During COVID-19 Crisis, It’s All Hands on Deck for Orange County
With the coronavirus disrupting just about every aspect of our daily lives, Orange County Government has gone into overdrive to keep residents both safe and informed. In order to do this, County employees are being dispatched to other departments to assist with certain emergency functions.
“When activated during an emergency, Orange County has different emergency support functions that work together,” said Jon Weiss, P.E., director, Orange County Planning, Environmental and Development Services Department. “Much of the work pertains to crisis assistance hotline and health services support with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) disbursement, but early on in this pandemic, there were significant efforts to find ways to keep our businesses running with the looming closure of County buildings.”
On March 29, Disaster Health Services Manager Todd Stalbaum, reached out to the Environmental Protection Division (EPD), requesting three members of its “People with Special Needs Shelter Transport Team” be assigned to work at the Health Services warehouse. Health Services staff members who normally worked there had been sent home to quarantine. The situation was urgent, as the warehouse was the point of distribution for key medical supplies and PPE for hospitals to respond to COVID-19.
“EPD was asked to assist because its staff is the best trained in Health Services warehouse operations,” said Stalbaum. “In fact, several of the Shelter Transport Team members had received forklift training in order to better support emergency support functions for hurricanes.”
Three EPD staff members – Christian Visscher, Aman Hayre, and Ryan Lallbeharry – volunteered to assist at the warehouse and all worked there from March 30 through April 17, including multiple weekends. “Their invaluable assistance has allowed us to continue to service the healthcare facilities through this very difficult time,” said Stalbaum.
Visscher, a senior environmental specialist, remembers being asked to assist in order to keep the receiving and distribution going in the absence of the Health Services team. This entailed receiving shipments of PPE, organizing, filling orders and handing out PPE to care facilities coming to the warehouse.
“It all had to be carefully tracked and documented,” he said. “I was fortunate to have Ryan and Aman. Their diligent efforts and voluntary dedication was invaluable, as was the assistance of other volunteers from Animal Services and Mosquito Control who also helped out at the warehouse.”
This kind of all-hands-on-deck approach has been prevalent across Orange County operations. Critical supplies have been distributed to hundreds of agencies across the County thanks to staff members answering the call.
Parks and Recreation has also stepped up, with 59 staff members from 11 sites assisting with Crisis Assistance Rental calls, fielding roughly 25,000 calls in English, Spanish and Creole, at several of their locations including Barnett Park, Marks Street Senior Recreation Complex and Meadow Woods Recreation Center.
“It’s always a group effort here, and it feels good to know the management team cares and goes out of their way to make sure you have everything you need,” said Visscher. “I’m proud we were able to get the job done and worked so well together. It was a great sense of accomplishment.”
Photo cutline: Orange County Parks & Recreation employees pictured at Barnett Park where they helped with the County’s Rental Assistance Line.