The defining geologic features of the Mid-Columbia region – Mt. Hood and the Columbia River Gorge – provide the six-county spread with one of the most beautiful landscapes in the state of Oregon, and perhaps, the Pacific Northwest.
The very same natural splendors, however, pose threats to the safety of the area’s residents. Comprised of Hood River, Wasco, Sherman, Gilliam, Morrow and Umatilla counties, the Mid-Columbia region is susceptible to a variety of hazards – windstorms, winter storms, landslides, and even a volcanic eruption – that are unlikely to occur elsewhere in the state.
On December 8, 2011, the region took a significant step towards safeguarding its population against the unpredictable – it announced the formation of a Wasco County Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) unit.
“With the closest unit being in Clackamas County – more than an hour away – we really saw an opportunity to form an MRC unit here,” said Frances Nicholas, Wasco County MRC Coordinator. “[One] that’s specifically targeted at the unique hazards and the unique vulnerabilities that Wasco County and the surrounding area have.”
Joined by 14 others already in the state of Oregon, the new unit greatly expands the MRC’s reach. Previously unaided areas now have the support of locally-based medical and public health volunteers dedicated to strengthening the emergency response, safety, and resiliency of their communities.
Officially housed in The Dalles’ North Central Public Health District, the unit is being developed to serve not only Wasco County, but the greater Mid-Columbia region as well.
“We’re recruiting basically anybody [in the region] who wants to join, we accept medical professionals and people who aren’t licensed,” said Nicholas. “I’m mostly focused on creating as much awareness about the MRC unit as possible, especially while it’s new and newly forming. People might not really know what it is, or know it’s something that they should join.”
Though still in its infancy, the Wasco County MRC unit has already attracted much interest.
“We’re up to 30 [volunteers] now,” said Nicholas.
One of those volunteers is Connie Jubitz, a registered nurse at the Mid-Columbia Medical Center, and a 16-year Wasco County resident.
“If there’s an emergency, I’m willing to help out,” said Jubitz. “And it seems like [the MRC offers] the message and the framework that would support that kind of volunteering opportunity.”
In fact, Jubitz has already had such an opportunity.
On February 4, in partnership with MRC, the American Red Cross sponsored a Go Red for Women’s Heart Health event in The Dalles’ Civic Auditorium. As an MRC volunteer, Jubitz was able to check blood pressures for a number of attendees.
Since then, a volunteer orientation and Basic Disaster Life Support training have taken place, and with other events already planned, the young MRC unit certainly seems to have established itself. Please contact Frances Nicholas for further details: firstname.lastname@example.org
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