Nashville – The Tennessee Office of Homeland Security (OHS) on 9/11 honored the commitment and sacrifice of 23 Tennessee first responders from the state’s 11 Homeland Security Districts at a unique recognition ceremony held at the State Capitol in Nashville. The second annual event recognized first responders from all areas within the emergency services discipline.
“Every day, Tennessee’s first responders selflessly come to the aid of their fellow man without hesitation,” said Department of Safety Commissioner Dave Mitchell. “The anniversary of 9/11 provides the State with the perfect opportunity to celebrate the courageous spirit and heroic efforts of all of Tennessee’s first responders. The 23 individuals honored today represent the many diverse ways in which first responders protect and safeguard our citizens, communities and State.”
Law enforcement and first responders actively promote emergency preparedness within their communities on a daily basis. Whether by responding directly to an emergency, creating policy and procedures or training staff and volunteers, Tennessee’s state and local police, firefighters, emergency medical personnel and emergency management officials work daily to ensure the safety and security of the state.
The 23 first responders honored at the First Responder Award Ceremony were selected by officials within the state’s Homeland Security Districts. Those honored at the ceremony were:
- District 1 – Timothy F. Eads, Major, Bristol Police Department
- District 1 – Nes Levotch, Director, Washington County Emergency Management Agency
- District 2 – William Muhlfied, Officer, Knoxville Police Department
- District 2 – Paul Trumpore, Captain, Knoxville Fire Department
- District 3 – Tony Finnell, Director, Meigs County Emergency Management Agency
- District 3 – Richard Taylor, Area Coordinator, Tennessee Emergency Management Agency
- District 4 – Carmen Burnette, EMT-Paramedic, Putnam County Emergency Medical Services
- District 4 – Rhonda Roberts, Unit Director, Overton County Rescue Squad
- District 5/Nashville UASI – Heidi Jordan, Training, Exercise and Community Outreach Coordinator, Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management
- District 5/Nashville UASI – Bill Jorgensen, Director, Williamson County Emergency Communications
- District 6 – Murray Blackwelder, Sheriff, Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department
- District 6 – Milton Brinkley, Sergeant, Franklin County Sheriff’s Department
- District 7 – John R. Smith, Lieutenant, Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department
- District 7 – Warren J. Vaughn, Deputy Director, Dickson County Emergency Management Agency
- District 8 – Robin Howell, Sergeant, Columbia Police Department & Assistant Chief, Maury Hazardous Operations Team
- District 8 – Louis Varacalle, Firefighter, City of Columbia Fire Department & Captain, Maury Hazardous Operations Team
- District 9 – Ron Bennett, Lieutenant, Trenton Police Department*
- District 9 – Eric Horne, Officer, Trenton Police Department*
- District 9 – Kevin Sugg, Officer, Alamo Police Department
- District 10 – Becky Hodge, EMT/EMD, Hardeman County Ambulance Service*
- District 10 – Shirlinda Savahl, EMT-P, Hardeman County Ambulance Service*
- District 10 – Robert Collett, Deputy, Hardeman County Sheriff’s Department
- District 11/Memphis UASI – John Selberg, Assistant Fire Chief, Germantown Police Department
* Indicates recipients recognized jointly
“Tennesseans all across the state have benefitted from the brave and skillful actions of these first responders,” added Mitchell. “Some folks may not notice the contributions they make on a daily basis, but their commitment to the safety of our state and residents is a top priority.”
The ceremony is one of the Office of Homeland Security’s National Preparedness Month activities. National Preparedness Month is a nationwide effort encouraging Americans to take simple steps to prepare for emergencies. Critical to the preparedness process are the men and women who serve our state and citizens as first responders.
About Timothy F. Eads
Major, Bristol Police Department
Homeland Security District 1
Bristol Police Department’s Major Tim Eads serves as a Terrorism Liaison Officer for Tennessee’s Homeland Security District 1. In this role, he has proven himself as a valuable resource for anyone who may need the assistance of the Office of Homeland Security.
