Year-End Update: September to December 2011

Our members were busier and more productive than ever during the past four months. Special thanks to all who rose above and beyond the call of duty, throughout this extraordinary phase of our unit's history! The following is a recap of our accomplishments.

HURRICANE IRENE - Heading into September, 50 of our members responded immediately to the request for 'standby' service, in case the hurricane roaring up the east coast generated calls for our volunteers. While other regions in New England were particularly hard-hit -- including significant damage to roads and the flooding of many households -- our region was spared from major damage. By September 1, our unit was released from potential response, with gratitude to those who had made themselves available to help.

Worried but maintaining a sense of humor, the owners of a North Carolina surf shop post a request for the storm.
The satellite image shows Hurricane Irene sweeping up from New York. The Upper Merrimack Valley escaped the more dramatic scenes of destruction as the hurricane ravaged nearby states, such as the wash-out of roads in Cornwall, CT (left) and a sailboat in Quincy, MA being buffeted by the waves.

PREPAREDNESS MONTH - Because this year marked the tenth anniversary of the events of September 11, 2001, we acknowledged National Preparedness Month with additional activities. See the link for the full story.

TRAINING - We repeated two classes that were offered on Training Day, enhanced with additional details for a new audience:

Spacing Biological and Chemical Agents in Weapons of Mass Destruction, by Suzanne Bonenfant, RN.
Spacing Behavioral Health in Disasters, by Dr. Hayden Duggan.

For these sessions, we invited our response partners from the local police and fire departments, as well as school nurses.

Suzanne Bonenfant and Hayden Duggan reprised their earlier presentations from
the Training Day held at U.Mass Lowell in mid-May, adapted for a different group at Westford Town Hall
in October. This time their audience included response partners from outside the UMV MRC.

OCTOBER STORM DEPLOYMENT - When a sudden snow storm knocked out power throughout the region, 64 of our volunteers staffed warming stations and overnight emergency shelters in four communities across the Upper Merrimack Valley.

The storm that brought daily life to a standstill in late October made roadways treacherous with downed wires, leaving neighborhoods -- and even driveways! -- of area residents impassable. Many could not leave their homes.
Volunteers from the UMV MRC worked with response partners to staff warming stations by day,
and overnight shelters around the clock, in four communities across the region.

Westford residents who had been displaced from their homes due to power outages were immediately invited to the Cameron Senior Center as an urgent comfort station. Meanwhile, the overnight shelter at Blanchard Middle School was being prepared.

This shelter was among the first to open after the storm's impact was felt, and was the last to close five days later. Families passed the time in the cafeteria section, where hot meals and beverages were provided.

Those who were medically fragile stayed in a more private section of the school, cared for primarily by the unit's nurses and EMTs.

By the end of the deployment, Blanchard volunteers were tired but relieved to have served their community.

Volunteers staffed the Blanchard shelter around the clock. Staffing was adjusted depending on the fluctuating participation of residents and the arrival of additional response partners.















FLU CLINICS - We were pleased to have 93 volunteers from our unit assisting influenza and pneumonia clinics hosted by our local public health departments.

Both medical and non-medical volunteers provided essential service at the Billerica clinics.
The last clinic supported by UMV MRC volunteers was in Tyngsboro, rescheduled from November 1 due to the October storm.

PHARMACY EVENTS - Two of our pharmacists assisted at "Prescription Drug Take-Back Day" at the Cameron Senior Center in Westford. We then learned that the PharmEd conference was coming to town, inviting 200 pharmacists who lived in the area to participate. Thus we were pleased that two RNs staffed our booth, recruiting pharmacists to the unit and raising awareness of the national program.

Pharmacists from the UMV MRC worked with staff from the Police Department, as well as the Director of Health Care Services, to answer questions and ensure that the medications were handled properly. One of the nurses shared information about the unit to attendees at PharmEd.

REGION I & II MRC SUMMIT - Our unit was awarded a certificate from the national MRC office, presented by Admiral Mike Milner, to acknowledge our volunteers for their outstanding response during deployments this season. The Coordinator also co-presented for two sessions -- on Partnerships and Deployments.

The Regional Summit was held in Avon, Connecticut, to allow participation from MRC leaders in all six New England states, as well as those from New York and New Jersey.
Attendees included representatives from the Rhode Island DMAT team, shown with the Region I Coordinator (left); plus MA unit leaders getting reacquainted with public health officials from the national MRC program, including Capt. Tosatto.

LIABILITY BILL - We continued to promote the passage of legislation that would extend the same level of protection for MRC volunteers who are activated or providing service as state employees.

STAFF - The Director and Coordinator took part in a multi-agency pet sheltering tabletop exercise with counterparts from across the region, and two meetings with the UMV MRC Advisory Council. Your staff continues to stay in contact with MRC leaders within MA, as well as across the U.S.

May we wish each of you the best possible holiday season and a wonderful new year ahead!



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