Management Coordinator

Where were you born (and raised, if different)?

I was born in Oneonta, New York and moved a lot as a kid. In addition to living in Upstate New York on three different occasions, I lived in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana.

When and why did you move to the Charlottesville/Albemarle area?

I moved to Charlottesville in August 2005 after living in Northern Virginia for 11 years. We had the opportunity to move here for my husband’s job and jumped at the chance.

What neighborhood do you live in now?

I live in the Martha Jefferson neighborhood in the City of Charlottesville.

Family (spouse, kids, etc.)?

My husband, Adrian, and I have two boys who attend Burnley Moran Elementary. We also have a dog and a cat. (I’m guessing that’s what the etc. means!)

What is your alma mater and when did you graduate?

I graduated with a BS in Psychology from the College of William and Mary in 1993 and with a MA in Journalism from University of Maryland, College Park in 1997.

What were you doing before you came to work for the County?

I worked at the University of Virginia as the Assistant Director for the Office of Emergency Preparedness.

Your job title is Emergency Management Coordinator – what, in your own words, would you say you do?

As the Emergency Management Coordinator for Charlottesville, UVA, and Albemarle County, I am responsible for building and maintaining our regional capability to prepare for, respond to, and recover from any emergency situation. This involves coordinating with people in the city, county and University to make sure the Regional Emergency Operations Plan accurately captures roles and responsibilities, and being ready to implement the plan, which includes training and exercises. Another critical part of the job is public education and helping individuals in our community understand what can happen and how they can be ready to get through an emergency.

What is the best part of your job? The most difficult part?

The best part of the job is building relationships with the people who respond for the city, county and University; this include the Communication Center, Fire, Rescue, Police, Social Services, Public Works, Transportation, Parks and Recreation, Public Information, Health Department, Red Cross, Community Emergency Response Team, Amateur Radio, and so many more. These people are committed to working through tough situations to help bring the community back to normal.

The most difficult part of the job is staying on top of the broad spectrum of responsibilities – preparedness, response, recovery, mitigation, and prevention – and putting into action efforts for all emergency management phases in collaboration with the city, county and University.

How does your job most directly impact the average person?

Every citizen is responsible to take action for their own safety and my efforts should help them understand what could happen and guide them in taking steps to be prepared. This includes gathering supplies for an emergency kit (e.g., water, non-perishable food, battery operated radio, flashlights, medicines, and so on); knowing the right choice to make during an incident, which is typically to seek shelter or evacuate; and staying in touch before and after an emergency, both with family members and community information resources. Our community resilience is directly tied to each person’s readiness to care for themselves for a couple of days following an emergency and my job is to foster that capability across our region.

What is the most interesting project or work experience that you’ve had while with the County?

Within 30 days of taking the reins as the Emergency Management Coordinator we were slammed by the Derecho. Being plunged into a relatively no-notice incident so soon after taking over was definitely interesting. You really get to know people in the high-intensity environment of emergency response. While the city wasn’t as heavily affected by the Derecho as the county, everyone shared resources and worked together to get the community back on its feet. 

What is a little-known fact about you?

I’m addicted to lip-balm…Carmex to be precise. I have it at work, in the car and in multiple locations at home. You can bet that it’s in my emergency kit!

What do you do outside of work hours – hobbies, etc.?

I’m a huge fan of Virginia wine country and spend many weekends exploring our local wineries. I love to travel nationally and internationally. I’m also a fan of live music and can’t wait to really take advantage of all the music in Charlottesville…just need to get beyond the babysitter years so it won’t break the bank!