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Board of Health volunteers help with emergencies

Emergencies and natural disasters require the assistance of many people, in order for the public response to them to be handled quickly and efficiently.

The Clayton County Board of Health's Office of Emergency Preparedness & Response provides citizens with the opportunity to join the Public Health Volunteer Initiative Program. It serves as an aid during times of radiological emergencies, as well as biological and natural disasters.

The duties of volunteers include: Intake, dispensing medicine, assisting with triage, and setting up mobile hospitals, in the aftermath of an emergency, according to Joel Hall, Clayton County Board of Health public information officer.

"During a public health emergency, there is a lot of confusion ...," said Hall.

He added that the program will teach participants how to be helpful, in case of an emergency. According to Hall, interested parties must fill out an application.

The only requirements to join the volunteer program are that a person must be 18 years old, or older, and pass a criminal background check, said Hall. He explained that volunteers must also take a basic, four-hour training course.

According to Hall, the free classes are conducted all year long, on the second Saturday of every month, at the Clayton County Board of Health, which is located at 1117 Battlecreek Road, in Jonesboro.

For additional information on becoming a volunteer, interested parties can call the Board of Health's Darren Armstrong, at (678) 610-7468.

"You don't have to have a medical background," said Hall. "If volunteers have medical experience [however], they must present medical credentials," he added.

"We have roughly 100 volunteers who have gone through training and are ready to mobilize, if something were to happen," he said.

The next big exercise for the Office of Emergency Preparedness and Response is a full-scale, radiological-incident-response exercise, said Hall. The scenario of the exercise will be a bomb going off in Forest Park, he added. Volunteers will assume the roles of causalities and responders. The exercise will take place on April 5, and the office is looking for volunteers for the exercise.

"The volunteers do not have to be a part of the public health initiative program," Hall said. He explained that volunteers, for the exercise, must take one of two pre-training sessions, which will take place in February or March. "The dates have yet to be determined," he added.

For more information about the upcoming radiological-disaster exercise, contact Debra Taylor, at (678) 610-7471, or e-mail: dtaylor1@dhr.state.ga.us.