McCreary County’s first responders played a crucial role in preventing serious incidents during the recent winter storm which blanketed the county with up to nine inches of snow. When Judge Executive Doug Stephens declared a state of emergency for McCreary County and ordered all essential County employees and emergency personnel to be available to “mitigate all impacts of this storm and utilize all resources available to do so,” McCreary Countians soon discovered their local first responders were well prepared to handle emergency situations. Deputy Judge Executive Andrew Powell summarized his feelings about the local first responder team and the role they played throughout the recent storm.
“Government officials must deal with many issues and responsibilities,” Powell stated. “However, the most important responsibility of government is to ensure the health and safety of its citizens. We’ve planned and prepared in advance for emergency situations. In addition, we’ve got a first responder team that is tough to beat. McCreary County is blessed to have a team that can get out there and get the job done. Their teamwork and their handling of situations that arose throughout this storm prove just how great they are at doing their jobs.”
McCreary County Sheriff’s Department
During last week’s snowstorm, Sheriff Randy Waters and his deputies were kept busy maintaining regular law enforcement patrol and duties in addition to patrolling the highways looking for stranded motorists, assisting people in vehicles trapped in ditches, communicating with Emergency Management, and helping as needed with McCreary County Emergency Medical Service (EMS).
“The Sheriff’s Department did a real good job,” McCreary County resident Richard Koger commented after he and his wife, Donna, received assistance from the Sheriff’s Department when the couple became stranded at Barthell.
“The Park Ranger, Zeb Whitaker, came in to help us but got stranded as well,” Koger explained. “We had walked out to the top of the hill when Sheriff Waters and Special Deputy Odell Smith found us and took us home. The Sheriff was very helpful.”
Special Deputy Smith commented, “The look on their faces when they saw that someone had responded to their need for help is what makes me want to do my job.”
Special Deputy Smith also assisted a gentleman passing through the area who was down on his luck and sleeping in his car just as the storm hit McCreary County. Smith contacted individuals who were able to get the man shelter for the night.
Another incident involved the Sheriff’s office responding and assisting EMS by transporting a patient from home to a waiting ambulance.
“We have really tried to answer all calls,” Sheriff Waters commented. “I’m so appreciative of all the people who have joined in together to help our community during the recent storm. We tried to closely coordinate efforts with EMS, road departments, State Police, Search & Rescue, Rudy Young, and fire departments.”
Waters explained how advance planning prepared his staff to go and assist people during the storm.
“We made sure our four wheel drive vehicles were ready to go,” he stated. “We’ve kept the maintenance current on our vehicles so we are able to get out and go when needed.”
Commending his regular deputies and staff for their efforts in maintaining regular law enforcement and providing extra assistance during the storm, Waters stated that he also relied heavily on three volunteer safety officers, who do not have arrest power, to patrol and find people who were stranded and needed help. He also recognized his volunteer special deputies, who do have arrest power, for working far beyond their duty in patrolling, assisting folks in trouble, and answering regular law enforcement calls during the weather related emergency.
McCreary County Emergency Medical Service (EMS)
According to McCreary County EMS/911 Director Jimmy Barnett and Assistant EMS/911 Director William Duncan, advance planning, coordination, communication, and teamwork were key elements in keeping McCreary Countians safe and healthy during the state of emergency declared in McCreary County and across Kentucky during last week’s winter storm.
During the storm, Barnett and Duncan saw the benefit of serving dual roles with EMS and 911.
“Being over 911 helped a lot,” Barnett commented. “We could coordinate much better and were able to quickly get the best responders out to emergency situations. We knew as soon as calls came in if we needed to team our EMS personnel up with other responders or if we needed a highway grader in order to respond.”
Barnett and Duncan were quick to praise the EMS staff and 911 Dispatch staff for a job well done. Despite the almost overwhelming number of calls to Dispatch from folks needing various forms of assistance during the storm, dispatchers were able to handle the calls efficiently. Dedicated EMS staff, on at least two different occasions, walked part-way in to homes where medical assistance was needed.
Barnett and Duncan also give much credit to the assistance they received from the State/County Highway Departments, McCreary County Search and Rescue, and local fire departments.
“The County and County Road Department provided James Jones with a grader to clear our way into homes we wouldn’t have normally been able to access. James also cleared pathways out for EMS personnel who had to walk in part way to patients needing assistance,” Barnett commented. “One of those times was a critical call resulting in a run to the hospital. I can’t say enough good things about James’ help with the grader.”
The Pine Knot Fire Department worked alongside EMS by providing volunteer firefighters and four wheel drive vehicles to help take EMTs to patients and transport patients to waiting ambulances when needed.
