In the spring of 2020, communities across New York and the nation scrambled to find personal protective equipment and supplies as the coronavirus caught many unprepared to meet the demand. Now as the delta variant is causing a jump in cases, local emergency response leaders are finding themselves more prepared to meet the need for PPE.
Broome County’s battle with the COVID-19 pandemic has been led by Pat Dewing, the logistics section chief for the county’s emergency operation center. For over a year now, Dewing has worked to build a stockpile of PPE, which wasn’t always easy. As the pandemic progressed, he’s helped distribute more than a million items to various communities, but he knows this battle is far from over.
“[We have] over 800,000 items of PPE that we have stocked, just in case there becomes a need for it in the community,” said Dewing.
Items like hand sanitizer and COVID-19 testing kits remain readily available should cases continue to rise, especially as the threat of the delta variant grows.
For communities across the state, this pandemic has been a lesson in emergency response.
“We identified that early on, is that there needs to be a certain level of preparedness, and that preparedness was having some stockpile of PPE and supplies readily available should that need arise, especially when that need arises. The market becomes extremely volatile,” said Dewing.
Part of that preparedness comes with a new computer system that allows the county to track their PPE, and distribute as needed.
“From here, we determine if we can support their requests that came in, and if so, we task it to the warehouse crew, and the warehouse in real-time can take those supplies right out of our inventory,” said Dewing.
Thanks to the county’s quick response in getting supplies, they were able to move quickly into the vaccination process. The county's emergency operation center isn’t being used to house vaccines anymore, but when it did, it served thousands of Broome County residents.
The operation center played a role with the Broome County Health Department receiving national recognition with the National Gold Innovative Practice Award from the National Association of County and City Health Officials..
Today, Dewing is slowly transitioning back into his typical pre-pandemic role, but he knows that can change in a moment’s notice.
“It’s very strange to change focus from COVID all day, every day, to daily operations. It’s less of a transition for me since I’m still very involved with COVID, but the requests are much lower,” said Dewing.