MAYWOOD, Ill. – Drs. Greg and Laura Ozark of Western Springs, Ill., don’t leave their doctor bags at the office. Instead, they use their expertise in adult internal medicine and pediatrics to make their community a safer place as medical directors for Western Springs’ Medical Reserve Corps (MRC).
Started last year, the MRC is a group of trained volunteers who are prepared to assist their community in the event of an emergency. Dr. Greg Ozark saw the need for trained, onsite volunteers in Louisiana in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
“The only timely response after a disaster is local. Just physically trying to get help into a community after a disaster is difficult. It takes time to get federal and even state assistance to the people in need. You need people who are already in the community and trained, ready to respond at a moment’s notice,” Dr. Greg Ozark said.
The Ozarks have been actively recruiting others to join the MRC. Understanding that the needs are not just medical, they have reached out to other professionals asking them to be volunteers as well.
“We have people from all different backgrounds offering their expertise,” Dr. Laura Ozark said. “We have a person who works for ComEd who can help manage safety when it comes to downed power lines and someone who is an expert in environmental cleanup.”
“When disaster strikes we have a trained team of volunteers in place. We allow the fire and police departments to focus on rescuing people and to do what they need to do to keep us safe,” she said, adding that the range of volunteers’ expertise runs the gamut from medicine to clerical support to child care.
All MRC volunteers are required to take Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) courses, many of which can be taken online. Topics include medical and psychological first-aid, blood-borne pathogens, and training for cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and automated external defibrillator (AED).
Since the Ozarks joined, the number of volunteers has more than doubled. By networking with friends and neighbors, the Ozarks have helped make Western Springs better prepared for a disaster. With two kids at home, this is a real comfort.
“Doing this together has been great. Not only can we talk about this and bounce ideas off each other, one of us can respond to an emergency while the other takes care of things at home,” Dr. Greg Ozark said.
In a little over a year, the MRC has been activated twice. They assisted during last year’s flooding, even going door-to-door to ensure all residents were safe. During the January blizzard, the MRC staffed a shelter when residents lost power and heat.
“We have a very volunteer-minded community and this takes it to the next level. Not only do we have people willing to help, we have people trained to help,” Dr. Laura Ozark said. “It just makes our community that much safer.”
The Western Springs MRC is not only at work during disasters; the team is also looking to keep the community safe and healthy through outreach to schools, health fairs and flu clinics.
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