FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(Lincoln, Neb.) Lt. Gov. Rick Sheehy and ServeNebraska today announced the winners of Nebraska’s 2009 Be Prepared awards, in conjunction with National Preparedness Month.
“I’m pleased to recognize some of the many volunteers who contribute to Nebraska’s emergency preparedness efforts,” Lt. Gov. Sheehy said. “These individuals are a great asset in our communities. Just as our first responders, they are ready at a moment’s notice to help assist in recovery efforts following natural disasters and other emergencies. They help make Nebraska communities safer, less vulnerable and better prepared to respond to natural disasters and emergencies. Their work has made a difference, and I want to thank them for their commitment.”
The 2009 honorees include:
Group awards included the Citizen Corps Council of the Year award, which was presented to the Sarpy County Citizen Corps Council, led by Curtis Rainge. The council has provided 150 Sarpy County residents with disaster preparedness training this year and reached out to schools and faith-based organizations to provide Disaster 101 classes and other presentations. The council operates Community Emergency Response Training (CERT) program. To observe National Preparedness Month, council members organized a disaster preparedness fair in Bellevue to provide information and resources on personal preparedness. Members work with the Bellevue Senior Coalition, local Neighborhood Watch organizations, emergency management officials and police to reach out to Sarpy County residents and encourage them be ready to assist their families and neighbors in an emergency.
The Cornhusker Region American Red Cross Disaster Team based in Lincoln was presented with the Citizen Corps Program Partner of the Year award. The team was an integral part of the response and recovery efforts in Hallam and surrounding areas after a tornado struck in 2004. More recently, chapter volunteers spent weeks assisting those affected by spring storms in 2008. Disaster volunteers respond to an average of 70 local disasters each year in a seven county area, providing for the basic needs of individuals. The chapter has 113 trained volunteers ready to respond in the event of a disaster, many of whom have deployed to other states to assist with recovery efforts to 29 natural disasters in 2008.
Individuals recognized include Bob Hessler of Scottsbluff as the Citizen Corps Council Member of the Year. He is a member of the Panhandle Citizen Corps Network, which is one of Nebraska’s most comprehensive volunteer organizations. Hessler has also served on the statewide CERT Standards Committee. He help create the first collegiate CERT team in the state and a model for other college campuses.
Scott Zager of Lincoln, who received the Local Hero award. Zager has been active with the American Red Cross since 2003, and is chairman of the disaster committee, with responsibility of seeing that all response functions are ready to respond in the event of a disaster. He also serves as the disaster action team leader, a disaster instructor, and the chapter liaison to the city/county emergency operations center. Zager is one of several team leaders trained to lead volunteers in responding to local incidents who ensures basic needs of those displaced by disasters are met before first responders depart. He spent more than 2,000 hours on call in the past year and volunteered more than 200 hours. Disaster action team members also work with commanders at the scene to support first responders. He also teaches numerous classes each year in volunteer disaster response.
Loren Uden of Hastings received the Excellence in Disaster Preparedness award. As emergency management director for Adams County Emergency Management since 2001, Uden has been a key figure in the planning and training of first responders and volunteers. He has developed table-top exercises, conducted school safety walk-throughs, and made many presentations to community and service groups. He also helped the county obtain a communications bus, an incident command trailer and other equipment to support city departments, village and county personnel in the field. Uden serves as the Chairman of the Adams County Pandemic Flu Committee, and is an active CERT instructor who has served on the state’s CERT Standards Committee.
Robin Zagurski of Omaha received the Excellence in Risk Communications award. A social worker with the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s Department of Psychiatry, Zagurski has contributed her time and expertise to help educate professionals and volunteers on the psychological aspects of disasters since 1996. She is a member of both the behavioral health team for the United Way of the Midlands Medical Reserve Corps, the American Red Cross Disaster Response Team, and a charter member of the Nebraska Behavioral Health Emergency Response Team. She has provided mental health services following house fires and Omaha’s 2007 mall shooting, the Little Sioux Boy Scout Camp tornado, and the 9/11 terrorist attacks. She is an author of psychological first-aid curriculum for first responders and has taught the course to local first responders to help make the need for psychological care a part of emergency response and recovery efforts.
Betty Plankinton of Columbus received the Excellence in Preparedness Education and Outreach award. After retiring from working with the East Central District Health Department in 2005, Plankinton now spends one day a week working as an infection control nurse and emergency preparedness coordinator for Genoa Community Hospital and since March has been a volunteer emergency preparedness coordinator for Nance County. In 2006, she was among the members of the Nance County All Hazards Response Team helping test the county’s mass treatment dispensing plan. In 2007, she coordinated a training exercise involving local hospital personnel. Her public health experience has helped recruit 225 volunteers to complete disaster response exercises, provided training for dozens of volunteers and frontline medical personnel, and coordinated response plans despite being a resident of Columbus.
ServeNebraska pursues its mission of mobilizing Nebraskans to strengthen their communities through volunteering, collaboration and national service programs. For more information on the Lt. Governor’s Be Prepared awards and other emergency preparedness resources is available on the ServeNebraska website, www.serve.nebraska.gov.