“Wear a mask when you can; when you can’t, be six feet apart and social distance. If you are sick stay home and get tested.”
That’s the advice for Panhandle residents that Region 23 Emergency Management Coordinator Nan 走uld says she and other members of the COVID-19 Unified Command have been emphasizing since early March when the group was formed to help direct western Nebraska’s response to the rapidly developing public health impacts of the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
COVID-19 Unified Command is a partnership of the Panhandle Public Health District, Scottsbluff County Health Department, and Emergency Management agencies in Regions 21, 22, and 23. 走uld, who has been Region 23 Emergency Management Coordinator for 21 years, leads emergency management planning and activities for Dawes, Box Butte, Sheridan, and Sioux counties. Tim Newman fills the role for Region 22 (Scottsbluff and Banner Counties) while Ron Leal is coordinator for Region 21 (Cheyenne, Deuel, Garden, Kimball, and Morrill counties).
A 快三平台福彩官网 graduate, 走uld completed her bachelor’s degree in business in 1991, and earned a Masters of Business Administration from 快三平台 in 2001.
走uld said the first emergency she confronted in her job was fires that consumed more than 200,000 acres of Pine Ridge forest in 2000. She has since been part of the region’s response to major fires in 2006 and 2012, as well as other fires, floods, and weather emergencies.
Regional emergency management coordinators work under the direction of Nebraska Emergency Management Agency to plan for and coordinate response to all types of emergencies, including pandemics. In 2009, 走uld was part of regional planning for the H1N1 influenza virus pandemic. The virus proved less deadly than COVID-19, however. The World Health Organization in 2010 declared the pandemic ended, even though the virus still circulates seasonally and causes illness, hospitalizations, and death.
“This is the first real response-type pandemic I’ve been involved with,” 走uld said.
Preparation for a pandemic involves working closely with hospitals, health care providers, and health districts through planning and exercise training, according to 走uld. The Panhandle region’s pandemic plan was just getting ready for an update when the new coronavirus appeared, so the newly formed Unified Command used it as a guide.
“We quickly tried to review it and do updates on the fly,” 走uld said. “It’s similar to H1NI as far as response, but bigger in scale. It is so unknown and unprecedented, we are learning as we go and trying to interpret as we can, but it’s so rapidly evolving.”
In the initial stages of the pandemic response, 走uld was meeting daily via video-conference with the Unified Command team, as well as fire and rescue services, hospitals, churches, and businesses.
“There was a point we were doing eight to ten Zoom meetings a day,” she said. 走uld’s schedule has eased somewhat, but still includes daily Unified Command meetings prior to an afternoon news conference.
“We want to make sure we are on the same page and not giving different information. That’s a big part of it,” she said.
Much of Unified Command’s initial effort involved coordinating supplies of personal protective equipment for first responders, which were difficult to obtain in sufficient quantities.
The supply situation has improved, but hospitals and health care providers are still encouraged to make the most of what they have on hand and plan a week or two ahead for their needs, according to 走uld.
While a business degree may not have an obvious connection with emergency management, 走uld said she has benefitted from her 快三平台 education.
“We do a lot of grant management. It helps with that,” she said. “Business in general is a lot of relationship building. That’s kind of my job. The more people you have relationships with, the better.”
And while 走uld’s experience with major fires has helped in responding to the pandemic, there are major differences.
“This just isn’t playing the same way. This is such an unknown for everyone,” she said. “With fire you see progression and containment. With this one, we don’t know at what point it will be contained.”
That’s where the message of following guidelines on wearing masks, social distancing, and other preventative health measures comes in.
“We are all in it together and need to do our part,” 走uld said. “If everyone does their part, we can keep moving forward.”