Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Reserve Corps Set to Face Disasters ; Area Volunteers Give Aid during Catastrophes

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Reserve Corps Set to Face Disasters ; Area Volunteers Give Aid during Catastrophes

Article excerpt

Jill Himberger considers herself lucky. She likely would lose a limb from the airplane crash, she was told by the emergency responders scurrying around her, but she would survive -- something four people lying motionless around her wouldn't be able to say.

Not, that is, until the disaster drill exercise was completed and the volunteers posing as victims could rise off the Forbes Field tarmac, thankful they hadn't been in an actual airplane crash.

Watching firefighters and medical responders deal with a simulated aircraft disaster is only one of the learning experiences Himberger has observed as a volunteer for the Medical Reserve Corps, a group working under the umbrella of the Shawnee County Health Agency.

Jennifer Zeller, coordinator of the program, said volunteers such as Himberger are an essential part of a national-level program that focuses on helping in disaster response, emergency preparedness and public health education and outreach. At times of emergencies, volunteers help public health officials in everything from dealing with natural disasters to an outbreak of communicable disease.

"If another H1N1 (flu) outbreak were to happen, and we needed to open a large, temporary clinic to inoculate 1,000 people, we'd need lots of volunteers to do that," Zeller said. "In nonemergency times we're tasked with helping public education, trying to promote healthy living, as well as emergency preparedness so that if a disaster ever did happen, they could help in the disaster response.

"Our volunteers mean everything to our program," Zeller added. "We wouldn't have a program if it wasn't for them. We rely on them because we just don't have the staff to do all the things we need to do, especially in an emergency."

Himberger, a medical assistant instructor at Topeka's Wichita Technical Institute, said she initially volunteered for the Medical Reserve Corps thinking she would be working just in emergency preparedness. …

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