Getting a flu shot in Tustin on Oct. 26 was as easy as driving into Columbus Tustin Park Gymnasium’s parking lot. Not only was it free, but residents didn’t even have to get out of their cars.
The reason? Emergency preparedness.
“One of the goals is to exercise the Incident Command System with various partners, law enforcement, the city staff, county health,” said Orange County Fire Authority Battalion Chief Ron Roberts, one of the unified commanders at the Tustin “Point of Dispensing” Flu Shot Exercise, a coordinated effort between the Tustin Police Department, Orange County Fire Authority and OC Health Care Agency.
Every year, the OC Health Care Agency coordinates with two cities at one of their designated PODs – a distribution point for medication, inoculation or other necessities during an emergency such as a pandemic or natural disaster – to offer the public free flu shots. The city and health agency then can test how the process of dispensing medication would work in an emergency.
“Flu season usually starts in October,” said Tricia Landquist, health information specialist at the OC Health Care Agency. “It’s a great way for cities to participate to help test their emergency response.”
The Tustin POD event offered both drive-thru and walk-up flu shot distribution. Residents driving up to the parking area were immediately directed by attendants to strategically placed tents. They were asked whether they wanted to drive up or walk in for their shot, and were directed depending on their answer. Walk-ins parked and were directed to check-in and then the gym for their shot. Drive-thrus kept going to the next tent for registration and the flu shot itself.
“If somebody needs it, we can push them through in a minute or so if it’s not busy,” said TPD Sgt. Sean Whiteley. “People with disabilities that don’t have the ability to get out of the car … they can just remain in their cars and drive right on through.”
The POD Exercise, which was a first for the TPD, required much in the way of logistics, planning and coordination — especially considering the POD is located next to Columbus Tustin Middle School, which happened to be having a half-day, meaning school (and accompanying traffic) let out in the middle of the 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. event. But that is precisely the point of such an exercise – to prepare for the unexpected.
“This is real-world,” said Whiteley. “If it was going on … we couldn’t choose the day or time.
“This would have to come together really quickly if it was a real pandemic.”
Whiteley estimated about 100 people worked the event, including members of the TPD, OCFA, Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) volunteers and Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) volunteers. Members of the Orange Police Department also were at the event in order to observe it for their own training purposes.
An important part of the exercise is the evaluation. There would be a “hot wash,” or debriefing, following the event, said Whiteley.
“We’ll talk about it here and then we’ll do an After-Action Report,” he said, adding that they will find out what went right and/or wrong. “It’s always nice to [learn]what we can do better.”
Tustin Mayor Dr. Allan Bernstein, who got his own flu shot, attended the event “to observe how efficiently our emergency services are delivered here today… And an added benefit is if you [want]a flu shot, you can come and get one for free.
“If Tustin Police Department’s involved, they’re going to bring the latest and greatest.”