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Grant sustains Medical Reserve Corps

Date: 5/3/2013

By Carley Dangona

WEST SPRINGFIELD — The West Springfield Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) has been a source of help during recent natural disasters. MRC promotes disaster preparedness training throughout the region because its volunteers believe the key to going through unexpected plight is to have a plan in case of emergency.

Most recently, the organization is the recipient of a $4,000 National Association of City and County Health Officials (NACCHO) grant will help sustain its operations.

Since 2011, the town has suffered the June 1, 2011 tornado; the Oct. 1, 2011 snowstorm; Hurricane Irene in 2012 and a train derailment in February. In all instances, the MRC was on-hand to assist the community.

"Without the grants, I don't think we'd be able to sustain our operations," Kathleen Conley Norbut, the West Springfield MRC coordinator, said. "Our success depends on the good will of our volunteers, community members and town employees."

On its website, it states, "The Western Massachusetts MRC is a coalition of 17 units serving the Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden and Hampshire counties and their 101 cities and towns."

According to the group, the MRC was established under the U.S. Surgeon General after 9/11. It stated, "The mission of the MRC is to build healthy and resilient communities. The MRC works closely with public health departments, public safety and first responders."

MRC consists of volunteers with and without medical backgrounds who provide aid in the forms of temporary shelters and disaster preparedness instruction to the community. The NACCHO grants will enable the group to purchase shelter amenities as well as identifying T-shirts and vests for its volunteers that clearly indicate to the public who is able to assist in times of need.

Norbut said that the key to enduring a disaster is to be prepared. "Understanding how it works helps reduce the trauma and the terror," she stated. She added that it is helpful to network with friends, family and neighbors so that they can assist each other when needed.

MRC promotes the use of "go-kits," which are small, transportable kits that include vital necessities such as personal information and medications. It also teaches residents how to assemble 72-hour kits that provide for basic needs with things such as flashlights and bandages.

MRC will host "Let's Make a Plan!" on May 15 from 1 to 3 p.m. in the West Springfield Municipal Office Building, located at 26 Central St. The event is free and open to the public. For more info or to register, contact Norbut at

The event is an emergency preparedness seminar that will teach participants about the basic operations of emergency response and what they can do to protect themselves, their family, businesses and the community.

For more information about MRC and its clinics, visit