Palm Coast People: Johnathan Lord

“Hurricane season” is a misnomer. It is a year-round occurrence that keeps the emergency responders of Florida busy, and Flagler County is no exception. Hurricane Ian in 2022 had the county’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) full of county employees activated to address the needs of its citizens. At the helm was Jonathan Lord, the Emergency Management Chief.
A recent Flagler transplant, having moved here in December 2018, Jonathan has spent a collective 20 years in Emergency Management, starting as an EMT volunteer in high school in New Jersey. He earned a degree in Emergency Medical Services and worked as a Public Health Representative for the state of New Jersey.
Like every American alive that day, Jonathan’s life changed on September 11 th , 2001. “Everyone was impacted and we all re-evaluated our careers and what needed to be done next,” he says. He was reassigned to New Jersey’s EOC and was immediately intrigued by coordinating such a varied group of disciplines from different departments.
What brought him to Florida was returning home after responding to an incident on the Jersey Turnpike. It was winter and he had to dig the county car out of the snow. Jonathan decided he wanted to live somewhere warmer. As a child, he had spent a few years living in Coral Springs and those memories brought him to Florida. Jonathan was bounced around Florida to where he was needed: Dade County, Tallahassee, Palm Beach, before accepting a job in Flagler.
Prior to the move, his experience with Flagler was limited. He had visited for meetings and conferences and found the area charming. It had reminded him of his childhood in suburban New Jersey and was an area he wanted to raise his child.
It was an immeasurable change in work tempo for Jonathan, but a welcome one. Having worked at the state level in Tallahassee, he had missed the ability to help at a local level like he can here in Flagler. And the regular emergencies he responded to in Dade County made him an expert in keeping the people of Flagler safe.
Each square foot of the EOC facility serves a purpose for responding to a disaster, or training for the next emergency. There are no storms near Flagler they are not aware of. Jonathan’s duties are to bring together the county leaders and workers and coordinate volunteers to address the needs of the community.
One example is the tornado that touched down in the B Section in October 2023. Within hours of the storm, the fire chief and other first responders were there, and Jonathan coordinated with Flagler Volunteer Services and the Parkview Church to assist and house those affected. And this is the secret for Emergency Management: multiple groups coming together to help the community. Not all of them government, not all of them private, but all of them working on behalf of the people.
“Be prepared,” he says. “I think we live in paradise. I love this community. I want people to be prepared for emergencies. Not scared. Whenever that emergency happens, be prepared to deal with it the best you can. Have disaster kits in place. On our website, there is a disaster guide, also available at the library and county buildings, that include a supply list for emergencies.”