New Incident Commander is Named

Dusty Nichols was named Incident Commander for Shawnee County.


Abbey Manzanares, Staff Member

Dusty Nichols takes the job of the Incident Commander for the COVID-19 response team in hopes of flattening the curve.

Incident Commander was first created after 9/11 and the structure is created in times of a disaster or emergency that requires specialized organizations. It’s also known as the National Incident Management System or NIMS. In the case of COVID-19 they decided not to break up the multi agencies because all of them would fall under COVID anyway. It’s better for them to all work together to fight this pandemic.

“I’m seen as a statewide “expert” on NIMS and ICS(Internet Connection Sharing) and managing incidents. I’ve got a ton of experience with dealing with this sort of stuff,” Nichols said. “ I teach 90-95% of what we’re trying to accomplish here so they selected me because I’m the best choice.

The original Incident Commander was Linda Ochs, the health department director, but as COVID expanded the county needed to appoint a new commander. Nichols took the job reluctantly because it expanded into rumor control and logistical problems which he excels at. 

“We put together what we call a battle rhythm which is basically when you take the clock and you put all your meetings around it so everybody knows what everybody else is doing,” Nichols said. “Most of my job is the higher level working with the governor’s office, working with the mayor, working with the leadership elected and appointed.”

Nichol’s job requires him and the rest of his team to decide where medical equipment goes and in what quantities. He also is responsible for coordinating with organizations affected by COVID in Shawnee County as well as other counties. 

Pullquote Photo

“The greatest things that you can do for your community right now is stay home,”

— Nichols

“The whole thing is we are nationwide short on resources on the heath side of this that people are dying and spreading the virus because they can’t get the proper protective equipment. When we can’t get that then we need to reduce the reason for having that.”

Nichols does encourage people to donate blood if they can because the nation is in a shortage and this isn’t a good time to not have any. As long as a person makes their appointment and follows the rules then they are safe. Appointments can be made online by going to the Community Blood Center website.

“I’ve really been pushing something called personal risk assessment and it’s not just for this time period, it’s for anytime. Personal risk assessment is very simple, get situational awareness. Know what’s going on around you,” Nichols said. “Lower your risk as much as possible and you stay out of trouble and you stay alive and you do all those things that you need to do. So utilize personal risk assessment and stay home.”

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