Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Response staffer and Lakeland Warehouse Manager Daryl Knighton has this to say about this job: “The wind is not our friend!”
One morning in summer 2021, Daryl and his logistics colleagues were setting up a COVID-19 vaccine event outside Brooklyn Park City Hall when the wind arrived. Staff hurriedly threw down extra sandbags to secure the 10' X 10' canopy tents, but they weren’t quick enough. Some tents began blowing across the parking lot, and a chase ensued.
Staff ultimately recovered the items, and the vaccine event began on time.
“Logistics is hectic. It’s a lot of running around. It’s not glorious,” Daryl says, in retrospect. “But I like to feel useful and it’s a lot of fun. It’s always different. It keeps me on my toes.”
Daryl KnightonLogistics is hectic … But I like to feel useful and it’s a lot of fun. It’s always different. It keeps me on my toes.
Brooklyn Park’s Lakeland Warehouse, where Daryl works, was formerly a roller-skating rink. The rink walls are still there, and an old mural depicts a tiger in a “Sk8land” convertible.
Juxtaposed with the skate memorabilia are shelves with items staff need to respond to public health emergencies — face masks, nitrile gloves, eye protection, disinfectant sprays, signage, generators, and inflatable drive-thru structures. In addition to Hennepin County Public Health’s emergency response assets, the warehouse also houses similar supplies for Hennepin County Medical Center and for county departments like Workplace Safety and Facility Services.
Staff commonly organize items for COVID-19 testing and vaccine events into kits to ensure accuracy and expedite their deployment. But Daryl and other logisticians do more than create and deliver kits and set up sites. They also identify whether a potential space might make a good site in the first place — whether it has large enough capacity, meets ADA requirements, and is in a location that works for the community.
“We look at hundreds of locations across Hennepin County to identify sites that community members can easily access through personal or public transportation,” says Jeff Shaw, Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Response logistics expert. “We also work to ensure that these are places where people feel safe and comfortable. For example, we partner with mosques, temples, churches, schools, and community centers to hold events.”
Daryl and team
Since January 2020 the Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Response logistics team has made a critical impact on the county’s COVID-19 response. They’ve supported 187 testing events at long term care facilities and at sites that are open to the public. They’ve also supported 516 vaccine events where 35,676 people have received 71,845 vaccines. Many times, they’ve run two or three vaccine events in a single day. Daryl estimates that they’ve driven nearly 30,000 miles all over the county.
They’ve done all this work in less-than-ideal weather conditions – rain, snow, slush and – let’s not forget — wind.
With a sigh, Daryl recounts another wind story. In April 2022, an 800-pound inflatable drive-thru structure for a vaccine event got loose in some heavy gusts. It went partially over the fence of a volunteer firefighter, who lived next door. Daryl, Jeff, their colleague Wyatt – and the firefighter -- secured the inflatable with extra spikes and sandbags, and the vaccine event went on as planned, the following morning.
Although the wind speed had been high, it was still below the structure’s rating, so Jeff contacted the supplier to discuss. The supplier was impressed with the team’s idea of adding a larger washer to the spikes to prevent it from slipping off and may change their design.
“Logistics requires a lot of ‘out of the box’ solutions and creativity,” Jeff says.
Daryl agrees. “Logistics is never boring,” he says. “They call – we haul. But I’m proud that we can respond to public health emergencies and play a part in keeping the community safe and healthy.”
Written by: Lori Imsdahl