Duxbury Marks Preparedness Milestone: Only Second Town in County with Medical Reserve Corps
By MORAG MACLACHLAN
Duxbury is only the second town in all of Plymouth County to take a proactive step toward emergency preparedness.
Health Agent Jennifer Dalrymple said that on Friday, April 14, Duxbury’s Medical Reserves Corps was officially recognized by the state. The MRC, which is a national project sponsored by the Office of the U.S. Surgeon General was created as a response to President Bush’s 2002 State of the Union Address. Dalrymple said during the address, the president called on every Americans to volunteer 4,000 hours of community service or about 2 years of a person’s life. The MRC allows residents of a certain community with a medical or public health background to sign up to volunteer to assist emergency responders during a crisis like a pandemic, a hurricane, an AMBER Alert or any other emergency on a local, state or federal level.
The only town in Plymouth County to establish a MRC was Randolph. Therefore, Dalrymple said she turned to Cape Cod, where two MRCs have been created, for guidance. Dalrymple’s assistant Janet Whittemore researched the licenses of medical personnel living in Duxbury or practicing in Duxbury. The pair mailed out over 500 letters and hoped to get back at least 50. So far, more than 130 people have signed up to serve with the MRC.
“I was happily surprised,” Dalrymple said. “I’m excited about the Medical Reserve Corps and I hope the volunteers will be as excited. Now I need to figure out how to organize all the volunteers and how to train them.”
Dalrymple is hard at work at completing the town’s Medical Reserve Corps handbook. She said she hopes to gather all of the volunteers together next month. The MRC also fits perfectly into the town’s Emergency Dispensing Site plans. The EDS plan, a portion of the Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan or CEMP, establishes locations in town to be used as places residents can gather for shelter and mass vaccinations in the case of a disaster.
Board of health members have been working since February with Lisa Kaufman, an emergency planner with the Plymouth County Public Health Coalition, on tweaking the EDS plan and a tear out section to be included in the plan’s appendix to be used as a quick summary of the EDS plan during an actual emergency. Dalrymple said she has been working for the past three years on the EDS and still thinks another two years are needed before the plan is “totally nailed down.” She works in conjunction with the town’s Emergency Management Department headed by Fire Chief and Emergency Management Director Kevin Nord.
“We will need these volunteers to help us because the department will be doing everything we can to make ends meet here,” Nord said. “I have the potential to lose 20 to 40 percent of my staff when they or their families get sick. Since Duxbury has high statistics of medical personnel living in town, it was fitting to capitalize on that and form MRC to work jointly with the emergency management department and the board of health.”
Nord and Dalrymple also said local hospitals like Jordan Hospital will be greatly taxed during an emergency. Community hospitals are asking towns to create plans for satellite locations within a town that could be used as a surge capacity building. The Duxbury Middle School and the Chandler School are the two designated emergency dispensing sites in town. Satellite locations include Holy Family Church, Duxbury High School and the senior center.
With the locations narrowed down and memorandums of understanding being created between local businesses to help out with supplies and transportation during an emergency, Kaufman and the board of health turned their attention toward solving the problem of how to staff DMS and Chandler with knowledgeable medical and public health personnel to help first responders treat residents.
Dalrymple said creating the MRC now helps lesson the amount of volunteers needed to solve this problem.
“There’s still no state or federal funding for this. So, we’re hoping funding comes down the pipe sometime. We also need to figure out the liability issues here, like making these volunteers special town employees or ensuring that they are covered under the Good Samaritan Law,” Dalrymple said. “We are ready on a local level if an emergency were to happen. I’d say we are 90 percent ahead of most towns when it comes to these plans. However, I would like to see about 1,000 volunteers.”
Dalrymple said she and Kaufman will take conduct one final walk through of DMS and Chandler before having the board of health members give final approval to the tear out section of the EDS plan and the entire plan itself. Then she will have to develop a Risk Communication Plan and a Special Needs Plans.
Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer with the MRC is encouraged to fill out the online form by logging on to the Board of Health’s website and clicking on the board’s page and then the Duxbury Medical Reserve Corps link.