Year-End Update: July To December 2012

Our unit kept up a brisk pace through service across the region during the last six months of this year. The table below summarizes our latest activities. Click on links in the table to see the story that describes each activity.

October 26 to 30
Sept. 20 to Nov. 14
Aug. 7 to Nov. 19
July to December
Notified Oct. 19

HURRICANE SANDY RESPONSE - Warnings of a weather emergency became increasingly dire for New England by October 26, 2012. Tropical Storm Sandy gained in intensity as it moved up the coast. The impact further north was predicted to be of historic proportions.

Communities across the Bay State began preparing for the worst. Emergency Operation Centers (EOCs) were activated throughout the Upper Merrimack Valley. Emergency Management directors collaborated with municipal services and local response partners, lining up resources and strategies to keep their towns safe.

Combined images reveal the enormity of the storm and the location of its eye as Hurricane Sandy moved northward.
Massive waves threatened coastal communities as the storm approached landfall along the east coast.

Reverse 9-1-1 communications were issued periodically to update area residents. The MA Dept. of Public Health shared frequent 'Health and Medical Situation Reports' with affiliates. MRC leaders advised their volunteers to take specific precautions. By the 27th, Governor Patrick had declared a state of emergency for Massachusetts. President Obama issued a 'Pre-Landfall Emergency Declaration for Direct Federal Assistance,' to protect those in MA from the effects of what became Hurricane Sandy.

A local photographer showed the storm surge flowing over Sargent's Wharf in Boston. (Photo offered via Bing.)
Westford's largest outdoor flag blew sideways against a slate gray sky at the height of the storm.

UMV MRC members were asked to monitor their e-mails for a call-out, which was issued on the 28th. Their response was swift and affirmative. We received 71 replies within 5 hours, and 116 responses by the next day. (Even UMV MRC members who were in Switzerland and Haiti replied, sending our volunteers their best!)

Because the storm track and severity were unpredictable, our unit remained on 'standby status' until the storm roared past. We then sent four volunteers to help at a warming center in Chelmsford.

Two MRC volunteers greeted the director and food services manager of the Council on Aging, which had been opened as a warming center for residents who had lost power in their homes.

The golden retriever, Prince, had been trained as a service dog. He was happy to 'paws' from his duty of reassuring visitors for a photo.

The COA offered a respite for those who needed a break from dark households. They were offered hot meals and the option to recharge electronic devices. This picture shows an MRC volunteer helping two vulnerable residents back to their car.

Initially, our unit was also asked to see whether members with shelter experience would like to form teams of 10 for a response out of state. However, that deployment was called off by the time we were ready to contact those members.

New York and New Jersey were particularly devastated by
Hurricane Sandy. Above is one of many communities that experienced dramatic impact -- in this case,
neighborhoods ravaged along the Jersey Shore.

The warm temperatures and transient power outages in this area meant that no UMV shelters required MRC support. Still, our hearts go out to those in nearby regions who suffered the full impact of the storm, with extensive recovery efforts ahead.

PREPAREDNESS MONTH - Each year our unit acknowledges September as National Preparedness Month, during which we undertake a wide range of activities. We are proud of our members who provided community service by staffing two regional health fairs, where they set records for participation. After the first of the fairs got underway, UMV MRC staff joined public health and emergency management counterparts at a sheltering exercise.

Representatives from police, fire, public health, emergency management, and disability advocate organizations convened for a tabletop
exercise to practice sheltering techniques in case of disaster. New equipment was demonstrated, and tips
for creating a shelter
manager's kit were explained.

Transportation options were explored, including a special bus that provides multiple cots for carrying the injured or disabled from the scene of a mass-casualty incident to a care facility.

In times of disaster, specially equipped vehicles in our region can be dispatched to a location where multiple victims could be transported for definitive care.
The vehicles have storage units to
hold each person's belongings
and adaptive equipment, as well as oxygen and other supplies.
Ramps can accommodate not only ambulance stretchers and wheelchairs, but also those who can ambulate using their own walkers and canes, as well as walking with a personal care attendant.

UMV MRC members also supported the first two (of 14) fall flu clinics. September clinics are usually among the largest because they signal the beginning of flu season in two of our most populous communities.

To conclude the month, we were honored to have 60 participants at our Member Appreciation Dinner.

UMV MRC members gathered to acknowledge the end of National Preparedness Month by celebrating another year of service through the unit.

