COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — Columbus Council created a new city department Tuesday night.
They voted unanimously to change the city code to create the Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security.
The city is merging Homeland Security and Emergency Management into one department that will be led by Director Chance Corbett and report directly to the mayor.
“The practical benefit from that is that it just creates a much, much greater flow of consistency and efficiency in the event we ever run into a situation with a man-made or a natural disaster,” said Columbus Mayor Skip Henderson.
Corbett has been working as deputy director for 18 months with the Emergency management agency under the Columbus Fire and EMS umbrella.
“I think the reality of it is that Emergency Management and Homeland Security is a coordinating effort. It is an agency that is there to coordinate all entities in the event of a disaster or emergency,” Corbett said. “But what we do on the down time is we try and prepare the public and our other agencies, whether it’s through exercises or public events.”
Corbett brings a wealth of experience to the job. Nearly three decades in emergency management, working first as director at Russell County, then at Auburn University. He is a POST-certified law enforcement officer in Georgia and Alabama as well as a certified paramedic.
He will lead a three-person department. His duties will include implementation of the emergency operations plan; coordination of the emergency responses of public and private agencies and organizations; coordination of recovery efforts with state and federal officials; and inspection of emergency or disaster sites.
When Corbett was getting ready to retire from Auburn University, Henderson says he was told Columbus needed to hire him.
“We did get the opportunity to hire him,” Henderson said. “And I got to tell you he wasn’t oversold. He’s almost a unicorn. What our challenge is to make sure he’s building a bench and teaching what he knows to people who are coming up behind him.”
The fact that he lives in Russell County and has worked extensively in the Chattahoochee Valley has made Corbett a perfect fit for the Columbus job.
“Already coming in with a lot of knowledge has been very helpful,” he said. “The last 18 months have given me a good opportunity to hit the ground running and realize the things we need to work on in this department. We have rebuilt our entire emergency operation center. We have built relationships with all agencies, not just fire. But police, sheriff’s office, public works, engineering. Our strive is to be a coordinator of everything that happens in the city.”