Medical Reserve Corps to hold orientation tonight

August 8, 2013

By Erin Hoffman

NEW — 8:20 a.m., Aug. 8, 2013

The Issaquah Medical Reserve Corps hosts an orientation for the King County Public Health Reserve Corps from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Aug. 8 at the King County Library Service Center 960 Newport Way N.W.

The corps is a national program under the Office of the Surgeon General. Communities across the country have units to aid with disaster relief and to educate the public about health emergency preparedness. The Issaquah and King County corps units are looking for volunteers trained in medical professions as well as support volunteers.

“Volunteers are not expected to do surgery or things like that,” said Dr. Brenda Bramwell, founder and former director of the Issaquah unit. “They can take care of families or comfort those who are getting fearful during a disaster.”

Dave Nichols, medical reserve workforce and deployment manager for King County Public Health, said the orientation is the first step in the process of becoming a volunteer. Prospective volunteers will get an overview and history of the medical reserve corps, learn about the legal protections offered to volunteers and talk about some of the projects the corps is working on. The orientation for both medical and nonmedical personnel is the same.

After the orientation, volunteers take online courses through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Once those courses are completed, the volunteers undergo a background check, are issued work numbers and receive their badges and vests. Volunteers must be ages 18 and older and be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.

Nichols said the total initial training, including orientation and online classes, takes about eight to nine hours. The Issaquah corps meets monthly, although attendance is not required.

“There is no annual amount of hours,” he said. “A large majority of our volunteers have jobs, and it can be hard for them to attend activities. We don’t hold that against them.”

Recently in Issaquah, the corps has helped with health surveys for King County, volunteered in Red Cross shelters and has set up booths at various state and health fairs.

“A lot of what we’re doing isn’t medical. It’s talking to people about their health,” Nichols said.

Another big part of the medical reserve corps is educating people about what it is, according to Denise Smith, who runs the Issaquah unit.

“A lot of people still don’t understand how it works or fits into the community,” Smith said.

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