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Leveraging the Talents of a Scalable, Multi-Functional Unit

May 18, 2022 | Beth Hess

Since March of 2020, volunteers with the Rhode Island Disaster Medical Assistance Team/Rhode Island Medical Reserve Corps (RI DMAT/MRC) have contributed over 166,000 volunteer hours in response to COVID-19. The unit has partnered with the Rhode Island Department of Health, local employers, community health partners, public housing, schools, congregate care facilities, and nonprofit organizations throughout the state through over 5,600 testing and vaccination missions. While continuing to provide this valuable community support, the Rhode Island MRC is also looking ahead to what comes next.

“We’re a deployable and scalable resource,” said Brooke Lawrence, Executive Officer of RI DMAT/MRC. “We have all this talent, capability, and knowledge.”

A statewide unit, the RI DMAT/MRC operates as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization which has grown to around 8,600 volunteers about evenly divided between medical and non-medical. The unit can scale from a two-person team with a medical bag to a 150-bed field hospital.

The team sees mission sets as a “valuable tool that can help us scale what’s needed,” said Lawrence. Among its programmatic/mission areas are a healthy community initiative, an impacts assessment team that deploys in the event of a disaster, a medical standby mission set, a mobile field kitchen, a Naloxone program, and a light field aid station.

This month the unit is deploying its newest asset: a 42-foot mobile education trailer. Equipped with a 20-kilowatt generator, the trailer includes three exterior televisions, awnings on both sides, and a stage. Formerly an NFL promotional vehicle, the trailer is being outfitted for use with education, recruitment, and retention activities using funds the unit received through its fee-for-service work.

“We can back it into a fire station or parking lot and do five or six simulations and presentations,” said Lawrence, citing Stop the Bleed and Until Help Arrives trainings among its initial offerings.

The trailer will also serve as a command post during missions and can house search and rescue briefings when needed. This rolling billboard for the MRC will be on the road all summer in support of the unit’s recruitment and retention efforts.

Also in support of its training and retention efforts, RI DMAT/MRC is working on a mobile app that will enable the unit to push out mission information to volunteers, including trainings associated with that mission, maps, and mission communications.

Lawrence advises other units to “keep an open mind into how you can leverage what you design and build for other capabilities.” He also encourages others to not be intimidated or held back by people saying no.

“We’re a valuable asset to state partners,” said Lawrence. “It’s really important to share the capacities that our unit has and how we can be helpful to other.”


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