Olympia Host Lions and the Thurston County Health Department have teamed up to provide a new model of emergency readiness for this area.
Thurston County Department of Public Health and Social Services has been working for months on a readiness plan for public health emergencies and now has enlisted the help of local Lions to put their plan into action.
"We know that that natural disasters or a large disease outbreak is a real possibility and we intend to be as prepared as humanly possible. That preparation includes being ready to vaccinate or dispense medications to thousands of people in a really short period of time," Thurston County Health Officer Diana Yu reports.
According to Yu, the county has a well-established medical corps they can call on in an emergency, but didn't know how they were going to support those nurses and doctors so they could work efficiently.
To provide those support services, the county turned to the Olympia Host Lions Club. The Lions will now provide volunteers for emergency call-up to handle parking, give directions, assist with paperwork and help people get the information they need.
"We are feeling our way as to what is needed and how we can best help, but we are glad to be a part of our county readiness team," Olympia Host Lions president Carl Corbin notes. According to Corbin, the Lions are a natural for this kind of work because they have a strong communication link to their members and are already skilled at working together.
"One of the Lions' strengths is our ability to respond quickly to community needs. Working with the county will give us a great opportunity to demonstrate the Lions motto "We Serve," Corbin says.
Olympia Host Lions have already begun expanding the pool of volunteers to include all of the eleven Lions Clubs in Thurston County . Lions from clubs in Yelm, Lacey, and Olympia were invited to take part in back to school vaccination clinics in Olympia and Yelm recently in order to get initial training in clinic operations.
Clinics to provide "back-to-school" vaccinations were held in Yelm and Olympia , with the help from Lions volunteers. In the past such clinics were run with three to four staff, just enough to give the necessary shots. This year's clinics were staffed at a higher level, pulling in staff and Lions volunteers that would not have been involved normally.
"We took advantage of the back to school clinics to show a greater number of staff and the volunteers how a large clinic might be set up," said Sammy Berg, an Emergency Preparedness Planner for the department. "The stations, procedures, and training used this time would be the same for an emergency. Whether giving shots, providing antibiotics, or even handing out $2000 debit cards to evacuees, the steps and people needed to move very large numbers of people through the process are very similar. Large numbers of volunteers will be needed and they will have to come from the community if the clinic is going to happen in a timely manner."
The Lions say they are up to the challenge with nearly 1.4 million members in 194 countries. Lions are the largest service club in the world. For information on how you can be a part of this Lions Club effort, contact Olympia Host Lions at 867-0260 or 357-7085.