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North Shore coalition seeks disaster service volunteers

The Daily ItemLYNN ? In response to new flu outbreaks and growing threats of bio-terrorism, the North Shore-Cape Ann Emergency Preparedness Coalition is seeking to train volunteers who would assist in the event of disaster.Several regional workshops have been scheduled for January and February at which medical and non-medical personnel can learn more about avian influenza, bio-terrorism agents and mass-casualty clinics.The 15-member coalition, which includes Lynn, Swampscott, Saugus, Nahant, Peabody, Marblehead, Danvers, Salem, Beverly, Hamilton, Wenham, Gloucester, Rockport, Essex and Manchester-by-the Sea, is looking for volunteers who can serve as physician evaluators, vaccine administrators, vaccination assistants, medical screeners, triage staff, clinic flow directors, and a float staff of educators, greeters and escorts. The coalition is also seeking special-needs and mental-health counselors, translators, form reviewers, exit reviewers, photo identification checkers, data entry personnel, timers, food service workers, house cleaners, and others to help with transportation, parking and security.”We’re excited and fortunate to offer this training on both the North Shore and Cape Ann to our volunteers and the public,” said coalition chairman Joanne Scott. “As we continue to work toward becoming better prepared for an emergency, we encourage members of these communities to become volunteers.”The coalition was established in 2004 and is comprised of 15 boards of health from the member communities. It is also a sub-coalition within Region 3 of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and receives funding from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.Maryann O’Connor, Lynn’s health director, said more than 200 Lynn residents volunteered following a workshop at St. Mary’s High School last spring, but more are needed.”When you look at the requirements of the plans we have in place, if we had to dispense antibiotics or a vaccine to the entire city – that’s more than 90,000 people in 72 hours – we would need up to seven or eight dispensing sites throughout the city. We would also need close to 600 volunteers to pull that off,” O’Connor said.Nurses, clinicians and crowd-control specialists are just some of the personnel whose skills are needed, she said, urging would-be volunteers to attend the workshops.A database is being assembled of medical and non-medical volunteers ready to assist in the event of an infectious disease outbreak or other emergency. Volunteers can register securely on the coalition Web site, www.nscalert.org.The workshop on mass dispensing of medication is focused on infectious disease, specifically smallpox. It provides an outline of smallpox history, vaccination, the principles of mass dispensing, and site requirements. Volunteers will be taught screening and reporting procedures, and be given hands-on training through practice with a bifurcated needle. Upon completion of the workshop, volunteers will be certified by the state in smallpox vaccine administration.The workshop on avian flu defines a pandemic and offers a history on outbreaks over the past 100 years. It teaches self-protection strategies and assists businesses in developing plans for such an emergency.The bio-terrorism workshop includes an overview of so-called Category A agents – anthrax, botulism, plague, smallpox, tularemia, and viral hemorrhagic fevers. The presentation teaches infection control measures such as isolation and quarantine to contain person-to-person spread.

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