They’re first to respond where there is severe weather, plus train first responders across the state

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - They air the tornado sirens, spot storms, and keep an eye on the streams and rivers in Shawnee County when they rise.

What you don’t see is the important training emergency managers provide to first responders all across the state.

“I want you to come in and look at my office. I want you to come in and talk to me. I’ll talk to you about preparedness all day long,” laughed Dusty Nichols, Director of Shawnee County Emergency Management.

It’s not just a job for Nichols, it’s a passion. Helping prepare his community for the worst case scenario. Most look to Nichols’ department when storms brew.

According to Nichols, “Of course the weather is always a threat in this area. Probably the most common one people associate us with.”

But wearing the emergency management badge has so many other responsibilities.

“We do mitigation planning,” he added. “Emergency planning. Continuity of operations. Should something horrible happen, how do we continue with the business of government locally? That’s an interesting trick, because every department has their own things they have to do.”

That’s just a start. Nichols, and his staff are one of the highest requested EM teams in the state to train first responders on how to work together in a major crisis or situation.

“On a daily basis, they’re doing these on their own. Law enforcement deals with law enforcement issues. They don’t need anybody’s help. They just do it all the time. Fire’s the same way. AMR’s the same way,” he said.

That’s why their group brings in players from public safety, health, industry and government, to train together so they can work together.

“It’s bases on a national response framework,” said Nichols. “The national incident management system. Came out of 9/11, so there’s a whole history of why we’re doing this, and implementing a nationwide program, which takes years because there’s so many responders across the nation.”

And his team has been recognized for their training, receiving awards from the Kansas Emergency Management Association.

With a big smile, Nichols said, “I am proud of the guys I work with. They are the best team, I think, I’ve ever worked with.”

So while Dusty and his staff continue to train the pubic on being weather aware, behind the scenes, they will continue to train the first responders of Kansas to work together as a unified team in the middle of any crisis.