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Sanibel-Captiva chapter of Medical Reserve Corps added

By Staff | Mar 26, 2009

Volunteers of the Southwest Florida Medical Reserve Corps (SWFL MRC) from Sanibel and Captiva are meeting regularly to organize a Medical Reserve Corps chapter to provide disaster response services specific to the islands.

The SWFL MRC is developing a number of chapters to serve local communities, primarily to staff Points of Distribution (POD) for medication and/or immunization in the event of pandemic flu or biological terrorism. Pandemic avian flu is a virtual certainty sometime in the future, at which time the SWFL MRC will receive antiviral medication and vaccines from the Strategic National Stockpile, a federal repository of emergency medications. These medications will then be distributed to the general population at a local POD.

The Sanibel-Captiva chapter is led by Michael Derechin, MD, and Debra Gary, RN, PhD, the coordinator of the SWFL MRC. A small planning group of both seasonal and permanent residents is developing guidelines for POD set up, as well as a possible alternative medical care site for people who are ill, but who could be treated outside a hospital setting.

The chapter will also be coordinating its work with Sanibel police and fire first responders, and community emergency response team (CERT), to provide service for other types of disasters as well. Volunteers would work together with these groups, as well as others such as F.I.S.H., in the event of a hurricane emergency.

The SWFL MRC, led by medical director and Sanibel resident Pat Santucci, MD, completed a successful practice POD exercise at The Sanibel School in April 2008. The local chapter will continue similar POD exercises in the future, both for high-season and summer populations.

Our SWFL MRC is just one of about 800 such groups nationwide, with over 150,000 participating volunteers. The national MRC organization, under the Surgeon General’s Office, was developed post-9/11, and has had a rather low profile, both nationally and locally. The local groups usually are organized by county health departments, and provide training for volunteers to respond to disasters. The local groups can also be deployed outside their areas as part of a national response – some SWFL members helped following hurricane Katrina. Volunteers – medical and non-medical – are provided with orientation and may participate in some mock-disaster exercises, such as POD exercises. Volunteers may participate as little or much as they wish, with no mandatory expectations.

A primary reason for the MRC program is to have an organized disaster response, rather than a chaotic rush of volunteers following a disaster. (MRC volunteers are credentialed, are issued ID badges, and are trained in effective disaster response methods.)

Volunteers are still needed for the San-Cap chapter and SWFL MRC, and a medical background is not necessary. Contact Debra Gary at 239-542-4887.

Volunteers are also needed for Sanibel’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), which works closely with EMT, fire, and police first responders.