Residents lined up outside Westminster’s Community Services Building on the morning of Oct. 26 waiting for free flu shots.
But for Westminster PD and the city, the event had an even larger purpose: emergency preparedness.
Referred to as a “Point of Dispensing” Exercise, the flu shot event was part of an annual practice session for the OC Health Care Agency and two cities in the county that have a location selected for the exercise. The location is one that would operate as a POD during an emergency like a pandemic or earthquake where medication or other necessities can be distributed to the public.
“If there were an emergency, it would be a place where inoculations or pills or even commodities would be distributed,” said Julie A. MacDonald, health communications manager for the OC Health Care Agency. “We test that emergency planning system once a year in a couple of different areas.”
Running from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., residents were directed through a check-in/registration area before heading into the room where they could receive their shot. Though the event ran two hours, day-of preparation began that morning at 7 a.m.
And the reality is that planning goes on year-round, according to Drew Downing, community disaster manager for the OC Health Care Agency.
In fact, the WPD has an emergency preparedness employee dedicated to the planning and coordinating for this event, according to Commander Mark Lauderback.
The idea behind the event is to assess how the agency and city would respond in an emergency scenario.
“We’re giving out free shots and this is to help simulate this kind of a natural disaster,” Lauderback said. “It’s basically to see how it goes. See what goes right, see what goes wrong.”
And then make adjustments when necessary.
“A report will be generated so we can make those corrections,” he said.
The event is jointly planned with OC Healthy Care Agency, as well as the Orange County Fire Authority – which would all be involved in an actual emergency.
The group of approximately 100 health agency, city, police and fire employees, as well as volunteers worked their designated assignments, each individual wearing a colored vest – yellow, red, orange, blue and white.
“Each vest represents a function,” said MacDonald.
An organizational schematic on the wall listed the various assignments – a standard part of the national emergency system, MacDonald said.
Downing said funding for the POD events began after the 9/11 attacks and has continued since then. Because analyzing emergency response is one of the main goals, evaluators (in white vests) worked the event collecting information for the After-Action Report and Improvement Plan. The report must be completed within 90 days.
“We get to test all those disaster capabilities,” said Downing. “We’re not just doing the exercise, we’re planning this for going forward.”