Department’s new director begins work by listening to her staff

By Maura Wery

The Riley County Commission welcomed Brenda Nickel as the county’s new Health Department director Monday.

Nickel, named recently to succeed Susie Kufahl in the position, was publicly introduced by commission chairman Dave Lewis on her first day in those duties. She has been involved in public health for her entire career, including time as accreditation coordinator for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. She also worked as a public health nurse consultant and a nurse in the Emporia School District.

“I’m just delighted to be here in Riley County,” Nickel said. Nickel said that she is excited to work in a community that takes such a huge interest in health and safety, listing Riley County as the second healthiest county in the state. Nickel said she has spent some time with the Riley County Health Department staff on her first day in office and is listening to their visions for the department.

Commissioners considered more than 30 candidates before picking Nickel to succeed Kufahl, who resigned her position April 1. Kufahl had been department head since the agency was moved under county control a year earlier.

Fire grant

The Riley County Fire Department has received a $363,130 grant to upgrade its narrow-band radios. Emergency management director Pat Collins said the grant will help the department cover 95 percent of its approximate $383,000 cost to upgrade the radios.

The grant will allow Riley County Fire District No. 1 and Riley County Emergency Medical Services to also upgrade their existing radios and replace those that aren’t up to standard.

“This is going to be a big project for us,” Collins said, adding that he is happy the radios are going to be up to regulation.

Stampede prep

Riley County EMS director Larry Couchman told the Commission his department is preparing for Country Stampede, which begins a week from Thursday. Couchman said around 40,000 people attend the four-day event, and on the busiest days his staff sees around 100 of them in a medical tent stationed on the grounds.

Couchman said people can prevent themselves from being in the medical tent by being responsible and planning accordingly for heat and weather. He suggested that those heading to the festival should drink plenty of water and other fluids and have moderate alcohol consumption. He also suggested sitting in shade, wearing proper clothing and wearing a sunscreen of at least 30 spf in order to beat the heat.

He told those attending to make sure to have a severe weather plan for the four days as well. Most importantly, Couchman said that if something looks strange or out of place, to report it to authorities at the grounds.

“If we don’t know it’s happening, we can’t fix it,” Couchman said.

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