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Reaching out to your Community in Disaster

As some of you know, I recently completed my six-week FEMA course for Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). The excellent training was provided by the Fort Bend (FB) County Office of Emergency Management (OEM). Bogey loves to sleep on my First Aid kit.

After receiving my certificate and photo ID, the FB County Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) asked me to continue training with them. The MRC is part of the Office of the U.S. Surgeon General, and responds to public health emergencies like natural disasters, disease outbreaks, biological and chemical threats.

Not long after my orientation, there was a callout to George Bush High School (GBHS) in Richmond. At least ten people from the school had been confirmed for being infected with tuberculosis (TB). It was now necessary to re-test a large portion of the 2200 members of the student body, faculty, and staff.

One Thursday morning in early August, I met with my MRC team at the school. Joining us were members of the FB County Health and Human Services (HHS), FB Emergency Medical Services (EMS), FBISD Police, and various medical professionals. The leadership followed the FEMA Incident Command System (ICS) which is a standardized on-scene incident management concept.

At the orientation, we were introduced to the leadership, and were apprised of the orderly line of authority. It was interesting to observe that each volunteer wore a colored safety vest. The color you were consigned designated your assignment. I was given a yellow vest which signified that I was the very least in command. In other words, I saluted anyone who had a vest of a different color or who carried a walkie-talkie!

Next in line were those with a yellow safety vest AND a really cool walkie-talkie. Moving up the line of authority, you would notice that some vests were orange for the MRC leadership, red for the medical personnel, and white for the top-level commanders. If someone had a gun on their hip, they did not require a colored vest of authority, we just knew.

My assignment was two-fold. Mainly, I was assigned to logistics. My job was to staff the first checkpoint where hundreds of frightened and frustrated folks would gather. These people were those who had been called in for a second round of blood tests. Many of them were beyond scared. Most of the students had their parents or legal guardians at their side.

No one was having a good time. At this checkpoint, we tried to identify anyone who was showing suspected outward signs of TB. This was very disturbing surveillance, but necessary for the health of the student body. If the disease was suspected, they were immediately taken to the nurses’ triage.

The second part of my assignment was to work with the team that was available to comfort and console anyone who became overwhelmed with the situation. There were some, and I could certainly empathize with them. It was a frightening experience, but everyone was just wonderful.

Overall, I was impressed with the MRC, and all the professionals as they showed sensitivity and concern for their community. As a MRC volunteer, I felt prepared, protected, and respected. It is always good to give back to the community that I call home. I salute Jammer, Tenesha, and all the MRC leaders who put our community first.

As I stood at the first checkpoint trying to organize the frightened crowd, I thought of 1 Peter 4:10 ESV, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace.” Friends, let us continue to pray for the student body, faculty, and staff of GBHS. May the Lord provide these stalwart friends with calmness, comfort. and healing.

But also, pray that more good people would step up and get involved in some form of community service. Getting outside of the walls of the church, is the real mission field. As it says in Ephesians 2:10 – “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

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