By DEBORAH GERTZ HUSAR
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
As an insurance agent, Marla Dietrich already knows a thing or two about being prepared for emergencies.
She's learned even more by getting involved with the Adams County Medical Reserve Corps.
"I was looking for something to get involved in and thought this would be a good opportunity," Dietrich said. "They do a lot of good things for the community, and the classes you have to take also help me with my business. It was a given."
The Adams County chapter is part of a national volunteer network that serves communities during a public health emergency or disaster. Dietrich is quick to stress that anyone can get involved.
"You don't have to be a nurse or something to get involved," she said. "There's stuff for everybody do to."
The Medical Reserve Corps got its start from the mass influx of people who wanted to help after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The Adams County chapter formed in 2004 and marked its 10th anniversary in June.
Most active with the H1N1 flu outbreak in 2005, the chapter is part of the Adams County Incident Command team and helps out with a variety of community events, including Bridge the Gap to Health, emergency medical services promotions, and events at the Early Childhood Center.
The chapter has a little more than 90 members from Adams County and its neighbors, with about 25 active volunteers. Members have to be at least 18 years old and must participate in national incident management and incident command training.
"I want them to be involved in what they want to be involved in," said Triena Dietrich, Medical Reserve Corps coordinator with the Adams County Health Department. "I have some people that want to be really involved. I have others that just want information on what's going on. I have others who say only contact me if it's an emergency."
The Adams County chapter participated in 46 activities in 2013 -- second most among coprs chapters in Illinois -- and donated a total of 1,458.5 volunteer hours.
Marla Dietrich, Triena Dietrich's sister-in-law, has helped out at a water stand for the annual Bridge the Gap race and volunteered during Smiles for Kids at the Health Department. The chapter also won one of 29 nationwide challenge grants to help with a program to combat childhood obesity.
During emergencies such as flooding, corps volunteers help with tetanus shots or organize sandbagging efforts.
"In the event of a true public health emergency, we would set up a drive-through clinic," Triena Dietrich said. "My volunteers help survey, direct traffic. Some volunteers are nurses and actually give inoculations."
Triena Dietrich, who grew up in Liberty, sees the Medical Reserve Crops as an extension of the tradition of neighbor helping neighbor.
"We have to take care of our own," she said. "You take care of your family first, then you help take care of the community second."
That philosophy helps the county when disaster strikes.
"We know we're going to have to be self-sufficient. Government is not going to rescue us. For at least three days, we know we'll be on our own, probably more than that," Triena Dietrich said. "We never self-deploy. If help is requested, we can get volunteers to go here and there."
The corps was a perfect fit for husband and wife Roger and Ann Huner.
Ann Huner is a nurse, having worked nearly 29 years at Good Samaritan Home, and both have been heavily involved over the years with the American Red Cross. Her husband already works as a training director with John Simon, director of the Adams County Emergency Management Agency.
"We know what happens in times of disaster. Everybody feels guilty and wants to get involved," Ann Huner said. "The worst problem is people who spontaneously dispatch themselves to the scene and become part of the problem, not part of the solution."
Corps training shows people how to take care of themselves and their neighbors while taking some of the burden off emergency responders. The medical community, health officials and emergency responders all can use trained help.
"They need MRC people," Huner said. "They only have so many paid staff, so they get valuable staff that they don't have to put on the payroll. Volunteers contribute greatly to the success."
More on corps
The Medical Reserve Corps is a national volunteer program based in the Office of the U.S. Surgeon General with a goal of building strong, healthy, prepared communities. The program has 993 community-based units and 207,783 volunteers in the U.S. and its territories. The Adams County chapter meets the fourth Thursday of every month at 5:30 p.m. at the Adams County Health Department, 330 Vermont in Quincy. For more information, contact MRC Coordinator Triena Dietrich at 217-222-8440, ext. 112, or firstname.lastname@example.org.