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Introduction

The City of El Paso Department of Public Health (DPH), received funding in 2014 from the Conference of Radiation Control Program Directors, Inc., to implement the El Paso Radiation Response Volunteer Project (El Paso RRVP). The purpose of the project is to conduct, over a period of one year, outreach to identify, recruit, train, and integrate radiation professionals into existing local and state volunteer registries. The El Paso RRVP works in partnership with the West Texas Medical Reserve Corps, El Paso Community College, the University of Texas at El Paso, the Texas Radiation Control Program, and the El Paso City-County Office of Emergency Management.

 

Background

State and local agencies are responsible for public health and safety during radiological emergencies. In the event of a major radiological incident, including an accident or terrorist activity, state and local resources would be quickly overwhelmed by the large number of citizens needing to be monitored for contamination. One method of supplementing state and local resources is through the use of local volunteer radiation professionals who could perform population monitoring and other assistance at community reception centers, shelters, emergency operations centers, hospitals, and other areas where potentially contaminated persons would gather after such an incident. There are tens of thousands of radiation professionals across the country, living and working in nearly every community, who could volunteer to assist their local and state public health and emergency management authorities in the event of a large nuclear/radiological incident. The infrastructure for such a volunteer effort exists in the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC), which is a part of the Citizen Corps program. There are already 800 MRC units in operation with 180,000 trained volunteer members including active and retired physicians, nurses, and public health professionals as well as other types of volunteers (www.medicalreservecorps.gov). The MRC program has proven to be a valuable asset in local public health preparedness for pandemic influenza and for assisting in operation of Points of Dispensing sites for the purpose of distributing Strategic National Stockpile assets.

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There is a need to raise awareness of the benefits and necessity of using volunteer radiation professionals to assist state and local authorities with population monitoring activities during a radiological emergency. Most state radiation control programs and the radiation professionals with whom they interact are not aware that volunteer programs such as MRC exist and how that existing infrastructure can assist them in radiation emergency planning. Additionally, most public health planners are not aware that a large pool of radiation professionals willing to assist exists. Most MRC leaders are not aware of the role their units can play in helping communities respond in a radiation emergency.

Radiation professionals include health physicists, medical physicists, nuclear medicine technologists, radiologic technologists, radiation oncologists, radiation therapists, radiologists, and others. With additional training, as appropriate, these radiation professionals can assist in population monitoring and support of shelter operations in the communities where they live.

Source: The Conference of Radiation Control Program Directors

 

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