The tragic events of September 11, 2001 forever changed the way the nation prepares for disasters and unpredictable events.
Recognizing the importance of first-responders in the immediate aftermath of an emergency, the U.S. Surgeon General mandated in 2002 that each county in the U.S. recruit, train, and equip a group of local civilian volunteers, known as the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC), to be ready to respond to emergencies within their local communities.
As counties organized their units, many did not have adequate funding to equip these credentialed volunteers with the supplies needed to respond. Direct Relief recognized this gap and worked with a variety of experienced response groups to create customized medical packs for MRC units in California.
Each “grab-and-go” backpack contains supplies and equipment to meet a variety of disaster-related health needs, including infection control, diagnostics, trauma care, and personal protection tools.
So far, generous contributions from FedEx and other donors have allowed Direct Relief to send a total of 1,735 packs to 21 MRC units in 18 counties. The organization continues to work to secure funding to meet the goal of expanding the program to all of California and beyond.
Linda Fraser of California’s Lake County Medical Reserve Corps said that the medical packs from Direct Relief allow their unit to provide more advanced gear for licensed medical volunteers who previously only had kits with first aid items and basic response supplies.
“Having these available has given these volunteers, especially our physicians, a sense we take their skills seriously in our preparations for response in real events. They feel they will be utilized more to their potential rather then delegated to helping in more of a non-medical, first-aid-treatment-only position,” she wrote.
Fraser added that the packs have helped increase their numbers as well as boost morale as volunteers see their skills are needed and that the right supplies and equipment are available for them.
In the 12 years since 9/11, the U.S. has created a force of over 200,000 volunteers preparing for and responding to public health emergencies including disease outbreaks, wildfires, floods, hurricanes, and terrorist attacks. With National Preparedness Month underway, Direct Relief recognizes the important preparedness role these volunteers play at both the national and local levels and will continue to support them.
While nothing can erase the pain of the past, progress can be found in preparing for the future.