After a welcoming cheer, the group enjoyed a buffet dinner and an evening of camaraderie. Members also received special pins that commemmorate the 10th anniversary of the MRC program, plus certificates for their individual service since our last appreciation event.

Terry Downes, Director of the Homeland Security Program at Middlesex Community College -- which hosted our Training Day this spring -- offered words of encouragement to an attentive group.

Members enjoyed the video that our unit leaders had compiled with photos sent from MRC from across the country, which made its debut at the National Integrated Summit in May.

Here's to another year of serving the public through our local MRC! Congratuations, volunteers!

FLU CLINIC SEASON - Once again, our members made us proud by staffing 130 shifts, where 3480 residents were inoculated against influenza and pneumonia. These clinics took place in five of our seven UMV communities. UMV MRC volunteers provided a wide range of medical and clerical functions.

This year's flu clinic season was launched in Chelmsford. Both medical and non-medical volunteers were essential at each location throughout the season.

Westford ended September by inoculating hundreds of elderly and high-risk residents, offering other clinic locations through mid-November.

Billerica (top row) and Tyngsboro (bottom row) held clinics for their residents in October.

The last MRC-supported offering was Tewksbury's final clinic of the season.

Protect yourself and your loved ones from influenza -- get your flu shot this season!

COMMUNITY SERVICE - In early August, our volunteers served the public at the annual National Night Out for Safety. The town of Tewksbury invited various organizations to convene at the Council on Aging to provide family-friendly exhibits for local residents.

Two of our RNs alternated between taking blood pressures, promoting public
health initiatives, and welcoming new applicants to
the unit. Those who signed up received a complementary MRC tote bag with
our thanks.

The next week, another group of members gathered to brush up on First Aid techniques, earning two-year certification through the American Heart Association. These skills are handy to have not only for MRC activities, but also for emergencies during every other facet of their lives.

First Aid class included practice with splinting and other tactics that can help during an

The next month, our members set records at the UMV MRC booth in two regional fairs. By the end of the annual Dracut Old Home Day and Billerica's Yankee Doodle Homecoming Weekend, volunteers screened 270 residents for hypertension and engaged 150 youngsters in 'Let's Move!' fitness exercises. In the process, we recruited several new members, while raising positive awareness of the MRC and public health programs.

Revolutionary War re-enactors joined members of the local police and fire department, plus a military honor guard, to sing the National Anthem and recognize all who have served our nation. The UMV MRC exhibit was staffed by medical and non-medical volunteers to oversee 'Let's Move' activities and provide health screenings and MRC literature.
Volunteers at Billerica's Yankee Doodle Homecoming Weekend raised positive awareness of the MRC.

Another service opportunity arose in mid-October, when our unit was asked to take blood pressures at the annual Chelmsford High School wellness fair.

Both high school students and faculty members were offered free hypertension screening and health tips.

November included a focus on the needs of elderly and disabled residents in times of disaster. The unit's director and coordinator participated in a multi-agency workshop that assessed emergency shelter capabilities in the Town of Westford; evaluating how well these needs had been met in previous disasters, and how to improve in the coming months. Unit leaders also accepted invitations to discuss Emergency Preparedness at two senior citizens groups - the second of which was recorded for broadcast on cable TV.

UMV MRC staff explained the value of preparedness to a group of elderly Chinese residents, communicating through a translator. The presentation included tips on staying safe in case of emergencies, and the value of having a 72-hour disaster kit. The session applied concepts from recent presentations to MRC members on Diversity and Cultural Awareness.
The Chelmsford Council on Aging presentation was taped for later broadcast on the local cable station.

At Family Preparedness presentations, regional fairs, and other events, our unit continued to make 72-hour emergency kits available for local residents. If you'd like to create your own kit, consider filling a backpack with this list of suggested items for customizing disaster kits.

Two UMV MRC members were among the volunteers to serve as victims in the annual Urban Shield exercise on the first Saturday in November. This major drill involved six Boston-area hospitals and multiple sites of mock-disasters. The event allowed preparedness agencies to interact in testing their response capabilities. (Although our unit does not routinely involve members in activities outside our coverage area, occasionally we pass along the information in case volunteers wish to follow up with the sponsors.)

Volunteers from our unit and
other organizations served as victims, often putting their
acting skills to good use.
One of many locations of the disaster exercise was at Tufts Medical Center. This scenario required passengers from a mock ferry accident to be treated for toxins and various injuries.

MRC BY THE NUMBERS - The statistics of member involvement in our activities over the past six months speak volumes about the dedication of our volunteers.

