Yavapai County OEM Team


The importance of teamwork in emergency management cannot be overstated, particularly in an organization as diverse and multifaceted as the Yavapai County Office of Emergency Management. Teamwork is the glue that binds together the various specialties and experiences of the team members, turning individual capabilities into a collective force that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Effective teamwork in such a setting means leveraging each member's strengths and expertise to create a comprehensive, cohesive response to emergencies. When individuals from communications, law enforcement, hazardous materials, flood control, and emergency medical services (EMS) work together, they can address the complex facets of emergency situations with a well-rounded approach. Each area of expertise contributes a piece of the puzzle, from ensuring clear communication and public safety to managing environmental hazards and providing medical care.

Collaboration and mutual respect are key in such teams. Members must listen to and value the contributions of their colleagues, recognizing that each person's insight is vital to the success of the group's mission. By working together, they can develop strategies that are both innovative and grounded in diverse professional knowledge.

These are their stories...

Ashley Ahlquist - Emergency Manager

Ashley embarked on her Emergency Management career in July 2021 as an Emergency Management Specialist, quickly advancing to Emergency Management Planner by December of that year. Her journey began after nearly a decade in Public Safety Communications, serving as both a Public Safety Telecommunicator and Communications Section Supervisor. Her tenure in communications saw her establish Yavapai County’s first tactical dispatch team, introducing her to the world of Emergency Management. Ashley spearheaded in-service training across Northern Arizona and was instrumental in the creation of the Public Safety Dispatch Academy at Yavapai College. Her training portfolio includes roles as a Critical Incident Stress Management Peer Counselor, FBI Crisis Negotiations training, and certification as an Incident Command Communications Manager.

Academically, Ashley is well-prepared, with a B.S. in Public Safety and Emergency Management and master's degrees in Forensic Psychology and Leadership from Grand Canyon University. Her educational journey includes completing FEMA's Advanced Professional Series and the Basic Academy at the Emergency Management Institute, enhancing her expertise in the field. In April 2022, Ashley became the first female Emergency Manager in Yavapai County and one of the youngest in Arizona.

Since assuming the role of Emergency Manager, Ashley has made significant strides in improving Emergency Management practices for the County. She has prioritized establishing a proactive and community-centric public education campaigns. Additionally, she has worked diligently to update all emergency management plans, ensuring they remain "living documents" that are consistently utilized and reflective of local needs. Ashley is an advocate for implementing capability-driven exercises and training to enhance the county's emergency preparedness. She firmly believes in adopting a whole community approach, emphasizing the involvement of all community members in emergency preparedness and response efforts. Above all, Ashley is dedicated to promoting coordination and collaboration in all phases of emergency management.

As the Emergency Manager, Ashley holds a crucial role in Yavapai County's emergency preparedness program. She is responsible for overseeing the county's emergency and disaster planning functions, assessing program effectiveness, developing countywide emergency plans, and coordinating with various departments, jurisdictions, and agencies involved in emergency response. In times of crisis, Ashley also assumes the role of EOC Manager, leading the Emergency Operations Center.

Jon Jones - Deputy Emergency Manager

Jon is a highly accomplished professional in the field of emergency management, boasting an extensive background in law enforcement that began in 1999. With years of experience as a law enforcement officer in two states, Jon brings a wealth of knowledge and practical skills to his work.

In addition to his law enforcement experience, Jon also has military experience, further enhancing his expertise in emergency management. This unique background has provided Jon with a well-rounded perspective on crisis response and a deep understanding of the importance of effective coordination and decision-making.

Throughout his career, Jon has held various roles, demonstrating his versatility and adaptability. He served as a Training Unit Supervisor, Tactical Team Leader, and most recently, as a member of the Community Action Team, where he addressed complex challenges related to homelessness and mental health. Jon's involvement as an Operation Section Chief in multiple wildfires and his background and training in Search and Rescue have further solidified his understanding of emergency response procedures and methodologies.

As the Deputy Emergency Manager, Jon assumes the responsibility of coordinating training and exercises, including the implementation of the Integrated Preparedness Plan. During emergency operations, Jon takes on the critical role of Operations Section Chief, ensuring seamless coordination within the Emergency Operations Center and establishing strategic objectives for the incident. Additionally, Jon serves as the Recovery Branch Coordinator, coordinating recovery efforts to provide support to communities affected by disasters.

Jon's experience in law enforcement, along with his military background, has equipped him with the necessary skills and knowledge to effectively manage crises and make decisive decisions. His innovative thinking and ability to perform under pressure enable them to handle emergencies, mitigate risks, and allocate resources efficiently.

During his free time, Jon enjoys activities such as hunting and off-roading, and you might even catch him fly fishing in the Upper Verde River on occasion.


Fred Heggestad - Emergency Management Planner

Fred, originally from the Midwest, settled in Northern Arizona in the early 1990s to start a family following his military enlistment. With a diverse background, Fred worked for the State of Arizona for two decades, holding various roles including Law Enforcement Officer, Safety Auditor, Trainer, and Hazardous Materials Technician. During this time, he gained an intimate understanding of the area's geography, community demographics, and incident command system procedures. Fred also pursued higher education, obtaining a degree in Public Safety and Emergency Management.

