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In Full Command: Air medical branch director helps keep Symphony safe

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Keeping a close eye on the blistery weather, National Weather Service meteorologist Nick McGuire stays in communication with the Emergency Management Team at the Symphony in the Flint Hills concert. (Photo by Spencer O’Daniel)

Air Medical Branch Director Frank Williams looks out over Rosalia Ranch.

As 35 mph winds blow across the prairie, Williams’ only concern is the safety of the 6,000 people attending the event.

Williams is the air medical branch director for air transport for the incident management team. He’s been working with Butler County EMT since 1987.

This was the first time he had volunteered to work the Symphony. His team’s goal for the evening was to provide superior safety and a friendly environment for the venue.

Williams learned an appreciation for emergency management at a young age. Growing up, Williams’ father had health issues due to time spent in Europe during World War II. He was the one waving the emergency management into the house to help his father.

“This happened quite often growing up,” Williams said. “I thought it was pretty neat that they were the people that helped him, and that’s what really got me into the field.”

Then Williams attended Southwestern College and earned his bachelor’s degree in nursing. He also picked up his EMT certification and is double certified.

Williams had a rehearsed game plan, and each member of his team carries a specific role for the actual event.

“We provide assistance with any medial emergency,” Williams said. “We have a 30-person medical support team. We would assist if there was motor vehicles crash or if a tent would blow down, for example.”

Butler County Emergency Management routinely covers concerts, parades and any large events that bring crowds to Butler County. But the location of this event carried some unique challenges for Williams and his crew.

“Of course, the remote area is challenging,” Williams said. “The distance is also challenging. The gate to the parking lot is a long distance. The weather changes in an open field can be concerning as well.”

Williams enjoyed the sounds of the symphony as he moved from point to point, checking on his team.

“I enjoy the people that came to enjoy the scenery,” Williams said. “To see other people’s faces light up is all worth it.”

When the emergency management group works an event, time is of the utmost importance.

Moving at a moment’s notice to the aid of a human being takes a composed individual. Coming face to face with life-or-death situations can add extreme stress in this line of work. But for Williams, this is what really makes this job unique.

“The ability to touch people’s lives in their worst day,” Williams said. “To be there to help, that is what is truly special to me.”

Williams stands out among his peers. In 1999, Williams earned the Exceptional Duty Medal for his service to Butler County.

One year later, he was awarded the EMS Medal of Honor for a rescue at El Dorado Lake with a gentleman that was disoriented on a boat one night. Williams’ team had to chase the man down by boat.

“There was a team of four,” Williams said. “We had to board the boat to control the boat. The man did not know we were trying to help him.”

Williams is proud to have earned these awards, yet humble enough to realize that it takes a dedicated team to achieve success.

“They (awards) reflected directly the support system I have,” Williams said. “It can’t be done by an individual, period. It’s the support from the equipment all the way up to my partner next to me. Sometimes I don’t even have to speak with them, it just naturally flow.”

It’s a collective effort to keep the safety at a large outdoor event.

“I enjoy the camaraderie and teamwork,” Williams said. This job can’t be done by one individual.”

— Spencer O’Daniel