Major Eads has participated in numerous training opportunities and exercises, conferences and meetings. He instituted a Chamber of Commerce training function for the City of Bristol that provides the community with a training opportunity to learn more about the state’s homeland security activities, and what Bristol and District 1 are doing to promote a safe and secure homeland.
Major Eads also serves as the primary homeland security liaison for the Bristol Motor Speedway and has remained a valuable resource to the speedway and its more than 500,000 visitors each year.
About Nes Levotch
Director, Washington County Emergency Management Agency
Nes Levotch has been a driving force in bringing the different emergency services provided by Homeland Security District 1 into a cohesive, effective unit. Through his leadership, knowledge and integrity, District 1 has developed the capabilities and identified the resources necessary to respond to catastrophic events should they occur in the future.
Levotch has coordinated the important and intricate grants process since the inception of the Homeland Security District concept. Nes is recognized by other EMA Directors across the state as a colleague with a wealth of knowledge. His willingness to share his expertise and technical assistance has made an impact in District 1 and beyond.
About William Muhlfield
Officer, Knoxville Police Department
A member of the Knoxville Police Department (KPD) since June 2006, Officer William Muhlfield has made a large impact in the department’s homeland security efforts in a short period of time. Officer Muhlfield’s experience, skills and dedication have provided enhanced KPD’s resources.
With a background in emergency management, Officer Muhlfield’s skills have been utilized to train KPD Command Staff and Supervisors in incident command. He serves as a key member of the department’s search and recovery team and spends numerous hours assisting the team in every way possible.
As a patrol officer, he is constantly and consistently making an impact in the community. In 2008, he captured a murder suspect, who had the victim in the vehicle at the time. Additionally, he was commended for his capture of three armed robbery suspects.
Officer Muhlfield’s devotion to excellence is most poignantly illustrated by his actions after the fatal shooting at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church (TVUUC) last year. After the event, KPD’s Safety Education Unit received numerous inquiries from churches and other organizations regarding safety, crisis management, emergency planning and other related matters. Again, Officer Muhlfield’s emergency management experience aided the members of the Unit. He assisted the Unit by meeting with TVUUC leaders and provided support, security/CPTED surveys, training, and other security recommendations, many of which have implemented. Additionally, Officer Muhlfield has dealt several religious entities targeted by extremist groups. He and members of the Safety Education Unit have met with leaders of various institutions helping them in their emergency response planning.
Officer Muhlfield has made it possible for the Knoxville Police Department to offer the community some of the best information and recommendations available in emergency response planning. His professionalism, expertise, dedication and selflessness make him an outstanding representative of the Knoxville Police Department and an excellent representative of Tennessee’s finest first responders.
About Paul Trumpore
Captain, Knoxville Fire Department
For many years, Captain Paul Trumpore has been responding to Knox County emergencies. From catastrophic fire tragedies to church shootings, Captain Trumpore has provided a shoulder for many of his fellow responders to lean upon following these traumatic emergencies. In addition to his Captain duties, Trumpore serves as an agency chaplain as well as the Executive Director of the Tennessee Emergency Services Chaplains’ Association.
Captain Trumpore has recently forged new partnership between the American Red Cross and the Knoxville Fire Department. Since November 2008, the two agencies have jointly trained youth to be prepared for fire and other disasters. In a matter of six months, the joint venture has reached more than 6,000 students, many who live in high-risk neighborhoods.
During the last year’s Hurricane Gustav evacuation, Captain Trumpore was a vital component in the successful implementation of a mental health response for evacuees. When the Red Cross’s primary mental health volunteer was called to another incident, Captain Trumpore stepped in and continued the services without interruption.
About Tony Finnell
Director, Meigs County Emergency Management Agency
In addition to serving as Director of Meigs County EMA, Tony Finnell also wears the hat of EMS Director and Volunteer Fire Fighter for the rural area. Finnell’s dedication and professionalism are apparent after only a few moments of conversation. Operating in a small, capital strapped county does not stop him from operating a proficient EMS service and a well managed EMA office.
Director Finnell is a team player, not only in his home county, but also in the TVA risk-county area and among the members of the District 3 Homeland Security Council, where he plays a key role as a voting member of the Council. His active participation in discussions, and his well thought out recommendations for the district plan and budget process make a valued contribution to the 10-county district.
