Concord Strengthening Its Emergency Response Programs
Medical Reserve Corps Forming, and Taking Mass Decontamination to Places Its Never Been Before
Medical Reserve Corps Forming
The Town of Concord is continuing to prepare for emergencies by forming a Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) within its Citizens Emergency Response Team (CERT). An informational meeting on will be held on January 17th at Noon, and then the same program again at 7 PM at the Ripley School Auditorium for anyone interested to learn more about the Medical Reserve Corps. Volunteer applications will be available at that meeting.
The mission of MRCs across the state is to, "...identify, prepare, and train a local team of medical and non-medical volunteers who will assist Emergency Response Professionals by contributing their skills, capabilities, and talents when called upon in times of community crisis or need." Concord MRC volunteers will supplement existing emergency and public health resources.
"We are looking for volunteers to help protect the health of our community," said Concord's Fire Chief and Emergency Management Director, Ken Willette. "Many of our neighboring towns have been developing their MRC programs for some time. We have built a lot of other initiatives in our strong emergency response programs, so it's now the MRC's time. I am glad to be working with Concord's Health Division, who will be a strong partner in this vital effort."
"Being new to Concord, I've been impressed with the strength of the Emergency Management programs here," said Brent Reagor, Concord's Public Health Administrator. "These programs are quite innovative and several steps above the average." Agreeing with Willette, he notes that development of the Concord Medical Reserve Corps "will further strengthen Concord's level of emergency preparedness, and therefore are a logical next step for CERT and Concord's Health Division.
The Concord CERT program is an all-volunteer group of citizens interested in helping their households, neighborhoods, workplaces, and community become more able to respond to all types of emergencies. CERT is part of the Concord Emergency Management Agency with Chief Willette serving as the agency's director. The MRC joins already-existing CERT programs, such as the emergency shelter and CARET amateur radio teams.
If you are interested in more information on the Concord Medical Reserve Corps, please call Brent Reagor, at (978) 318-3275 or email him at BReagor@concordma.gov.
Taking Mass Decontamination to Places Its Never Been Before
On November 18th, the Concord CERT team did something that's never been done before in Massachusetts: it ran a reception shelter in conjunction with Emerson Hospital following a Mass Decontamination Unit drill.
"Again, Concord has performed another 'first'", said Kenneth Willette, Concord's Fire Chief and Emergency Management Director. "The Concord CERT more than rose to the occasion and pulled off the drill with enthusiasm and energy. This first will become a new 'best practice' throughout the Commonwealth."
Willette points out that he already knew about the annual joint MDU exercise between the Town of Concord and Emerson hospital before he became Concord's Fire Chief, while he was still Wilbraham, MA's Chief. This was already considered to be the model recognized and copied throughout the Commonwealth.
This drill has been held annually for the past five years, jointly run by the Conncord Fire Department, Concord Emergency Management Agency (CEMA), and Emerson. In fact, these drills are required to be conducted annually in over 70 communities around the Commonwealth, but this is believed to be the first to include a reception shelter.
"In the past, these drills would end with the decontamination, triage and transportation of patients to the emergency department," said Willette. "In these earlier exercises, we had to work through those processes. This year we were ready for the next logical step, which was to add a reception shelter to the drill."
The need for a reception shelter is four-fold. First, after a decontamination washing, anyone who doesn't need medical care would otherwise be left standing in the Emerson Hospital parking lot wearing a thin paper suit and little else. Their clothing and other belongings -- including their cars -- might be contaminated and unable to be used. They need to be taken to a safe place where they can be given clothing, fed, kept warm, comforted, and put into contact with friends and family. The reception shelter took care of these needs.
Second, gathering registration information for victims who didn't end up being treated or admitted to the hospital in prior drills created a huge bottleneck, slowing down the ability of medical staff to quickly assess victims as they emerged from the "clean" end of the MDU tents. Busing these people to the reception shelter allowed them to be registered off the Emerson campus, unclogging the triage process.
Third, registration at the reception shelter helps fill what could be vital needs in the victims' ongoing medical care. Upon release from the shelter, victims are asked how they can be contacted, and this information is documented. Medical staff or public health officials can therefore provide individual follow-up should information later be learned that could impact these victims' health -- information that might not have been known as the actual emergency unfolded.
Fourth, knowing how to contact victims who had registered at the reception shelter, local law enforcement could follow up and interview the victims they consider to be witnesses, helping in their investigation into either the accident or crime that caused their exposure.
Another first for this drill was the involvement of CARET (Concord Amateur Radio Emergency Team), a group of local volunteer ham operators who function as a specialty resource as part of the CERT program. They provided communication between the shelter, the town Emergency Operations Center and the drill site at Emerson.
"The CERT ran a fine operation, even though it was their first time working in the MDU drill," Willette said. "We learned a lot through this process, and have every confidence that their participation helps make Concord more able to respond to the town's needs."
Anyone interested in learning more about these activities or who wishes to volunteer should contact the Debbie Bier, Concord's CERT Coordinator, at 978 318-3450, or email her at ConcordCERT@ConcordMA.gov.
Art Credits: Page designed by Windfall. All photos taken during the 2007 MDU Drill are courtesy of Richard Stevenson.