Community Service Skills Benefit COVID-19 Response
This story is part of a series, Voices of the Emergency Operations Center.
It’s 7:00 a.m. and Michelle Hellstrom is already checking to see how many gloves and masks Tigard Police officers used on their overnight calls for service. It’s one of her critical jobs in the city’s Emergency Operations Center.
Her colleague, Brandon Petersen, keeps a close eye on the numbers, too. When personal protective equipment runs low, he’s in charge of reordering supplies and these days, that’s no easy task.
They are two of the countless people who have taken on extra duties during this crisis to help ensure city departments have the resources they need to continue their work.
"It’s nice to be able to see that we can do this, we can still function as a city even though it’s not the norm. We make do with what we have and we adapt," Hellstrom said. "It just shows how versatile we are as employees and as a city as a whole."
That’s especially true when you consider the work Hellstrom and Petersen do under normal circumstances.
As Community Service Officers with the Tigard Police Department, they respond to a variety of circumstances to keep police officers free for priority calls. For instance, they may handle cold theft reports, graffiti, abandoned vehicles, parking complaints or crashes where traffic control is needed. This year, they are also involved in overhauling the Residential Parking Permit Program, re-starting parking enforcement in Downtown Tigard and continuing to address parking concerns in neighborhoods around Tigard High School.
Now, they’re doing all that plus pitching in wherever they can with the Tigard EOC, whether it’s ordering supplies, refilling bottles of hand sanitizer or coordinating meals for on-site workers.
Community Service Officer Brandon Petersen stops by Tigard Public Works. Petersen’s role in the EOC is to reorder supplies. He’s working to track down items he didn’t used to need, like thermometers, disinfectant wipes and rain ponchos that can be used in place of protective gowns.
"They’re extremely valuable," said their supervisor, Sgt. Leigh Erickson. "Michelle’s attention to detail and organization and Brandon’s tenacity are well-suited for what they’re doing for us."
Petersen said he used to check on supplies on a monthly basis, but that has changed dramatically.
"I think it’s pretty much daily that I have to check the stock we have and re-supply the patrol supply room," Petersen said.
As first responders, police officers have a critical need for personal protective equipment as they respond to calls in the community and continue to keep us safe. But just like medical workers, police officers are running into shortages of the necessary equipment.
Petersen said he’s had to change suppliers, orders have been canceled and he’s working to track down items he didn’t used to need, like thermometers, disinfectant wipes and rain ponchos that can be used in place of protective gowns.
He’s finding that he must be creative and persistent in tracking down available supplies.
For instance, Petersen was recently driving by a local safety equipment store and decided to reach out to them on the off-chance they’d have N-95 masks for sale. It turns out they did.
"They called me about an hour later and said they had 160 of them for us. So, it’s being more creative and reaching out to people you wouldn’t otherwise think of," Petersen said. "Just looking around, seeing the sign for a business and thinking maybe I’ll give them a call."
Petersen and Hellstrom have also noticed more donations and thanks from the community pouring in during this difficult time.
While city buildings may be closed, they both take pride in the collective work happening behind the scenes in the community we know and love.
"It’s pretty cool to see everything come together," Hellstrom said of the EOC. "We all have to have our awareness up and have to be mindful of changing our norms and making sure we’re being cautious about disinfecting and everything else, but we are first responders and we already know that going into it. Today we may be exposed to COVID-19, but every day there are all sorts of things we can be exposed to that are just part of our job."