Andrew Adams works behind the scenes to prepare Riley County for emergencies like the pandemic

(Photo Courtesy of Andrew Adams)

A key component in several occupations is the ability to be prepared for various scenarios. For Andrew Adams, public health emergency preparedness coordinator for the Riley County Health Department, he has to be prepared for things to go wrong. It can be a matter of life or death when it comes to planning for situations such as tornadoes, floods and of course, pandemics.

“We work mainly behind the scenes with the different healthcare providers, hospitals, primary care or urgent care facilities to try and prepare the county and those different providers for public health emergencies,” Adams said. “Yes, we have flooding, yes flooding does damage to buildings, it displaces people, but what does that displacement of people lead to?”

The job deals with reacting to disasters and helping people through them with careful preparation beforehand, Adams said. These emergency plans in place have a central goal of keeping everyone in the county safe and healthy during tough circumstances.

“All of these different things are all intertwined when you look at them through a public health lens, so really looking at things that way and knowing that we can do so many things through just the preparedness and epidemiology side of public health is really exciting and I love it,” Adams said.

Previously, local health officer Julie Gibbs noted that Riley County has documented fewer cases of the novel coronavirus than was initially expected.

When COVID-19 struck Riley County, many faced uncertainty with the escalating situation. However, due to the health department’s planning, they were prepared for the challenge.

“We’re really doing a lot of the same things that we always do or that we planned to do in this event,” Adams said. “We do plan for these kinds of things, so we weren’t completely shocked when it happened.”

A big change has been the number of hours he’s been working compared to normal.

“It’s just putting the things we’ve planned for and practiced into practice in the real world,” Adams said.

As the pandemic continues, they still have to prepare for any turns the situation with the coronavirus could take.

“Right now with the pandemic in mind, just knowing that the guidance is always changing, we don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow in terms of will we have a lot more cases and what does that look like for us in Manhattan, in Riley County, in the state,” Adams said. “It’s a challenge, but it’s not anything that hinders what we’re doing.”

Even with the troubles and challenges COVID-19 has forced the emergency preparedness team to face, Adams said people now recognize and appreciate the health department and what they do more.

“I think this has really raised a profile for the health department and I hope in a good way and I hope that people can still think, once we get through this, to turn to the health department for credible information and to learn something new,” Adams said.