For the Lake County Medical Reserve Corps (MRC), emergency response activities are likely to be weather related. The unit’s “small and mighty” team of 63 volunteers serve Lake County in central Florida, which has the highest elevation in peninsular Florida at 312 feet above sea level. The county is surrounded by lakes with coasts on each side.
“Hurricane season is a critical time for having standby volunteers,” said Unit Coordinator Luwana Milner. “MRC volunteers provide supplemental staffing in evacuation shelters. Those that come in after a hurricane can serve as relief for exhausted staff.”
To help prepare for the current hurricane season, the unit did a hurricane roll call earlier this summer. Milner sent a group email to see who might be ready before, during, or after a hurricane and whether they prefer a day or night shift.
In preparation for Hurricane Idalia approaching Florida in late August, the unit notified volunteers to be on standby for emergency duty and confirmed availability of members (including shift and locations). When county emergency management implemented a partial activation of the Emergency Operations Center, a Citizens Information Line was activated and one of the unit’s top volunteers reported to duty immediately. While unit volunteers were not needed for shelter operations, volunteers were on standby as the path of the hurricane and post-storm damage were continually monitored.
The unit also responds to flooding events and provides support during cold weather. When it’s below 40 degrees, unit volunteers outreach to vulnerable populations and support cold weather shelters, providing provide wellness checks, hygiene kits, socks, and flu and hepatis shots.
Outside of weather-related events, the unit supports activities like back-to-school clinics. Volunteers support two rounds of clinics at three different cities on different days and times.
“Volunteer nurses from the MRC will take the pressure off the permanent nursing staff, working alongside school health nurses,” said Milner. “Non-medical volunteers will assist with paperwork and greeting parents. Volunteers will also help to staff school clinics during the year, helping with scoliosis, hearing, and vision screenings.”
Additionally, volunteers support community outreach to seniors, diabetes education, health information, and flu shots. Unit volunteers also took part in mass casualty drill with the Central Florida Medical Disaster Coalition. The drill provided training and experience to volunteers and engaged many community partners.
Volunteer appreciation is important to Milner. The unit sends dedicated thank you messages twice a year to volunteers in the form of a flyer.
“We send a ‘heartfelt thank you’ for valentine’s day and a ‘give thanks to you’ message at Thanksgiving,” said Milner. “I also reach out on volunteer birthdays via text or email.”
“Our volunteers are selfless,” said Milner. “They’re dependable and willing to pitch in.”
Spotlight on Flood Response
Vermont saw devasting flooding this spring and summer which destroyed some homes, effected many businesses, and flooded basements.
In response, the MRC of the Northeast Kingdom in northern Vermont provided support for sheltering and helped to put together water sample kits. Volunteers also supported a MARC (multi-agency resource center) which included FEMA, the Red Cross, and Salvation Army among its partners. In this capacity, volunteers provided water test kits, WIC information, and Tdap shots.
“Volunteers also a provided a space to listen to residents,” said Unit Coordinator Helen Wilson. “People are feeling a little overwhelmed and we try to direct them to resources in a way that might be helpful.”