Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Emergency Response and Preparedness

After five days of hearing about emergency preparedness and response at the Integrated Medical Public Health, Preparedness and Response Training Summit, I'm ready to go back to work and hit the ground running. I have my work cut out for me, and this conference fed me ideas and inspiration for how to move my own agenda forward in our town of 30,000.

People of all stripes flocked to this very well-organized first-of-its-kind summit, and we all rubbed shoulders and elbows in dozens of trainings pertaining to emergency response. With visits from the Deputy Surgeon General and other dignitaries, many words were shared about how the United States is now better prepared than ever in terms of having the capability to respond to disasters of many kinds.

As a new public health professional, many of these concepts are relatively new to me, and I certainly do not live and breathe these subjects as so many of my colleagues do. Still, as coordinator of a local chapter of the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC), it is my responsibility to make sure that our town's readiness to respond to public health emergencies is robust, and my primary goal at this point in time is to recruit members for our MRC, creating a body of credentialed and registered volunteers who can be mobilized at a moment's notice when the need arises, whether it be to vaccinate elders against the flu or staff a Red Cross shelter during a blizzard.

While "disaster" is one of the operative words in the preparedness world, many MRC's simply take part in activities that enhance the public health of their communities, and I'm striving to create an active and engaged MRC that does just that. The importance of volunteerism is one of the hallmarks of President Obama's overall message to the American people, and I plan to capitalize on that message as I take the gospel of the Medical Reserve Corps to medical practices, retirement communities, and civic organizations where interested people are just waiting for a way to give back.

I have many responsibilities in my job as a Public Health Nurse, and emergency preparedness is only one of the hats that adorn my head on a regular basis. This conference was certainly an eye-opener, and I hope that I can translate my new learning and inspiration into action on the ground and a new group of eager volunteers ready to do their part.
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