Mayor Chris Beutler today will present the Mayor's Award of Excellence for December to Firefighter/Paramedic Damon Wirth with Lincoln Fire and Rescue (LFR). The award will be presented at the beginning of today's City Council meeting, which starts at 3 p.m. in the County-City Building, 555 S. 10th Street. The monthly award recognizes City employees who consistently provide exemplary service and work that demonstrates personal commitment to the City.
Wirth has been with LFR since 2005. He was nominated by Fire Captain Dustin Morton in the categories of customer relations and productivity for his work as a paramedic instructor and as a Canine Search Specialist. Wirth previously worked in northern Arizona and came to LFR with firefighting experience in both urban and wild land settings. Captain Morton said Wirth is always willing to share those experiences with his crew during training.
In addition to his regular duties, Wirth volunteered to serve as a paramedic preceptor. He spends many months teaching new paramedics how to operate within the rules and regulations of the Lincoln Emergency Medical System. The training includes operating the medic unit computer and administering life-saving drugs to patients in stressful emergency situations.
Wirth is part of a select group of Lincoln paramedics who are trained in Rapid Sequence Intubation or RSI. During an RSI, drugs are used to paralyze the body so that the paramedics can control critically injured patients. This treatment protocol is used only in rare life threatening emergencies. Captain Morton said only the best paramedics are selected to receive this highly skilled training.
In 2008, Wirth volunteered to join Nebraska Task Force 1 - the Urban Search and Rescue team based at LFR. After a year on the team, his love of dogs inspired him to apply for and be accepted as a Canine Search Specialist. He successfully completed his training in 2009.
When the task force was selected to receive a search dog donated by the National Search Dog Foundation, Wirth was selected to be the handler of a young black Labrador named George. After four years of training with Wirth, George is a fully accredited Search and Rescue Canine. Captain Morton writes that Wirth and George are inseparable. They are ready to deploy at a moment's notice to respond to any emergency locally or nationally.
Wirth has spent much of his own time and money to bring this valuable search dog to Lincoln. He now coordinates all training for search dogs attached to the task force. Most of the time that work is without compensation, and many times he travels outside the area to train with other handlers and their dogs.
Because of his efforts, the task force's canine search dogs are some of the best in the country. Wirth and George used their search and rescue skills in the past year responding to the devastating tornado in Moore, Oklahoma and the severe flooding in the Boulder, Colorado area.
The other categories in which employees can be nominated are valor, loss prevention and safety. Consideration also may be given to nominations that demonstrate self-initiated accomplishments or those completed outside of the nominee's job description. All City employees are eligible for the Mayor's Award of Excellence except for elected and appointed officials.
Individuals or teams can be nominated by supervisors, peers, subordinates and the general public. Nomination forms are available at lincoln.ne.gov (keyword: personnel) or from department heads, employee bulletin boards or the Personnel Department, which oversees the awards program.
All nominations are considered by the Mayor's Award of Excellence Committee, which includes a representative with each union and a non-union representative appointed by the Mayor. Award winners receive a $50 gift certificate, a day off with pay and a plaque. All monthly winners and nominees are eligible to receive the annual award, which comes with a $250 gift certificate, two days off with pay and a plaque.