Volunteer program helps people prepare for a pandemic

Kris Qureshi
Kris Qureshi
Dr. Kate Gaynor
Dr. Kate Gaynor

By Leland Kim - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - A volunteer program helps people get ready for a pandemic, and helps others in the process.  Whether it's a howling hurricane, or a powerful earthquake, Hawaii has its fair share of natural disasters. To survive one of these, it's important to be prepared.

That's why Kris Qureshi is volunteering for the Medical Reserve Corps or the MRC.  It's a nationwide program that trains people for disasters and public health emergencies.

"Being in the state of Hawaii in the middle of the Pacific, 2,500 miles from the nearest land mass that as a state, is especially important for us to be prepared and for us to be somewhat self sufficient for any type of a disaster," said Qureshi, who is a nursing professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

And experts say it's a guaranteed scenario.

"It will happen," said Dr. Kate Gaynor, a physician and the all hazards preparedness coordinator for the state of Hawaii.  "Pandemics have happened throughout history and we don't know when or how bad it's going to be but we know it's going to happen again. "So we need to be prepared for that."

"It's just a matter of time, then?" asked KHNL.

"Absolutely," she said.

The Medical Reserve Corps has about 175,000 volunteers in 800 units throughout the country. Hawaii has four: one each on Oahu, Maui, Kaua'i and the Big Island.

"Besides natural disasters, what other things should we be concerned about?" asked KHNL.

"Apart from natural disasters, we worry about man-made disasters, something like a bioterrorism attack," said Dr. Gaynor. "Our MRC volunteers would help after a BT (bioterrorism) attack and also outbreaks of disease like pandemic flu."

Whether it's SARS, Avian flu or MRSA, medical emergencies can cripple our state.  That's why beefing up our Medical Reserve Corps can make a difference in how we survive our next pandemic.

"Some of the best interventions for citizens is to give them something to do so that they become part of the solution and part of the response team rather than merely being victims," said Qureshi.  "So the MRC really gives an opportunity for all citizens to contribute, health care providers as well as non-health care providers. All people need to work together for the public good."

They are still looking for more Medical Reserve Corps volunteers.  To find out more about the program and how to join, click here or go to the link on this page.