The City of Santa Clarita, the L.A. County Department of Public Health and College of the Canyons along with the L.A. County Sheriff and Fire Departments, will be conducting a community flu immunization Point of Dispensing (POD) on Friday, Oct. 29, 2010. This is the fifth consecutive year that such an event will be held, although this year the drive-thru will be replaced by a walk-through model.
The flu-immunization POD will be conducted in the West Physical Education building on the College of the Canyons Valencia campus located off Rockwell Canyon Road. Parking will be in adjacent lots and vaccine will be dispensed from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., or as long as the vaccine lasts.
Inoculations against the seasonal flu at the POD are provided free of charge and will be dispensed at this event in anticipation of an active flu season. Anyone seeking flu immunization at the POD are reminded to leave their pets at home (with the exception of guide dogs) since they are not allowed on the College of the Canyons campus and their presence in a location where immunizations are being administered is inappropriate.
While the drive-thru concept proved to be very successful in past years, the main reason the vaccine is administered is to test the Cities Readiness Initiative (CRI) response during a bioterrorism attack and help prepare for our community’s response to a potential pandemic. The purpose of the CRI plan is to treat an impacted, mass population with medications within a short time period. Under the plan, communities are challenged to develop a variety of models through which vaccines can be distributed to mass populations. These “points of dispensing” can take many forms.
“The Flu POD not only provides a viable way for people to safeguard themselves against the flu season,” said Santa Clarita mayor, Laurene Weste, “but it also gives the community an important opportunity to practice preparedness on many levels.”
Organizers of the local POD, which occurs each year at College of the Canyons, are confident in their ability to handle the drive-thru model and, this year, have decided to go with a “walk-through” model in order to perfect that system. In the case of an actual need to inoculate an entire community, it is likely that both models would be activated in order to inoculate as many people as possible in the shortest amount of time.
The POD is designed to operate under a command structure required by the Standardized Emergency Management System (SEMS) and the National Incident Management System (NIMS), which have been established to provide effective management of multi-agency and multi-jurisdictional emergencies in California. Police, fire and other first responder agencies use SEMS/NIMS procedures regularly because the system improves coordination and communications and reduces resource duplication during complex responses. The theory is that with more agencies and volunteers learning the specifics of SEMS/NIMS, the more efficient all complex response activities will become.
Each year, additional volunteers are brought into the organizational structure of the POD to learn the responsibilities of various key positions. As a result, more people are trained each year to assume the various responsibilities within the emergency structure. The hope is to develop a pool of people within the community who can step in and run multiple PODs if a future situation were to warrant that. More than 150 volunteers from the participating agencies help coordinate the event each year.
“It is amazing how creative and dedicated all of the volunteers are in making sure this event runs smoothly and I am impressed with how much we learn every year that is extremely useful,” said Michael Joslin, the college’s dean of student services as well as the POD incident commander for the second consecutive year. “I am interested in seeing how well a walk-through model works and how many people we can serve in a relatively short amount of time.”
“The planning and implementation of the flu POD fosters cooperation and communication between agencies that otherwise don’t often work together,” stressed Joslin, “and who need to be able to coordinate their responses in the event of a large scale emergency.”
The college’s Valencia campus is conveniently located near freeways and major arteries so that, in a real world bioterrorism event, large numbers of people could be inoculated very efficiently.
College of the Canyons nursing students will administer most of the immunizations and students from the EMT program are an important part of the screening process prior to vaccine being administered. Both groups gain valuable, real world experience from the POD.
In addition, nurses from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, the college and volunteer nurses are on hand to lend their knowledge and expertise to the POD. Numerous City of Santa Clarita staff, the City’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) volunteers as well as City of Santa Clarita’s Emergency Communication Team volunteers will also participate.
In the event of a large outbreak of disease or a regional terrorist attack, many sites similar to this one in Santa Clarita would be needed to serve the needs of California communities.
According to public health officials, over the last four years the Santa Clarita flu PODs have ranked among the best in all of California.
The number of flu immunizations administered each year depends on the availability of seasonal flu vaccine.