|By Debbie Gardner|
WILBRAHAM What's your personal response to an emergency situation?
Do you look to others for help, or are you the kind of person who rolls up his or her sleeves to pitch in and do what you can?
If your response it the latter, the Wilbraham Medical Reserve Corps would like to invite you to consider joining their ranks.
Founded in December 2006, this all-volunteer disaster response unit is looking to recruit and train 100 townspeople to offer aid to fellow citizens in the face of any large-scale disaster or emergency, from widespread flooding to the release of toxic fumes during a train derailment to an outbreak of a communicable disease such as meningitis or hepatitis.
Individuals need not have medical training to be part of the Corps, and there is no age limit for volunteers.
"We have a slogan, 'A prepared community is a calm community,'" Wilbraham Medical Reserve Corps Coordinator and town firefighter/EMT Lisa Carney told Reminder Publications during an interview about the new Corps. "We'll never be able to take the inconvenience out of a disaster, but if people are trained and informed, they can weather it better."
About the Medical Reserve Corps
Though new to Wilbraham, Carney said the concept of a civilian-based medical reserve corps is linked back to the 9/11 disaster in New York City.
"It's an offshoot of the Citizen Corps," she said.
Information on the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) Web site (www.medicalreservecorps.gov) indicates the non-profit volunteer agency was created in response to the call President Bush made for Americans to volunteer to support their country during his 2002 State of the Union address. The MRC, which is sponsored by the Office of the U.S. Surgeon General, joins the Citizen Corps, AmeriCorps, SeniorCorps and Peace Corps as part of the President's USA Freedom Corps.
According to the Web site, MRC units are "community-based and function as a way to organize and utilize volunteers who want to donate their time and expertise to prepare for and respond to emergencies and promote healthy living throughout the year."
According to the background information on the MRC, the role of these volunteers is to supplement, not replace, existing emergency and public health resources in local communities (www.medicalreservecoprs.gov/About).
To date there are 685 MRC units manned by 123,880 volunteers nationwide.
Wilbraham needs you
"We have 40 [volunteers] that are in the process of being approved[through background checks], and four who are working as the advisory board," said Carney, who added that most of the volunteers so far have medical backgrounds, and only a handful are civilians.
"That's actually where the greatest need is," Carney said of the civilian volunteers. "For every one medical volunteer, we'd like to have seven non-medical personnel," she said.
Carney said beyond medical needs, "there's a lot of paperwork in a disaster. You need people to keep track of who's going through shelters, to man information lines . there's a lot of logistical work."
She said the goal is for the town to have at least 100 trained Medical Corps volunteers to call upon in an emergency or disaster.
"If something happens, the medical professionals first response will be to their jobs," she said, noting that many have indicated they have jobs at Mercy Hospital and Baystate Medical Center.
With 100 volunteers to call upon, she hopes "one-third" would be available for an actual disaster."
Are you good with pets, or kids?
Carney said one of the volunteer niches she's working hard to fill is animal assistance.
"We're looking for people with animal experience," she said. "When [Hurricane] Katrina happened, a lot of people had pets . the Red Cross doesn't accept pets [in their shelters]."
She's looking to be prepared to set up a shelter for people with pets should a disaster hit Wilbraham.
She's also looking for volunteers whose expertise could help with large groups of children, or offer assistance to displaced elderly residents.
You'll be trained
Carney said that all volunteers for the Wilbraham Medical Reserve Corps will receive training in 10 MRC core competencies as well as the town's incident management system, modeled on the fire service's chain of command disaster plan.
Among those core competencies are requirements that all volunteers assemble personal disaster kits and plan and implement family disaster plans, which Carney said volunteers are working on this summer while waiting for their required CORI (criminal records check) and SORI (sexual assault records check) background checks to be completed.
For more information
Carney said the next scheduled meeting of the Wilbraham Medical Reserve Corps will take place in September, but persons interested in signing up or getting more information about the Corps can contact her by phone at 413-364-1805 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
Family disaster plan brochures
Carney also said that the Wilbraham MRC already has copies of brochures outlining how to create a family disaster plan which are available for residents.
To get a copy contact Claudia Considine at the Wilbraham Senior Center at 596-8379.