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Inside DPS

2018 Division of Emergency Management Awards

Monday December 17, 2018

The work we do when disasters are not happening is some of our most important work. Preparedness, training and exercises help the Division of Emergency Management get ready so that when the alarms sound, we can provide the necessary support to cities and counties. 2018 was a busy year for preparedness and emergencies.

During the 2018 DEM Awards Banquet, we honored our team members who helped in critical ways before and during disasters. 

Tara Behunin – Award of Excellence

Tara Behunin received the 2018 award of excellence from the Division of Emergency Management.
Tara Behunin, Region 2 community support liaison, received the 2018 Award of Excellence. From left: bureau chief Bob Carey, bureau chief Jona Whitesides, director Kris Hamlet, Tara Behunin, deputy director Judy Watanabe, deputy commissioner Mike Rapich

Tara received this award because of her amazing service during this year’s fire season. Through the Dollar Ridge, Pole Creek, Bald Mountain, Coal Hollow fires, Tara was there to support and advise. She spent countless hours supporting Unified Fire Authority in funeral planning following the passing of our friend, Battalion Chief Matt Burchett. Though Tara was grieving with the rest of us, she continued to act and serve and represented the state of Utah well. She is unfailingly kind, compassionate and professional and builds a great rapport with those she serves.

Wade Mathews – Derek Jensen Peer Award

Wade Mathews, manager of the Be Ready Utah program, received the 2018 Derek Jensen Peer Award. From left: bureau chief Bob Carey, bureau chief Jona Whitesides, director Kris Hamlet, Wade Mathews, deputy director Judy Watanabe, deputy commissioner Mike Rapich

As the Be Ready Utah manager, Wade not only strives to prepare the public, but our office, as well, through an entertaining Wade’s World motivational minute (think Wayne’s World, but for preparedness). He also done great things with the Utah Prepare Conference and Expo, where residents can learn and prepare for any disaster that may come their way. Wade is a great friend to many, and always willing to lend a hand to those in need – even if that means being the backup PIO, emcee for conferences, helping people move offices, or just a listening ear. 

Teamwork Award – 2018 Wildfire team

2018 Teamwork award for wildfire support
Back row: Mechelle Miller, Tara Behunin, Sheila Curtis, Jeff Gallacher, Brad Bartholomew, Dave Popelmayer. Front row: Kimberly Giles, Janna Wilkinson, Angela Lang, Angelia Crowther, Juan Villanueva, Josh Groeneveld. Not pictured: Eric Martineau and Ember Herrick

We’re all glad summer is over as we had one of the most active fire seasons we’ve had in years. With smokey air and 3 declared Fire Management Assistance Grants, it was a long fire season. This group of individuals stepped up to to assist the local and state officials in responding to and recovering from such wild and sporadic fires. There were long days, many miles and of course, endless meetings. Through magnificent communication, we were able to maintain situational awareness and provide timely support that local responders have come to expect.

Teamwork Award – Full-scale EOC Exercise

2018 Teamwork award for the 2018 full-scale EOC exercise
Recipients: Kris Repp, Ronda Warner, Alden Orme, Kathy McMullin, Lorry Herrera and Tanner Patterson, flanked by Jona Whitesides and Kris Hamlet. Not pictured: Tracy Bodily

The team started planning for this unique exercise a year ago this month. The exercise focused on local resource requests from around the state, where each jurisdiction had their own unique scenario in play. This engaged local EMs, DEM, and State Emergency Response Team members on how to handle multiple events and needs, and also how quickly resources can be depleted. Many hours were spent to ensure the success of the exercise, both on the local and state level – and by the comments received during and after the exercise, the team had achieved just that! We look forward to more successful and impactful exercises in the future!

Partnership Award – Pete Kuhlmann

Pete is the Washington County emergency manager and has been a great partner to the Utah Division of Emergency Management for many years through his service on the Utah Regional Coordination Council, 2018 Full-Scale Exercise Planning Team, Emergency Management Performance Grant Advisory Group, and Qualifications Review Committee. His outstanding support, work ethic, and dedication to the many facets of emergency management is recognized by many and greatly appreciated.  


Joe Dougherty is the public information officer for the Utah Division of Emergency Management. jdougherty@utah.gov 

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