The potential for a public health emergency exists every day. Most will remember the World Trade Center attacks, hurricanes Katrina and Gustav, the Oklahoma City bombing, and now Superstorm Sandy. While these types of emergencies are hard to predict, we can limit the damage and effect by making sure qualified health professionals are ready to volunteer and serve their communities.
To ensure our nation is ready to respond, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has worked with each state to implement the Emergency System for Advance Registration of Volunteer Health Professionals. Oregon’s program is the State Emergency Registry of Volunteers in Oregon (SERV-OR).
SERV-OR is part of a national network of state-based programs that verify volunteers’ identity, licenses and credentials before an emergency happens. It allows registered health professionals to accept or decline a request to respond, and streamlines the verification process so that once on-site, health professionals can work at their highest capacity. In short, if you register, you are not obligated to deploy. But if you do want to volunteer your unique skill sets during a disaster or public health emergency, your credentials will be verified beforehand and you can be ready to go if needed and on short notice.
The system has three goals: 1) to help health professionals be prepared to deploy before a public health emergency; 2) to help health care employers, such as hospitals, so that they are not left scrambling to identify qualified health professionals during surge situations; and 3) to help state coordinators identify, contact and deploy health professionals during disasters.
The benefits to registered volunteers are great. The program offers Basic and Advanced Disaster Life Support courses around the state, as well as participation in local and state full-scale exercises. These events build skills, teams and friendships among an array of health care professionals with an interest in responding to crises in our communities. Most importantly, it lets willing health care volunteers be part of a coordinated system when they are needed. In official exercises and deployment, registered volunteers can receive state liability and worker protection coverage.
EMS providers are currently under-represented in SERV-OR. Public health emergencies require a diverse group of health professionals to respond. From doctors, nurses, dentists and veterinarians to medical technicians, social workers, medical records technicians and mental health counselors, an array of qualified health professionals may be needed to respond quickly to a disaster and use their skills to deliver care to those most in need.
So, what does it take to register? Visit the Oregon Health Authority’s volunteer registration website at www.serv-or.org, click the registration button and choose which unit to join. All EMS providers with active, unencumbered licenses can join the State Managed Volunteer Pool. You may also live in a county with a local Medical Reserve Corps unit.
Learn more about Oregon’s program on the SERV-OR website or contact Eric Gebbie at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read stories from current volunteers around the country. We need you in order to help make every minute count. Please join us today!
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