Gov. Bill Haslam's deputy, Claude Ramsey, and Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons honored 26 Tennesseans on Friday for their service as emergency first responders.
The First Responder Awards Ceremony, held at the state Capitol, celebrated those who have dedicated their lives for the safety and security of all Tennesseans. The ceremony has been held each year since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States. The event is also held in conjunction with National Preparedness Month.
"These law enforcement officers and emergency response personnel put their lives on the line during times of crisis and are not afraid to run into dangerous situations to protect others," said Ramsey, a former Hamilton County mayor.
Those honored were nominated by their peers and represent each of the 11 Office of Homeland Security districts across the state, as well as the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, Tennessee Citizens Corps and the Tennessee Highway Patrol.
Those honored include Brandon Atkins with the Chattanooga Fire Department and Hamilton County Emergency Management Services Chief Ken Wilkerson.
Atkins participated in the rescue attempts of two infants in a Feb. 12 fire. In a smoke-filled room, Atkins found one infant in a back bedroom. Other firefighters located another and an adult woman. The youngest child died. Officials said Atkins' "brave and selfless act resulted in the discovery of all three individuals."
Wilkerson was recognized for his leadership role in the April 27 tornadoes that struck Hamilton County, killing 11 people, injuring hundreds of others and causing millions of dollars in damage.
Wilkerson was in charge of the unified command, and officials said he proved an inspiration to others. He was also praised for facilitating efforts that allowed the rescue response to "move seamlessly" and that thanks to his efforts, "many lives were saved."