Members of the Northern Kentucky All-Hazards Incident Management Team honored with citation of heroism

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All 16 members of the Northern Kentucky All-Hazards Incident Management Team, or AHIMT, were honored last night at the Campbell County Fiscal Court meeting.

The team deployed on Dec. 13, 2021, to Mayfield Kentucky, after a tornado with 215mph winds swept through the area. The tornado was categorized between an F4 and F5 tornado — an F5 is the worst a tornado can get. More than 70 people were killed, and more than 1,000 properties were destroyed, making it the most catastrophic disaster in the history of the state of Kentucky. The team worked for nine days in the Graves County Emergency Operations Center coordinating operations.

The All-Hazards Incident Management Team was assembled of members from the Office of Emergency Management, Campbell County Sheriff’s Office, Central Campbell County Fire District, Bellevue-Dayton Fire-EMS and Campbell County Fiscal Court.

Mayfield is one city that was majorly impacted. Mayfield is the county seat in Graves County with approximately 10,000 residents. Of the 37,000 residents in Graves County, a third have had damage to their homes.

“Our team couldn’t wait to get down and help,” Economic and Community Development Director for Campbell County Justin Otto said. “Not only fellow Americans but fellow Kentuckians.”

Otto was one of the members of the All-Hazards Incident Management Team.

“As we got closer, we started to see some debris it didn’t look horrible, but trees looked like they exploded, and we saw debris, but we weren’t sure what to expect,” Otto said.

The biggest emergency after the tornado, Otto said, was the candle factory in Mayfield. There were over 1,000 people working the third shift when the tornado hit at 8:49 p.m. Eight people lost their lives, and everyone there was injured.

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“When we arrived at the Emergency Operations Center, we got to work Immediately,” Otto said.

The first thing they did was turn a conference room into the Emergency Operation Center. Otto said two people from off the street even came in to help.

“It was incredible to be a part of and do the work,” Otto said.

Two briefings were held a day for the military, FBI, volunteers and everyone else who was involved. All of the briefings were led and planned by the Northern Kentucky All-Hazards Incident Management Team.

The area had no electricity, no water, cell service was spotty, and they had no Wi-Fi. Allocation of tarps, generators, food and water was a big part of their work.

“We put up 87 light stands that ran on propane or diesel. Over 15,000 telephone poles were damaged,” Otto said.

Semi-truck loads of donations were brought in constantly. The team set up distribution centers where the donations were handed out. Otto said it looked like a supermarket. The city had so much water donated there was enough for 100 cases of water per person.

Currently, 280,000 cubic yards of debris have been cleared by the U.S Army Corps of Engineers.

“Our days were 14-16 hours,” Otto said. “We woke up went to work and worked till we couldn’t keep our eyes open anymore. The impact that we had leading that effort with the organization was a pretty incredible experience.”

A citation of heroism for demonstrating extraordinary courage, compassion and professional skill in a critical time of need was recognized by Mayfield Representative Richard Heath for all 16 members of the Northern Kentucky All-Hazards Incident Management Team.

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Those members included, Deputy Director Greg Buckler and Deputy Director Jamie Sparks from the Office of Emergency Management. Lieutenant Nick Chaplin, Sergeant James McKenna, Deputy Tim Harney, Deputy Dave Garnick, Deputy Les Caudill, Deputy T.J. Selby, Deputy Mike Stephens and Deputy Dean Windgassen from the Campbell County Sheriff’s Office. Captain Jason Weghorn, Captain Justin Saner and Lieutenant Brendan Bradley from the Central Campbell County Fire District. Chief Chris Adkins from the Bellevue-Dayton Fire-EMS. Director Justin Otto from the Campbell County Fiscal Court.