Seeking new opportunities, Fred briefly relocated to Las Vegas, Nevada, where he continued his service by working with volunteers through a non-profit organization. In this capacity, he served as a Disaster Team Coordinator and Emergency Management Planning and Exercise Coordinator for a prominent Las Vegas Strip Resort. However, Fred's heart remained in Northern Arizona, and in 2022, he made the decision to return to be closer to his family.

Currently, Fred brings his wealth of experience and enthusiasm to the Yavapai County Office of Emergency Management as a Planner. In this role, his primary responsibility is to assist the team with researching, writing, and evaluating various plans at both the county and local community levels. Once these plans are prepared, Fred also supports the Emergency Management Team by providing training and conducting exercises to educate other groups within the county.

Fred's background in hazardous materials makes him a valuable asset as the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) Coordinator. Collaborating with local groups across the community and government, he ensures effective communication in the event of a significant hazardous materials incident.

With Fred's expertise and dedication, the Yavapai County Office of Emergency Management is well-positioned to mitigate risks, develop comprehensive plans, and respond effectively to emergencies. His passion for emergency management and his commitment to his community make him an invaluable member of the team.


Sarah Townsley - Emergency Management Specialist

Sarah began her journey in Emergency Management in January of 2024, joining the team as an Emergency Management Specialist and Public Information Officer. Her professional background encompasses diverse experiences in non-profit organizations, social work, emergency medical services, and flood control, all of which have shaped her commitment to serving the community and promoting public safety.

Drawing on her expertise in emergency management and public information dissemination, Sarah leverages her prior experience to empathize with the needs and concerns of the community during times of crisis. She excels in delivering accurate and timely information to the public, ensuring that vital details are communicated effectively.

Throughout her career in Emergency Management, Sarah has undertaken rigorous training to enhance her skills as a Public Information Officer. Notably, she has completed several public information officer trainings, including achieving recognition as an Advanced Public Information Officer through the Emergency Management Institute and Department of Homeland Security. As one of only three thousand advanced public information officers in the country, Sarah demonstrates her commitment to excellence in her field.

Central to Sarah's approach is the belief in the power of collaboration and community engagement within the realm of emergency management. As an Emergency Management Specialist and Public Information Officer, she actively collaborates with a range of stakeholders, including emergency responders, government agencies, community organizations, and the media. By fostering relationships and building partnerships, Sarah works towards a coordinated approach to emergency preparedness and response.

Ultimately, Sarah's primary goal is to safeguard the well-being of the community and enhance their resilience in the face of emergencies. Alongside her professional endeavors, she actively engages with the community, promoting preparedness initiatives and raising public awareness of emergency management practices. Through her dedicated efforts, she strives to establish a culture of safety and preparedness throughout Yavapai County.



The Aware Bear

In the heart of Yavapai County, amidst the sprawling forests and vibrant communities, lives a unique and cherished figure known as the Aware Bear. This stuffed bear, with its keen eyes and gentle smile, is more than just a mascot for the Yavapai County Office of Emergency Management; it is a symbol of vigilance, preparedness, and resilience.

Born from the imagination of the YCOEM's staff seeking a friendly face to introduce the concepts of safety and preparedness to the community, Aware Bear quickly became a beloved icon. With fur as soft as the whispers of the wind through the pines and a gaze as comforting as the warm Arizona sun, Aware Bear serves as a constant reminder of the importance of being prepared for any emergency.

Aware Bear's story began one crisp autumn morning when the need for community education on emergency preparedness became apparent after a series of wildfires and flash floods tested the resilience of Yavapai County. Seeking a way to engage not just adults but children in this vital conversation, the creative minds at the Office of Emergency Management crafted Aware Bear's persona. Clad in a vest adorned with the symbols of preparedness — a flashlight, a radio, and a first-aid kit — and always carrying a backpack filled with essential supplies, Aware Bear was ready to embark on his mission.

Throughout the years, Aware Bear has visited schools, participated in community events, and appeared in various educational materials, spreading the message of preparedness. His adventures, often shared through colorful storybooks and interactive workshops, highlight the steps families can take to be ready for natural disasters, from building emergency kits to making evacuation plans.

But Aware Bear's influence extends beyond preparedness; he is also a beacon of hope and comfort in times of crisis. During emergency situations, his image on social media and emergency updates serves as a reminder that the community is not alone and that together, they can weather any storm.

Behind his friendly exterior lies a deep commitment to the well-being of Yavapai County's residents. Aware Bear embodies the spirit of the community: resilient, caring, and always ready to lend a helping hand. Through his stories and appearances, he continues to inspire generations of Yavapai County residents to live with awareness and preparedness, ensuring that when faced with emergencies, they stand strong, together.

As the mascot for the Yavapai County Office of Emergency Management, Aware Bear isn't just a character; he's a cherished friend, a teacher, and a guardian of the community's safety and spirit. His legacy is woven into the fabric of Yavapai County, a constant reminder that awareness and preparedness are the keys to resilience.