A national volunteer emergency response organization is seeking local residents and active or retired health professionals from Carbon County.
Cynthia Grant from the Medical Reserve Corps appeared before the board of commissioners at the county's April 19 meeting to present information on the formation of the Southeastern Utah MRC.
In her PowerPoint presentation, Grant explained the origins and purpose of the corps.
"Statistically, a major disaster like a pandemic flu could hit at any moment," she said. "MRC would be on hand providing care and supporting the local efforts."
Grant explained that the fledgling southeastern Utah MRC, which covers Carbon, Emery, Grand and San Juan counties along with the Ute and Navajo reservations, has only eight members with one from Price.
The goal is to recruit between 10 and 20 volunteers for each jurisdiction, said Grant.
To drive home the need for such a network, she pointed out the limited amount of health care facilities that provide for the area containing more than 17,000 residents
"There are three hospitals and about two dozen emergency room beds," Grant said.
According to Grant, MRC was formed in response to President George W. Bush's 2002 call for increased volunteer services.
MRC is one of the five components of Citizens Corps, formed under the umbrella organization, USA Freedom Corps, states the group's materials.
MRC has dual role, said Grant. If a major catastrophe hits a community the members of the corps can assist area emergency response teams by triaging potential patients thereby reducing the stress on the existing systems.
In addition, the volunteers provide help with mass vaccination and the distribution of national stockpile medications.
The members also provide ongoing health services at times when no public health crisis is active.
MRC members work to promote disease prevention and advance health education in communities.
The southeastern corps is looking for all variety of health professionals as well as lay persons who help keep the system functioning, Grant said.
Advantages of becoming a corps member include a day-long live training as well as online opportunities from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and MRC-TRAIN.
Having MRC volunteers trained and prepared for an influenza pandemic appears key to the mission of the group.
Pandemic Influenza Planning: Guidance for MRC Units cites the continued spread of what has been deemed "bird flu" as a reason for the present planning and concern, in particular the possible evolution of the virus causing human-to-human transmission.
The document calls for ensuring the inclusion of the local MRC unit in the jurisdiction's pandemic preparedness committee and clearly defining the group's potential role in the community's emergency operations plan.
A possible concern for residents considering volunteering may be the potential liability in the emergency response process, pointed out Grant.
She assured the commissioners that MRC members are protected from backlash by the Federal Volunteer Protection Act, Utah's Good Samaritan Act and Utah Code 26A-1-126 which gives local health department the authority to deploy MRC volunteers.
For information on volunteering or about the organization, Carbon County residents with Internet access may visit www.medicalreservecorps.gov.
Residents may also call Grant at 637-3671.