The confusion that reigned in the darkness of a night without electricity compounded the panic of locating missing loved ones in a landscape in which no recognizable landmark was left standing.
Emergency responders on site had little means of distinguishing the skilled and qualified volunteers from the morbidly curious.
Though on a smaller scale, the chaos and response was not unlike other catastrophic tragedies that have struck our country, including the9/11attacks.
In an effort to harness the resources offered by Americans willing to respond to 9/11, then PresidentGeorge W. Bushannounced the creation of the USA Freedom Corps — an opportunity for Americans to offer volunteer service in their communities — in his 2002 State of the Union address. And so it is that the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) is celebrating 10 years of service as one of several program branches within the “tree” of the USA Freedom Corps.
Our local MRC unit is an organization of both medical and non-medical volunteers that is sponsored by the Clark County Health Department. Because of the difficulty that exists during times of crisis to deploy qualified responders who are skilled and trained in the response management systems, the MRC identifies, trains and credentials volunteers for immediate deployment when needed.
Without this training in the National Incident Management System (NIMS), and the Incident Command System (ICS), which all professional responders must have, response time is wasted while volunteers are “brought up to speed.”
Though the initial mission of the MRC focused on responding quickly to local emergencies when medical resources are strained, the unit also supports public health initiatives within our community during non-emergency events. Our local unit has provided assistance, with vaccination clinics, Cooper-Clayton Smoking Cessation classes and even free rabies clinics.
The level of involvement by individual MRC members depends completely on their individual responsibilities, time constraints and interest or desire. However, because the ultimate goal is to be prepared to respond in times of need, all volunteers who join are strongly encouraged to take the basic NIMS and ICS training.
Anyone interested in joining or exploring an involvement with our Clark County Medical Reserve Corps may contact the unit leader, Jim Cowan, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling 744-1488. It is also possible to register online through KHELPS, a state-wide database communication system for facilitating the process of assigning and managing those who would like to offer assistance during public health emergencies. The KHELPS website is https://khelps.chfs.ky.gov.
However, the time to become involved and prepared is before the next life-threatening storm bears down so that everyone is adequately prepared to respond most effectively.