Tony’s experience, training and positive attitude have earned him a high level of respect from fellow first responders.
About Richard Taylor
Area Coordinator (Chattanooga), Tennessee Emergency Management Agency
TEMA’s Richard Taylor exemplary work as a first responder spans many years. Throughout his career, he has responded to all types of emergency incidents and situations throughout the state – and always with courage and dedication.
There are many examples of Richard’s service going beyond the expected in emergency situations. When a bear attack occurred in Cherokee National Forest, he was involved in all aspects of the incident and his compassion extended to the family after the situation had concluded. After a devastating tornado in West Tennessee, Richard encountered an adolescent who had lost everything, including her family. To help her with her immediate needs, he provided her with money from his own pocket so she would not have to wait for help from others. This year, he has coordinated a multi-county, multi-agency Missing Person’s Exercise and has helped to find three lost and injured persons.
Richard also serves daily as an educator to other first responders. He is committed to helping shape the skills and practices of students. Perhaps without realizing it, Richard’s actions make him the kind of mentor that his students and other first responders try to emulate.
Richard Taylor’s constant vigilance for his work, his passion for emergency service, and his compassion for the people he serves is evident in all that he does. He has certainly earned a spot as one of Tennessee’s finest first responders.
About Rhonda Roberts
Unit, Director, Overton County Rescue Squad
Dedicating herself to the citizens of Overton County on a daily basis, Rhonda is one of the area’s most valued first responders.
During the past year, she was most instrumental in the coordination, organization and implementation of the search and rescue of a missing Overton County woman. The search, which lasted for six days, placed many demands on the emergency response personnel. Mrs. Roberts dedication to her profession was evident as she was present every minute of every day the search and rescue effort.
This past July, Overton County was devastated by strong storms and raging flood waters. Rhonda never faltered in her efforts to help the residents of Overton County in their time of need. She was again on the front lines in the rescue and recovery efforts.
Overton County residents and officials are proud of Rhonda Roberts and feel that she depicts exactly what a true Tennessee Volunteer is.
About Carmen I. Burnette
EMT-Paramedic, Putnam County Emergency Medical Services
In addition to her role as an EMT-P P for Putnam County EMS, Carmen Burnette shares her passion for and commitment to emergency medical service by teaching many professional and layperson classes. It is her continued passion for training that has led to her recognition today.
Putnam County has a long-term program to train laypeople in CPR/AED. The most ambitious part of the program involves providing American Heart Association Heartsaver AED training to every sophomore and senior in the county’s schools. Carmen has served as the coordinator for this program for four years, working with the schools, EMS employees, and Cookeville Fire Department. Under her leadership, more than 2,100 persons have been trained. Additionally, each year during Boys State at Tennessee Technological University six hundred delegates from every area within the state are exposed to the Heartsaver program. Furthermore, all 400 county employees and more than 10,000 residents have been trained in CPR/AED.
Her training capabilities don’t stop there. She also serves the EMS as a Field Training Officer, where she assists with the training and orientation of all new employees. Additionally, she regularly conducts classes of levels for existing employees, as well as assisting with training and quality improvement in five other counties in the Upper Cumberland region. She has also sat on the interview board for TTU’s paramedic program and is an evaluator for EMT and paramedic practical exams.
Carmen displays her commitment to providing excellent patient care each day as she approaches her career with a positive attitude and willingness to share her experience and expertise. She is an asset to the community in general, Upper Cumberland EMS and Putnam County EMS, in particular. She is a shining example of the traits required to promote excellence as one of Tennessee’s first responders.
About Bill Jorgensen
Director, Williamson County Emergency Communications
District 5 / Nashville UASI
Concurrent with this job as Director of Williamson County 911, Director Jorgensen chairs the Nashville UASI Communications subcommittee. For the past several years, Bill has been dedicated to enhancing regional communications capabilities for the seven-county UASI / District. He’s undertaken such initiatives including the management of a data sharing software project that provides real time computer aided dispatch information and automatic vehicle locator technology for all participating emergency communication and 911 call centers through the Nashville Regional Information System (NRIS) program. Bill also initiated and led the successful “Let’s Talk” interoperable communications program for the area, as well as planning and supervising radio interoperability upgrades involving 800 MHz, VHF and UHF for the Nashville UASI area.
