Central NE MRC web

How a Medical Reserve Corps Unit Addresses the Needs of Vulnerable Populations During an Evacuation

Jan 19, 2023 | Beth Hess

Vulnerable populations, including older adults, children, and those with a disability, face unique challenges during an emergency. For the Central Nebraska Medical Reserve Corps (MRC), this became particularly apparent three years ago when a local assisted living facility experienced a fire and needed to evacuate residents.

“We put together a committee that included those who work at nursing homes and with elderly populations to understand the needs and how we could respond to such incidents,” said Unit Coordinator Ron Pughes.

The result is the unit’s newest initiative: VIPER (Vulnerable Identified Population Evacuation Response). Expected to be deployable by April of this year, VIPER includes supplies and equipment; procedures and deployment processes; training; and response capabilities for the unit’s volunteers to assist vulnerable populations during an emergency.

If, for example an assisted living facility needed to be evacuated, the Central Nebraska MRC would be ready to assist those that the fire department transports out of the facility. This includes providing walkers, wheelchairs, ramps, life vests, and rope to serve as guidelines to help safely evacuate residents. Blankets, clothing, hygiene kits, and heaters would help to make residents comfortable and things like patient belongings bags to help ensure that valued keepsakes stay safely with residents.

All of this equipment is stored in a dedicated 8’ x 20’ trailer with shelves, bins, and hooks to organize equipment and supplies. Included is a 33’ x 16’ inflatable no-step tent that can be set up by four people within 15 minutes.

“This is designed to serve as an interim shelter while Red Cross or other entities set something else up,” said Pughes. “It’s designed to provide compassionate comfort during a 6-to-8 hour sheltering response.”

To build out this initiative, the unit received a $14,000 grant from Nebraska’s Citizen Corps program. Those funds were primarily used to purchase supplies. The trailer, high-wheeled stretchers, and some supplies were donated from area groups including the fire department and health department.

In addition to training its members to respond under this initiative, the unit hopes to host a multi-agency training exercise. The unit will also work with nursing homes and other facilities to review emergency response plans.

View the Central Nebraska MRC’s deployment readiness guide for VIPER.

See additional resources to support vulnerable populations during an emergency:


About Beth Hess

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