A Profile of Yolanda Keys
Mastering the Art of Productivity, Mentoring, and Facility Management
Emergency Management Manager
Emory Decatur, Emory Hillandale,
Emory Long Term Acute Care Hospitals
Yolanda Keys has been in Atlanta public safety for almost 23 years. She’s now the Emergency Management Manager at Emory Decatur, Emory Hillandale and Emory Long Term Acute Care Hospitals. Yolanda’s job is to deal with the many types of events, breakdowns, and disasters that make emergency management a huge responsibility requiring teamwork, coordination, knowledge of building systems, relationships with first responders, and much more.
Yolanda’s been with Emory Healthcare for just a few months, and she appreciates people in healthcare for being “open and amazing.”
During her career, she’s been responsible for safety, security, and emergency management in aviation, and public transportation, but she started out working in a community 911 center.
She has an undergraduate degree in criminal justice, a master’s in emergency management, and she’s certified in Georgia as an emergency management manager.
“Emergency management is the same wherever you go,” said Yolanda. “We protect the environment, we protect structures, and we protect people. This is true whether you’re in transportation, aviation, or healthcare. There are always four critical phases in emergency management: Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery. You can’t skip a step or take a short cut. You’re always on the go and my bags are always packed,” she said.
Inspiration and motivation come from Yolanda’s mom who she lost six years ago. Yolanda was her mom’s caretaker during undergrad and grad school. Despite all, Yolanda graduated from grad school with a 4.0 and was the first member of her family to get a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree.
“I believe she’s still here with me,” said Yolanda.
The work keeps her on her toes knowing she and her teams are responsible for thousands of people. After all, who hasn’t spent some time at an airport, riding a train, getting admitted to a hospital or visiting loved ones?
These are memorable and potentially stressful experiences for many of us. Yolanda will likely never forget a total power outage that occurred at the Atlanta airport in December of 2017 when she was an emergency management planner there.
“What we thought was a simple task turned out to be a large event in which we had to provide timely situation awareness, and logistics to include Georgia power, assistance to people stuck on planes, and those inside the terminal,” said Yolanda.
Airport facility management and emergency exercises included intentionally setting a replica of a plane on fire to test the fire department’s emergency responsiveness.
While Yolanda was with Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA), she and her team coordinated the command center on wheels. They would take that out to different events in the community. At the height of the pandemic Yolanda and her team were able to keep the bus operators free from contact with riders by creating shields that covered the area where the drivers sat.
Yolanda believes that one of keys to success in the public safety field is getting along with people. “Trust speaks volumes,” she said. As for the future at Emory, she has her sights on making the emergency management program great, including state-of-the-art-training, focusing on policies and plans, and continuing to implement the right technology, such as mass communications systems and weapon detection technology.
The stresses of working in public safety are relieved by a love for traveling, skating, and dancing. Yolanda’s motto? Relax, relate, release, and revive.
When she isn’t wrapped up in something emergency-related, Yolanda is dedicated to giving back to young people in her community through career days at a local middle school.
“I give a little bit of background history on the actual job that I'm doing at the present time, the company that I'm working for, and the kids love to see me come 'cause I'm always bringing goodies with me,” said Yolanda. “I talk about the education aspect of it why they should want to finish school and get a career. This year will be my 16th year.”
Yolanda also finds associations such as Women in Emergency Management to be useful for networking, training, and mentoring women seeking careers in public safety.
“Find someone that you can have on speed dial for questions. Go on LinkedIn, follow people on this career path because there's so many aspects of emergency management. There are different avenues of emergency management that people just don't know, so find someone that can mentor you,” said Yolanda.