Bill’s dedication to improving communications within the UASI follows the goals of the state’s efforts to improve interoperability statewide. His efforts have greatly enhanced the abilities and resources of all first responders. For that, the district is very appreciative.
About Heidi Jordan
Training, Exercise & Community Outreach Coordinator, Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management
District 5 / Nashville UASI
Heidi has served as the training, exercise and community outreach coordinator for Nashville OEM for more than six years. This is in conjunction with her duties on the Nashville UASI training and education subcommittee. Her tireless efforts to engage the first receiver and responder community in vital training and exercises has proved invaluable to the safety of these personnel as well as the Nashville community.
Heidi, a master exercise practitioner, has also spent countless weekends and evenings during the past several years training and certifying nearly 1,000 Nashville citizens through the 16-hour Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program. These efforts, among her other accomplishments, make her one of the Nashville UASI’s most valued first responders.
About Murray Blackwelder
Sheriff, Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department
Lincoln County Sheriff Murray Blackwelder possesses an uncanny ability to handle the most challenging emergency situations. During the past year, his skills as a consummate first responder have been put to the test.
In July 2009, a man killed six people – five in Lincoln County and one in Alabama. Within moments after the incident was reported, Sheriff Blackwelder had mobilized a command center, established road blocks and assembled appropriate first responders. With the five Lincoln County victims in two separate residences, crowds were almost uncontrollable. However, Sheriff Blackwelder remained calm and directed his department in a manner that restored order to a volatile situation. He utilized every member of the department in the investigation, while enlisting the support of other agencies in order to ensure the security needs of the entire county were met during the ordeal. The horrendous crime drew the interest of both national and international media outlets, which contributed to the chaotic environment. The Sheriff quickly gained control of the situation ensuring the flow of information did not impede the investigation. The caliber of preparedness displayed by the entire department, including the arrest and interview of the assailant and the continued follow up with support agencies involved, is a testament to the Sheriff’s capabilities.
A deserving recipient of the First Responder Award, Sheriff Blackwelder is a dedicated enforcer of the law, who also remains sensitive to the needs of his community.
About Milton Binkley
Sergeant, Franklin County Sheriff’s Department
On June 6, 2009, at 12:27 a.m., Franklin County Sheriff Department’s Sergeant Milton Binkley responded to a traffic crash with injuries. Upon arrival, he found an overturned Ford pick-up truck with two occupants trapped inside. The passenger, who was purple, unresponsive, and had no pulse, was hanging upside down from the seat belt. Sergeant Binkley was able to free the passenger from vehicle by cutting the seat belt. He immediately administered CRP and revived the victim.
Sergeant Binkley’s quick, decisive actions were that of many first responders – heroic. This day Sergeant Binkley saved a life. That’s exactly what Tennessee’s finest first responders do, and Sergeant Binkley is among the best in the profession.
About John R. Smith
Lieutenant, Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department
Lt. John Smith has been and continues to be one of the most active members of Homeland Security District 7 since its formation. Although primarily serving in the law enforcement discipline, Lt. Smith has been actively involved with the training and coordination of virtually every area within the profession. His membership and extensive participation in District 7’s Training and Exercise Committee resulted in the successful organization and implementation of the nation’s first Terrorism Protection Exercise Program held at Austin Peay State University.
Along with his duties as Patrol Division Commander and Emergency Services & Tactical Unit Commander, Lt. Smith is an adjunct instructor for TEMA, where he has spent countless hours teaching many levels of NIMS classes throughout the district. He represents District 7 as a member of the Geographic Information Systems Committee at Austin Peay, and is a member of FEMA Region IV Regional Advisory Council.
With the implementation of the district-wide trunked radio system offering interoperable communication to all first responders, Lt. Smith developed a mobile identification numbering system that allows all jurisdictions and agencies to have unique numbers for mobile and portable radios, which is critical as the system covers 3,000 square miles and has thousands of subscriber units.
