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Volunteers needed in case of disaster

Chilton Medical Center would be a major hub in the instance of a local disaster, such as a destructive tornado. But if the unthinkable happened, would full-time medical personnel be enough?

Hurricane Katrina caused state and national officials to rethink the way communities respond in times of disaster. One of the biggest needs is for volunteers who can serve as helping hands.

On Feb. 16, CMC will host an informational meeting for people in the immediate community who would like to be volunteers. The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. in the CMC cafeteria.

“It’s a national push,” said Angela Batchelor, clinical care coordinator for Chilton Medical Center. “This is one of the lessons we learned from Hurricane Katrina. The community has to step up and assist medical facilities until the county can get people in and federal assistance arrives.”

While any able-bodied person 16 or older may participate, there is a demand for retired nurses and public safety officials who could provide first aid. Anyone with first aid or CPR training would come in handy.

But when a disaster happens, all kinds of volunteers are needed, not just first aid responders. Someone will be needed to simply push victims into the emergency room, for example.

“They won’t be providing medical care but just general logistics,” Batchelor said. “We can pull in all our staff, but that may not be enough.”

The Alabama Department of Public Health has mandated that hospitals enlist people who can supplement staff in the first critical hours of a disaster. On the national level, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is pushing the need for an organized system of volunteers.

“…we must work together to develop a means to help assure the appropriate, timely deployment of resources. Without an organized system of response, all the caring in the world can be lost in a maze of frustration,” said Dr. Donald E. Williamson, state health officer.

Those who attend the Feb. 16 meeting will have the opportunity to sign up for a basic orientation to be held in the near future. Those who sign up will be entered into an official database for use by the state and county.

“You’re not obligated to participate. This is just to have a database,” Batchelor said.

Jimmy Norman, safety director for Petty Line Construction, has expressed interest in participating. He has had CPR training and more than 20 years experience as a plant manager.

“I think it’s important that we have a lot of people in the community who are willing to step up and use their training to help out in a time of disaster,” he said.