If you’re a local and you received a COVID-19 vaccine shot and a subsequent booster sometime during the past two years, you’re likely to be familiar with Bainbridge Prepares, the island non-profit that organized and staged a whole bevy of clinics over several months during 2021 and 2022.
The organization was started in 2011 by islander Scott James and now works in partnership with the Bainbridge Island Fire Department and the City of Bainbridge Island. BP and its two sister entities were recently awarded the top honor for emergency management work at the 70th International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) Annual Conference held in Savannah, GA.
The Awards & Recognition Committee of IAEM-USA selected Bainbridge Prepares as the winner of its 2022 Emergency Management Voluntary Organization of the Year Award. There to pick up the hardware in Georgia were James, along Anne LeSage (City of Bainbridge Island Emergency Coordinator), and Jared Moravec (Bainbridge Island Fire Department Deputy Fire Chief)
The honor is presented to one U.S. voluntary organization that “during the year made extraordinary emergency management contributions within the United States.” The BP partnership was also a recipient of the 2021 Bainbridge Community Foundation Humanitarian Award for its work during COVID.
“It was unexpected and very kind of them,” says James, author of the book, “Prepared Neighborhoods – Creating Resilience One Street at a Time,” of the national recognition. “They are very forward thinking folks. It was fun meeting (emergency management) people from around the world.”
IAEM-USA, the nation’s largest emergency management professional association, is a non-profit representing more than 5,000 emergency management and homeland security professionals for local communities, state and federal disaster officials, private sector and non-governmental organizations involved in preparing for, responding to, and recovering from all types of disasters, including acts of terrorism.
In brief remarks to the conference while accepting the award, James challenged the association to attract more citizen participation at future conferences. “I would like to come back in five years and see (the number of) attendees doubled,” he told the gathering. “Our model doesn’t work without citizen involvement.”
The IAEM award was announced in October, specifically in recognition of BP’s work during COVID to vaccinate citizens. During the height of the Pandemic and throughout, BP—in partnership with COBI, BIFD, and the BI Community Pharmacy—helped facilitate and operate more than 88 vaccination clinics administering upwards of 38,000 vaccines. More than 500 of BP’s 650-plus volunteers participated in 2021 alone, helping out with the vaccine clinics and community-based COVID testing site(s).
People came from all over the county and beyond to get vaccinated at the through-put clinics (many of which were held at Commodore Options School) because, in the words of IAEM, “they were well-organized and more easily accessible than some of the clinics in other neighboring communities.” Vaccine clinics were held almost weekly from January to June of 2021, and then booster clinics were held in the fall of 2021 and in 2022 as well.
“We have a unique partnership,” James explains. “The nonprofit (BP), the Fire Department and the City (working together), that’s where the magic sauce begins.” James was on the board of directors of Sustainable Bainbridge a decade or so ago when he saw a need for an organization like Bainbridge Prepares. “There was nothing focused on neighborhoods or (any acknowledgement) of the fact that we live in an earthquake zone… The only solution (James saw) was to get normal citizens involved.”
Today, BP has a number of so-called “Disaster Hubs” scattered around the island in places like Battle Point Park, the Senior Community Center, Bloedel Reserve and other spots where islanders could go in the event of a major disaster – like a devastating earthquake. The hubs are aimed at providing medical care and information sharing. “It was a huge lift to get the equipment (in place) and the volunteers trained up (for the hubs),” James recalls. For the vaccine clinics and testing sites, BP has relied on close to 70 percent of its volunteers to pitch in. This help includes not only doctors and nurses administering the shots, but volunteers taking information from the public, organizing lines and handling parking, along with assembling and breaking down tables and chairs at places like Commodore Options School, or the Senior Center.
“I accepted the award (for BP),” James says, “but it’s really on behalf of the (nearly) 700 volunteers we have. I’m thrilled to live in this town (Bainbridge Island). The volunteer rate is just crazy high!” For more information on Bainbridge Prepares visit: https://bainbridgeprepares.org/