In every emergency situation with which Lt. John R. Smith is faced, he has demonstrated he is truly a “man for all seasons”. He is a valuable asset to in the ongoing struggle to keep District 7, the state and the nation secure.
About Warren J. Vaughn
Director, Warren J. Vaughn
Warren Vaughn has served as Dickson County Deputy Director of Emergency Management for the past 18 years. He has also been an EMT for 27 years, and is a Hazardous Materials Instructor for TEMA, and an adjunct instructor for Texas A&M University’s weapons of mass destruction/defensive operation program.
Warren serves as co-chairman of Homeland Security District 7’s Exercise, Planning and Training Committee. Warren and his committee members coordinate all of the district’s exercises in conjunction with the Tennessee Office of Homeland Security and contractors.
Warren’s character, abilities and skills has enabled him to work effectively with all the disciplines within the district. His dedication to advancing the profession and has made all emergency personnel in District 7 better prepared to prevent, protect, respond and recover from disastrous events. His commitment to the safety of all residents has made him a valuable asset to District 7 and the State.
About Robin Howell
Sergeant, Columbia Police Department & Assistant Chief, Maury Hazardous Operations Team
Robin Howell has worked diligently during the past eight years to develop and enhance the capabilities of the Columbia Police Department’s Hazardous Devices Unit (HDU). Robin serves as an Assistant Chief with the Haz-Ops Team and is responsible for all explosive issues, including equipment evaluation and acquisition as well as all explosive responses. He also provides education in explosives awareness to local and district responders, school systems and private and public organizations.
Robin’s efforts have far exceeded the requirements of his normal job duties as a Patrol Sergeant for the City of Columbia Police Department. Sgt. Howell also serves on the CPD SWAT team where he is responsible for all explosive breaching operations. He is a firearms instructor, a certified hazardous materials technician, and has undergone extensive training in all aspects of law enforcement and terrorism prevention.
Sergeant Howell’s tireless efforts have enhanced the safety of both emergency responders and citizens and visitors of Columbia, Maury County, Homeland Security District 8 and the State of Tennessee.
About Louis Varacalle
Firefighter, Columbia Fire Department & Captain, Maury Hazardous Operations Team
Working diligently for the past five years to develop the Maury Hazardous Operations team, Louis Varacalle played a significant role enhancing the capabilities of the Haz-Ops Team. The Maury Haz-Ops Team is responsible for responding to and mitigating chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive (CBRNE) incidents on a district level. Louis serves the Team as Captain. In this role, his some of his duties include evaluating and purchasing equipment, and serving as the training, decontamination and entry team officer.
Louis is responsible for the creation of the Maury Haz-Ops Team’s dive/recovery unit to deal with incidents requiring underwater capabilities, whether they are a CBRNE incident of rescue/recovery operation.
As a firefighter for the City of Columbia Fire Department, Louis is assigned to the Maury Haz-Ops Team as a hazardous materials technician. His efforts have far exceeded the requirements of his normal job duties. Many of his accomplishments have occurred on his “off time”, while serving as a volunteer with the Maury County Fire Department.
Louis’ devotion and commitment, and behind the scenes efforts have greatly enhance the emergency response capabilities of the region and are truly appreciated.
About Lieutenant Ron Bennett & Officer Eric Horne
Trenton Police Department
Trenton Police Department’s Lieutenant Ron Bennett and Officer Eric Horne responded to a house fire on March 3, 2009, at approximately 10 p.m. Upon arrival, they found clouds of smoke emanating from the residence. Quickly, both Lt. Bennett and Officer Horne entered the home to determine if anyone was inside.
Once in the house, the officers shined flashlights and called out for any occupants. When no response came, Lt. Bennett exited the residence and went again to the front of the house. He then met a 13-year old child, who was crying and yelling that his father was still inside in his bedroom. Lt. Bennett broke the bedroom window and pulled the father to safety without injury. After the rescue, the officers discovered the home owner was blind and probably would not have made it out of the house on his own.
The team efforts of Lt. Bennett and Officer Horne were life saving. Because of their quick thinking and speedy reaction, the duo most likely was the deciding factor between life and death.
