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Emergency preparedness is in the bag

September 24, 2007|By MARLO BARNHART

HAGERSTOWN - As a critical-care nurse and patient advocate for 25 years at Washington County Hospital, Marie Thompson is no stranger to emergency preparedness.

So when Thompson heard about the Washington County Citizen Corps Red Bag project, she thought it would be a great idea for the 76 people associated with her current agency - Hospice of Washington County.

The bags are filled with food, first aid and other supplies to be used in an emergency.

Thompson is quality improvement director at Hospice, which is now at 747 Northern Ave.

A Hagerstown native, Thompson is married and has three children, five stepchildren and eight grandchildren.

"It's actually part of our accreditation that we have an emergency plan," Thompson said. "We're giving a bag to every employee."

She and Jeff Crosby, Hospice clinical education coordinator, had been pondering how to achieve that since she first came to Hospice.

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The red bags were a match.

In conjunction with September's designation as Emergency Preparedness Month, the Citizen Corps purchased a quantity of the empty bags, according to Verna Brown, emergency management coordinator for Washington County.

"Hospice is the first agency to jump in and do this as a project," Brown said. And for their participation, Hospice has affixed its name and trademark on the backs of the bags.

On a recent afternoon, Thompson and Crosby filled bags with pamphlets, an emergency blanket, a flashlight and extra batteries, a radio, drinking water, an energy bar, a medicine box, a light stick and a whistle with a light.

Those items were suggested by Brown.

"We are recommending the bags be kept in their trunks," Thompson said of the Hospice personnel. "If there is an emergency, they will be able to go for 24 hours."

The bags are designed to be worn as a backpack or to fit over the back of a wheelchair.

Just recently, the agency put together a safety committee to continue to explore this area which Thompson said is vital.

Brown met with Hospice employees on Sept. 19 to talk about emergency preparedness and to hand out the filled bags.

"This is our first implementation," Brown said. "We'd like to see it in all industries, with teachers and in nursing homes."

A workshop, What Every Caregiver Should Know About Emergency Preparedness, will be Tuesday, Oct. 2, from 8 a.m. to noon at Hospice. It is jointly sponsored by Hospice and the Citizen Corps.

For more information on the red bags, call 240-313-2900.

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