Nuclear incidents to be discussed

Being ready to respond with assistance in any emergency situation is the job of one local volunteer organization, Big Country Medical Reserve Corps (BCMRC). Knowing who to go to for expertise in various emergency situations is also important. That is why BCMRC is hosting representatives with Ludlum Measurements, who will conduct training on the basics of radiation safety during the BCMRC’s next meeting.The meeting will be held Thursday, April 7, at 7 p.m. in the emergency room classroom at Rolling Plains Memorial Hospital. The classroom is next to the emergency room, on the right side of its entrance. The public is invited to attend.Since Ludlum Measurements is in the business of making and selling radiation detection equipment, people in the company have experience working with those who use such equipment in emergency situations. For example, Ludlum sales staff have taken many calls from people in Japan seeking equipment to check radiation levels of everything from areas around a nuclear power plant to food in their homes, or milk to make ice cream, according to Ludlum sales representative Dru Carson.Carson will be one of the speakers during the April 7, BCMRC meeting, along with Richard Smola, a Ludlum design engineer. Smola said they plan to discuss radiation doses and the kinds of symptoms one might see at different levels of exposure. They will also discuss past nuclear accidents/incidents and three possible scenarios for incidents that could occur in the future – industrial accidents, terrorist threats in the form of “dirty bombs,” and nuclear detonation.“In each of these scenarios we will cover what can be done by the public, first responders and hospitals to reduce injuries,” Smola said.The basic mission of the BCMRC involves just that – assisting first responders and hospitals with the hope of reducing injuries and even deaths. The organization’s mission statement says those involved seek to “enhance public health in our country, support local and area hazard health care preparedness with emergency response personnel, decrease morbidity and mortality in time of disaster, and preserve and enhance our socioeconomic structures.”Ray Browning, coordinator of the group, said that many of the volunteer members are medical professionals or have some type of medical experience. Some of their members are nurses, physicians, pharmacists, dentists, veterinarians and epidemiologists. However, he pointed out that the group needs volunteers with all sorts of skill sets. Dr. Jerry Smola, a past coordinator and founding member of the group, said they also need people from the community to serve in support roles, such as chaplains, interpreters, office workers, legal advisors and so on. Browning stressed that his group of volunteers work alongside established organizations and professionals in the community during an emergency situation. They are there to assist hospital personnel, police and sheriff’s departments, fire department, health department and others. “The focus of the organization is to provide medical support to these entities during times of medical surge, pandemic disease outbreaks and disaster emergencies,” Browning said.The BCMRC conducts training exercises to keep them prepared for an actual emergency. Some of those exercises have included operating a drive-through vaccination point of distribution and remote stand-alone sites for vaccination to simulate pandemic response, evacuation of a nursing home, and shelter setup and operation in cases of wild fires or ice storms.They meet monthly in order to stay up-to-date on things like first aid and CPR, the ins and outs of radio communications, self defense and conflict resolution.The Medical Reserve Corps began at the national level in 2002 after President George W. Bush’s State of the Union Address when he asked all Americans to volunteer in support of their country. MRC is a partner grog ram with Citizen Corps, a national network of volunteers dedicated to ensuring hometown security.Each MRC group is community based, such as this Sweetwater group, which started in February 2008. The local MRC has about 80 registered volunteers, but Browning said they can always use more. You can contact Browning at 235-5463 ext. 13. The BCMRC is housed by the Sweetwater-Nolan County Health Department.Dr. Smola and Browning encourage anyone who is interested in volunteering with the Medical Reserve Corps to come to the meeting on April 7. “Anyone who has a heart for volunteering should get training through the MRC because those are the people that will be volunteering in an emergency situation anyway,” Browning pointed out.The two men expressed their gratitude to Ludlum’s for donating their time for the upcoming radiation safety training and for its monetary donation. They also invited members of the public who were simply interested in radiation safety to attend the meeting as well.