About Kevin Suggs
Officer, Alamo Police Department
Alamo Police Officer Kevin Sugg is a heroic first responder. In December 2008, Officer Sugg was off duty when he drove by a daycare center and saw smoke rising from the facility. Without hesitation and regard to his personal safety, Officer Sugg rushed into the burning building and pulled three small children out of the fire.
Two of the children were treated and release, while one’s injuries were critical enough to require air transport to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital. Officer Sugg himself was treated and release for smoke inhalation.
To say the least, Officer Sugg’s actions were heroic – especially to the families of the three helpless victims. Officer Sugg is the epitome of service above self and an exemplary example of one of the finest first responders in the state.
About Becky Hodge and Shirlinda Savahl
Hardeman County Ambulance Service
Becky Hodge, EMT/EMD, and Shirlinda Savahl, EMT-P, members of Hardeman County Ambulance Service, played a vital role in a lifesaving act on September 13, 2008. Dispatcher Hodge received a 911 call regarding a two-year old drowning in a swimming pool. She calmly took the call and relayed life-saving instructions, including the administration of CPR. Concurrently, she dispatched the ambulance with EMT-P Savahl onboard. The patient was successfully revived and began breathing. When the ambulance arrived on scene, the patient had a pulse and was breathing without assistance. The patient was transported to a landing zone and airlifted to LeBonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis. Today, she is a healthy toddler with no long term neurological problems.
Without the effectiveness and efficiency of Hardeman County’s 911 dispatchers, paramedics and EMTs, this situation, along with many others, could have had a very different outcome. Becky Hodge and Shirlinda Savahl represent the best of Hardeman County’s first responders.
About Robert Collett
Deputy, Hardeman County Sheriff’s Department
While on patrol in Middleton, Tennessee, on January 4, 2009, Deputy Robert Collett heard a call dispatched to the Middleton Police Department. A one-year old had stopped breathing and was unresponsive. Deputy Collett realized he was much closer to the residence of the child and answered the call.
Upon his arrival at the child’s residence, Deputy Collett found the child was having a seizure and not breathing. Collett remained calm and initiated CPR, ultimately resuscitating the child. While waiting for EMS to arrive, the child stopped breathing two more times and Deputy Collett again resuscitated the child. After the arrival of the paramedics, Collett continued to assist with the resuscitation efforts and helped load the patient for transport to Bolivar Community Hospital. Later that evening, Deputy Collett returned to the hospital to check the status of the child and visit with the parents.
Deputy Collett’s actions were crucial to the child’s full recovery. His ability to remain focused in the face of a chaotic and terrifying situation for all involved demonstrates his excellent training and skill as a first responder.
About John Selberg
Assistant Fire Chief, Germantown Fire Department
District 11 / Memphis UASI
Germantown fire Assistant Fire Chief John Selberg is being honored for his dedication to domestic preparedness initiatives through his diligence in researching, developing, and bringing innovative training to the Shelby County/Memphis UASI. His efforts make it possible for the tri-state region to train front line responders in and all hazards disaster.
Chief Selberg was selected by the State to serve as Lead Instructor for the Type 4 Command and General Staff Incident Management Team (IMT) train-the-trainer course that trained 19. In May, an additional 26 students were trained in the Type 4 IMT Course.
Because of Chief Selberg’s efforts, citizens are better protected. The intent of the Memphis Urban Area Incident Management Team is to have trained incident command personnel available to support the local agencies in an emergency response situation. The Incident Management Team provides highly trained personnel that can assist and fill various needed positions with the local incident command structure. The IMT will have trained personnel with expertise in various levels through the command and general staff positions of incident command.
While Chief Selberg’s efforts remain invisible to most citizens, and possibly other officers, they are critical to domestic preparedness. Chief Selberg embodies the dedication and diligence necessary to achieve a safe and secure homeland.
About the Tennessee Department of Safety
The Tennessee Department of Safety’s mission is to ensure the safety and general welfare of the public. The department encompasses the Tennessee Highway Patrol, Office of Homeland Security and Driver License Services. General areas of responsibility include law enforcement, safety education, motorist services and terrorism prevention.