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Employee perspective: Why I volunteered to support COVID-19 vaccination efforts [VIDEO]


CALIFORNIA—The pandemic of 2020 changed all our lives in so many ways. It affects all of us. It never gets tired of us, no matter how much we want to be tired of talking, thinking and reacting to COVID-19. However, we are fighting back against this deadly virus. The USDA Forest Service is working in communities across the country to vaccinate individuals who come seeking protection from this threat.

FS employee giving a vaccine shot
Hannah Nadeau administering a COVID-19 vaccination at the Oakland , California, vaccine site. USDA Forest Service photo.

I am Hannah Nadeau, a USDA Forest Service law enforcement officer with the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest and Thunder Basin National Grassland. I volunteered to make a difference in the community where I work. My forest, as well as my law enforcement chain of command, sent out a message stating there was a need for Emergency Medical Technicians for a mission to help with vaccine deployment, and they were hoping law enforcement officers who also happen to be EMTs could go and assist. I saw this as a unique opportunity to do something different than I usually do and use my skills and knowledge in an impactful way. I also had the support of my supervisor, who encouraged me to take this opportunity.

This is an awesome opportunity because the Forest Service is very much a part of the communities we serve. Our motto is “Caring for the land and serving people,” and I think this is a unique opportunity to serve people. The Forest Service brings a lot to the table when it comes to challenging adversities and we have deployed to many disasters including, of course, wildfires and hurricanes. This is unique, and we have all globally suffered in our own ways during this pandemic—but because the Forest Service has the qualified and skilled employees that we do, we are able to bring our own unique skills back to the American community in these challenging times. Seeing so many grateful people who are excited to get their vaccine reminds me how important this mission is as we progress together as Americans toward recovery and the future. It’s also incredible to see all these federal, state and local agencies come together for a common goal.

Cars waiting for vaccination
The massive Oakland, California, vaccine site is hosting drive-through vaccinations. USDA Forest Service photo.
Cars waiting in line for vaccination

Here in Oakland, California, we have a Federal Emergency Management Agency organized site, with coordination from the Forest Service, National Park Service, United States Department of Health and Human Services, other federal agencies and California agencies. It’s basically running like an incident with an Incident Management Team. The team is comprised of an incident commander who oversees an organized group of people who have specific responsibilities, and we all work together to achieve a specific goal. It’s very organized and integrated and the Forest Service is very skilled at working in this manner. We have over eight squads of EMTs set up. I’m on a squad with five Forest Service firefighters and other employees from Region 5, plus five California Fire firefighters. We are paired up with another squad in a large drive-through canopy, where we vaccinate people as they drive up. We screen the patients to make sure they are safe to receive the vaccine, then we vaccinate them. I’ve been paired up with a firefighter off the El Dorado National Forest and we’ve been training new EMT resources as they arrive also. In addition, we’ve had nurses assisting our EMT squads. I am so proud to say the Forest Service is shining here. Incident response is something we are good at and it shows. We’ve adapted quickly to changes, presented solutions to challenging dynamics, and formed teams quickly and effectively. The incident management team quickly realized the capabilities of our employees and has so far been utilizing Forest Service expertise as much as they can.

FS employee providing vaccines

While I have been working here in Oakland, I’ve been so appreciative of the diversity and knowledge of my fellow employees. We have many different skill sets but are all here for one common goal. I know many of us had a long and exhausting fire season last year and are already staring down the barrel of the next season with many of us being away from home, but this is a worthy endeavor that we are proud to be a part of.

This is an amazing experience, and we are potentially going to be needing a lot more EMTs to fill resource orders across the country as more sites continue to open. It’s long days on your feet! So far we’ve been getting at least 12 hours a day, but it’s definitely worth it! We have now been able to vaccinate over 6,000 people at our site each day this weekend. We’ve had a lot of challenges, but overall, it’s been great!

For more photos from the Oakland site, check out the Flickr gallery.

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