According to Barnett and Duncan, the McCreary County Search and Rescue Squad provided a great service by helping out when EMS was doing emergency transport only.
The Squad assisted in many ways including assisting with the transport of dialysis patients who needed to get to the hospital and delivering needed medications to elderly residents.
Barnett also noted assistance received from the Sheriff’s Department and law enforcement.
“Throughout this, the Sheriff’s Department and EMS have both bent over backwards to help each other,” Barnett commented.
Barnett and Duncan, who both pulled 24 hour shifts throughout the storm, recognized the planning and coordination provided through the Judge Executive’s Office and Emergency Director Rudy Young.
“We all pre-planned, monitored the weather, prepared the equipment and got the dispatchers ready for this weather-related event,” Duncan said. “Jimmy and I were both here to supervise, and as a result, all of pieces came together for the good of McCreary Countians.”
Emergency Management Director
McCreary County’s Emergency Management Director, Rudy Young, served as a resource manager, organizer, and coordinator with various agencies working together for the safety of McCreary County citizens during last week’s state of emergency winter storm.
Young assisted in the resolution of communication problems with landlines and cell phones, contacted Search/Rescue officials for their assistance, and helped local government officials with planning. Young continuously monitored weather conditions through the National Weather Service and provided state and local road department supervisors with early weather data to assist them with in planning road treatment.
“It took everyone working together to make this come out all right,” Young stated. “In this winter storm, the McCreary County EMS, 911, firefighters, Search & Rescue Squad, Sheriff’s Department, and County/State Road Departments were all excellent.”
McCreary County Search & Rescue Squad
“We were just doing our job,” was the response of McCreary County Search & Rescue Squad Chief Lonnie Brown when asked about the squad’s role in helping local citizens during last week’s weather related event.
While the all volunteer squad might have “just been doing their job,” their assistance directly impacted the lives of some local citizens during the critical weather.
On the second day of the storm, volunteer squad members traveled to a remote location of McCreary County to deliver two workers in critical need positions at the McCreary County Health & Rehabilitation Center.
On day three, responding to a call from EMS, squad members delivered needed medication to two elderly citizens.
On day four, squad members helped transport a dialysis patient in the Day Ridge area to Pulaski County for needed treatment. They also met the Pulaski County Search and Rescue Squad at the County line to pick up a McCreary County resident who had been released from the hospital emergency room. The squad took the released patient to get medicine and then transported them safely home.
Members of the squad also assisted the Sheriff’s Department with getting a vehicle stranded in the Bear Creek area back on the road and moving again.
The squad planned for the weather emergency by filling up generators and making sure their vehicles were fueled and ready to go.
“We’re citizens helping citizens,” Brown stated. “We’re all volunteer, but that doesn’t hinder us when we need to get out and help others.”
The Pine Knot Fire Department stayed busy responding to house fire calls and car wrecks during the snowy weather. However, the winter storm led them to pair up with the McCreary County EMS to provide needed emergency medical service to some McCreary Countians.
“We utilized the Pine Knot Fire Department and their four wheel drive vehicles to get EMTs to patients and transport patients to ambulances when needed,” EMS Director Jimmy Barnett commented.
“Anytime the EMS needs help, we are here to assist,” stated Pine Knot Fire Department Chief Tim Cox.
Chief Cox explained the importance of advance planning. He noted that a meeting, with everyone in attendance, is held at the station to prepare for weather related events. The trucks are chained during winter storms, and someone is kept on call at the station.
“We have a good first responder team throughout McCreary County,” Cox emphasized. “I’ve got a great bunch of volunteer firefighters here. They get in and get the job done.”
Terry Baker, in his position as chaplain for the Whitley City Fire Department and local Red Cross Coordinator, is the go-to person when times are tough. While Whitley City firefighters were busy with house fires and stranded motorists during the recent storm, Terry was busy reaching out to churches, individuals, and agencies in an effort to find help for those who needed help.
“First and foremost, I’m thankful to the Lord for leading me to all of the local contacts and resources I have available to help those in need,” Baker remarked.
“McCreary County has some wonderful individuals, churches, organizations, and agencies that are remarkable about helping those in need.”
Baker, through the Red Cross, was able to help the victims of two structure fires that occurred during the winter storm. One family, losing everything in a house fire, was able to receive food and clothing.
Through his contacts, Baker secured shelter for a gentleman traveling through McCreary County who was found sleeping in his car with no place else to go when the storm was about to hit.
County officials also considered Baker a key player in providing blankets and cots for an emergency shelter at the local park if an emergency shelter had been needed due to power outages.