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Organizing for a disaster

April 05, 2007

If a major disaster strikes the State of Pennsylvania, would you be willing to help out? If you have the desire - and the needed skills - the state health department wants to hear from you.

According to The Associated Press, Congress authorized all 50 states to develop volunteer registries following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the subsequent mailing of anthrax-laden letters.

The registries were designed mainly as a way to determine how many health-care providers states could call on, but the law also allows states to sign up those with other abilities.

Pennsylvania's volunteer registry will include those with a wide range of skills. In addition to health-care professionals, the state will also sign up contractors and law-enforcement personnel.

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Registration can be done online in about 15 minutes, say health officials, adding that those who register will be asked about their occupations, whether they would be willing to join medical-assistance teams and how far from home they would be willing to travel.

Advance registration is necessary, officials said, so that background checks can be done, medical credentials can be verified and so that additional training can be provided, if needed.

This is a great idea that would eliminate the confusion that sometimes arises when bystanders offer to help at the scene of an emergency. With this system, rescue personnel will know with whom they're dealing.

If you would like to register, go to www.serv.pa.gov.

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