Total # of UMV MRC members to date
Members participating in at least one activity
from August through November 2012
In addition, members who responded to the standby call-out for Hurricane Sandy
In addition, participants at our
Member Appreciation Dinner celebration
Shifts filled by UMV MRC volunteers at
community service events this season
Area residents inoculated at clinics staffed from
September to November by UMV MRC volunteers
According to the Points of Light calculator for the economic value of volunteer service, dollar equivalent of regional UMV MRC service at activities this season

Many thanks to each of our caring volunteers for all that you do!

GRANT AWARD - In October our unit was awarded a $15,361.90 FEMA grant to enhance our capabilities for animal preparedness in case of disaster. Through education of both the public and emergency responders, as well as investments in essential equipment, this funding can facilitate our region's ability to 'care for the whole family.' The grant will cover a project that our unit must conduct during the first six months of 2013.

Frightened animal retrieved in emergency
Crates set up in an animal shelter to house pets after Hurricane Katrina
Pets unable to care for themselves in disaster
Dog escaping flooded neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina

FEMA now requires communities to offer animal sheltering during disasters to qualify for federal reimbursement. As Hurricane Katrina and other crises have shown, many residents consider their pets to be part of the family. These people will not leave their homes unless they know their animals will be cared for, even if it means putting themselves at risk by defying evacuation orders. Animals that are NOT cared for in an emergency are not only in danger from neglect, they also pose a serious hazard to a community if they run wild or become injured.

Sources such as the American Red Cross and Ready.Gov urge residents to 'take your pets with you' when evacuating their homes. Disabled residents may depend on service animals, which shelters are mandated to accept. Details of our unit's upcoming project to apply the grant will be posted separately.

OTHER NEWS - Many of our activities lay the groundwork for greater effectiveness in the coming year.

1. UMV MRC Advisory Council: We are pleased to announce that Lynne Wagner has become Chelmsford's new liaison to the MRC, completing our slate of officers for the coming year. The Advisory Council has been in place since our first months of operationin 2004, comprised of one MRC member for each of the seven UMV communities. Sandy Collins, RN, serves a dual role on the Advisory Council as Director of the UMV MRC and Westford's Director of Healthcare Services. See the table below for representation from each community.

Upper Merrimack Valley Medical Reserve Corps -- Advisory Council Members for 2013

Brian Luttrell, EMT-P

Lynne Wagner, RN

Rich Patterson, FF/EMT

René Allen, Admin.

Ray Barry, EMT-B
Linda McCarthy, RN

Sandy Collins, RN

Nancy Burns, EMT-B

2. Holiday Message: The Director of the National MRC Program, Captain Robert Tosatto, sent an e-mail to inspire MRC leaders as the holiday season approaches. We thought you might enjoy Rob's message to MRCs for Thanksgiving and beyond.

3. Unit Leader Activities: Your Director continues to participate in a number of task forces and steering groups related to public health and the MRC. Thanks to scholarships from NACCHO (Natl. Assn. of County and City Health Officers), your staff is participating in the debut of 'Seasonal Leadership Summits' with other MRC leaders from across the nation. This new format of the national MRC conference was launched in early December, at the National Conference Center near Washington, DC.

Gary Brown, Cdr. Patrick Denis, and Capt. Paul Reed of DCVMRC confirm data as Capt. Rob Tosatto answers a question from the audience. Rear Admiral Boris Lushniak, the U. S. Deputy Surgeon General, makes a point in his keynote address at the Seasonal Leadership Summit.
Unit leaders from each of the
ten regions were invited to share examples of various materials.
A Vermont MRC unit offered
their three-panel poster, used
to attract prospective members
in marketing campaigns.
MRC leaders from across the U.S. joined staff from the Division of Civilian Volunteer Medical Reserve Corps (DCVMRC) for a group photo, at the first seasonal summit. Attendees welcomed the chance to focus on strengthening their units.

4. CopKido: The UMV MRC will be providing a unique class that has received accolades from first responders, emergency room and hospital personnel, and other participants. On the rare occasions when these people are caring for the public during an emergency and the client becomes agitated, it's helpful to know some basic self-defense maneuvers that defuse the situation, thereby protecting the rescuer and the client. The Copkido course will be offered on Saturday morning, January 12. Members were notified through an e-mail announcement.

Have a safe and happy holiday season!

Upper Merrimack Valley Medical Reserve Corps, 55 Main Street, Westford, MA 01886