Cullman EMA’s Little wins prestigious 2018 IAEM-USA Clayton R. Christopher Memorial Award


Left to right: Commissioner Kerry Watson, Cullman County EMA Director Phyllis Little, Commissioner Garry Marchman and Commission Chairman Kenneth Walker pose for a photo in July, when Little was awarded the Pat Neuhauser Spirit of Emergency Management Award. On Oct. 24, Little was awarded the 2018 IAEM-USA Clayton R. Christopher Memorial Award. (Nick Griffin for The Tribune)

FALLS CHURCH, Va. – The IAEM-USA Awards & Recognition Committee of the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) is pleased to announce the winner of the IAEM-USA 2018 Clayton R. Christopher Memorial Award. The awardee was recognized during the President's Banquet on Oct. 24 at the IAEM 66th Annual Conference & EMEX, in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The winner of the 2018 IAEM-USA Clayton R. Christopher Memorial Award is Phyllis A. Little, director of the Cullman County (Alabama) Emergency Management Agency. She has been a major advocate for preparedness for severe weather events for the residents of her Cullman County. She has partnered with multiple groups to secure and distribute NOAA weather radios to low-income households and all schools. She has guided an ongoing effort to inform residents about severe weather through annual SkyWarn classes throughout the county. Through her leadership, Cullman County has maintained the county's designation as a NOAA Storm Ready County since 2003.

Capitalizing on lessons learned from her deployments to major disasters, Little has implemented policies and procedures to improve emergency response in Cullman County. Examples include revised procedures to request and receive resources and improved utilization of community relations teams. The other less visible benefit to her county has been an increased awareness of overall disaster relief implementation.

Little is a local emergency manager who understands the mission of an effective emergency management program. She is very hands-on when it comes to her emergency management activities. During her career, she has deployed multiple times to major disasters. Cullman County- and the state of Alabama – are safer because of her leadership. Recognizing the necessity for a small county to have mass casualty response that would coordinate mortuary operations, she played a critical part in developing this local capability. As a result, her county was the first in the state to have access to this resource. This single-county team was the beginning of the establishment of the Alabama State Mortuary Operations Response Team (SMORT), which is currently composed of 60 representatives from local emergency management agencies, funeral directors and coroners.

To keep county elected officials informed of disaster-related responsibilities, Little authored the "Cullman County Elected Officials Guide to Emergency Management," as a how-to guide for newly elected officials. She has ensured that Cullman County officials also are exposed to procedures for disaster response, recovery, declarations and mitigation. Included in the guide are templates for local declarations of emergency conditions as well as termination of emergency conditions. Little has made this document available to other counties.

A longtime member of IAEM, Little is an Alabama Local Certified Emergency Manager and has obtained Alabama Association of Emergency Managers' (AAEM) Master of Local Emergency Management Certification. She was AAEM president in 2013-2014. This year she accepted the position of chair of the Alabama Department of Public Health/Northern  District  Healthcare  Coalition.  Little  has been exceptional  as  a local emergency management director for more than 20 years and is an effective advocate for emergency management on the state and national levels. She has made significant contributions to the legislative and policy efforts of IAEM-USA. Earlier in 2018, Ms. Little received the Pat Neuhauser Spirit of Emergency Management Award, which is presented to an individual  who is dedicated, faithful and loyal with a high level of enthusiasm in promoting emergency management and a willingness to share and serve. This is the most prestigious award offered by the Alabama Association of Emergency Manager. IAEM is proud to also honor her with the prestigious IAEM-USA Clayton R. Christopher Memorial Award.

About the Award

The IAEM-USA Clayton R. Christopher Memorial Award is presented to an IAEM member in recognition of unselfish devotion and outstanding contributions to the overall emergency management program. All nominations must contain written justification for the award. IAEM-USA members may nominate a local (city/county/tribal) emergency management director/coordinator deserving of the award regardless of the geographical location within the United States of the nominee or the nominator. Self-nominations are not accepted. Learn about the IAEM Awards Competition at

About Clayton R. Christopher

The award was established in honor of Clayton R. Christopher, who served as director of Clayton County (Georgia) Civil Defense from June 1962 until his death on Oct. 29, 1976, when he died in an airplane crash on his way to  Thomasville, Georgia, to  get final approval on plans for  an addition to  the county civil defense center from authorities in the Civil Defense Region Headquarters. He was Clayton County's first civil defense director and was instrumental in making emergency management in Clayton County what it is today. He reorganized and modernized the system. He also served as President of the U.S. Civil Defense Council Region Ill (now IAEM-USA Region 4).