Senior citizens and retirees are especially invited to apply for membership in a volunteer organization that offers a second line of support during emergencies.
Now in its 11th year, the Oklahoma Medical Reserve Corps has more than 3,000 members in 76 counties, including professional health care providers who volunteer their time when necessary. Lay volunteers also are a key component of the organization.
“We also welcome volunteers of all ages and skill levels,” said Debi Wagner, state coordinator. “More than 40 percent of our volunteers have no medical training, and we need them every bit as much as we do our medical folks.”
The organization prepares for catastrophes such as tornadoes and floods, and man-made disasters that can include wildfires.
Health care professionals working together with nonmedical volunteers comprise the corps, which supplements first-responder emergency systems, Wagner said.
Disasters that could require mobilizing and deployment of reserve corps volunteers include explosions, biological and chemical threats and radiation hazards.
Some 125 volunteers are members of County Animal Response Teams, which provide care for livestock and pets after a disaster. Veterinarians and veterinary technicians are needed as volunteers.
Lucien and Barb Jones, who are in their 60s and live in Oklahoma City, have had a variety of roles as corps volunteers.
“While we do need doctors and nurses, remember that it takes three to four nonmedical people to support each doctor or nurse in these situations,” Lucien Jones said.
John Call, 64, is a clinical and forensic psychologist from Oklahoma City who said the corps “is designed to provide health care services to both survivors and first responders” of disasters.
Dallas Littledeer, 54, of Tulsa, recently participated in “Operation Rain Drop,” when vital medications were delivered to distribution sites during a widespread epidemic drill. He is a fluent Cherokee speaker.
Dr. Charles W. Olson Jr., 47, a volunteer from Drumright, had some advice about communicating during times of emergency.
“It's better to send a text message to your loved ones in a crisis. When the telephone lines are busy, you can send a simple text message such as ‘I'm OK, where are you?' and it has a better chance of communication … leaving the phone lines open for emergency services.” Communications are a key component of the corps, Wagner said. The organization has more than 100 amateur HAM radio operators and 532 volunteers who speak a second language.
There are many free training opportunities for the corps. An orientation is available online.
Classroom training is scheduled by county coordinators. Training partners include the University of Oklahoma College of Nursing, Oklahoma Institute for Disaster and Emergency Medicine, Oklahoma Poison Control Center and the American Red Cross. A two-day volunteer workshop is held annually in either Oklahoma City or Tulsa. Training is funded by grants from the Oklahoma Health Department and U.S. Surgeon General's office.
The medical reserve corps was founded after the 9/11 attacks in 2001 and the anthrax attacks that followed.
“These incidents clearly illustrated the need to have an organized way for medical professionals and other volunteers to respond to disasters,” Wagner said.
Reserve corps volunteers are involved in activities throughout the year, including emergency response training, immunization programs and blood drives.
To apply to become a volunteer, go to www.okmrc.org. There is a background check. Follow corps activities on Twitter @HealthyOklahoma or www.twitter.com/HealthyOklahoma.
For information about the corps, call Wagner at 271-0900 or 625-2956 or email email@example.com.