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Health Department Teed Up for U.S. Open

June 17, 2015

Food and water safety, emergency preparedness are top priorities

TACOMA, Wash. – With the U.S. Open in town this week, it’s as if the entire population of the city of Tacoma and then some will go to University Place for a visit. In fact, the U.S. Golf Association expects 250,000 people to descend upon Chambers Bay June 15-21. This city-sized crowd will need city-sized services, including safe food, safe water and emergency preparedness — and Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department is there to help support a healthy experience for attendees.

The Health Department’s Environmental Health division is closely involved in event operations, including food establishment review and inspection, water supply safety, infrastructure planning and other details. And the Public Health Emergency Planning and Response (PHEPR) team would be activated in the event of a major public health threat.

The Health Department has worked with Pierce County, the County’s Department of Emergency Management, Tacoma Water, U.S. Open staff, U.S. Open contract vendors and others to support planning for the tournament.

“An event of this magnitude will focus the attention of the world on Pierce County,” said Director of Health Anthony L-T Chen, MD, MPH. “Success relies upon the collaboration and involvement on many community resources, and public health is a critical piece of that equation. We are pleased we have had the opportunity to be involved since the early stages to lay the foundation for a safe and healthy experience for our U.S. Open visitors,” said. Chen.

Rachel Knight, Food and Community Safety program manager, leads a team of a half-dozen strong that has worked onsite at Chambers Bay for weeks, ensuring that food stands are prepared to serve food safely to the throngs of visitors. And inspectors will check onsite food operations during the U.S. Open with some support from State Department of Health food safety staff. And the Food and Community Safety program will work with area restaurants off the course to ensure visitors patronizing restaurants all around the area will have a safe food experience.

Over the past several weeks, Brad Harp, Water Resources program manager, and his team coordinated with Tacoma Water staff to ensure a safe and reliable water supply to support kitchens, sanitation facilities and other venues where the public may come into contact with water. They inspected the site to determine that thousands of feet of new water lines connected to the hundreds of temporary facilities were properly installed. The two groups conducted a final walk-through at the site June 11 and signed off on the system. They will conduct spot checks during the event to ensure the delivery of a reliable and safe water supply.

In case of a large-scale emergency, such as a natural disaster, the Health Department’s PHEPR team has for months prepared with tabletop exercises, an electronic notification system, designation of staff for emergency-response roles and creation of incident action plans, a communications plan and safety plans.

“We don’t currently have reason to expect increased risks during the U.S. Open, but throughout our organization, we have planned ahead to be ready,” said Nigel Turner, Communicable Disease divisional director and project manager for the Health Department’s involvement at the event.

The Health Department’s Communicable Disease division also is involved, keeping on alert for disease outbreaks and coordinating with local hospital health system infection control staff.

Edie Jeffers, Communications Manager
(253) 798-2853, (253) 405-6822 (cell/text),

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