Sherry Chester (left) emergency operations coordinator for Sulphur Springs ISD, and Civic Center Operations Manager Dottie Ford (right) listen as Wendell Eakins, director of emergency service department of Hopkins County Memorial Hospital, discusses preparedness during a meeting Thursday. The Texas Department of State Health Services hosted the gathering, geared towards recruiting volunteers from the medical field in the event of a local natural disaster, epidemic or other area-wide emergency.
Staff Photo By Patti Sells

It Could Happen Here

State health department technicians seek volunteers from medical field to take part in disaster preparedness

BY PATTI SELLS, News-Telegram Feature Writer

June 27, 2008 - If a major disaster ever comes to pass in Hopkins County, everyone is going to need to pitch in, but medical personnel will play one of the most vital roles of all, a public health technician for the state of Texas said Thursday.

"People have the mind set that nothing is going to happen here in Hopkins County," said Ernestine Williams with the Texas Department of State Health Services. "But it could. And we need to have our volunteers lined up and in place."

Local doctors, nurses and other health care professionals attended a public health preparedness meeting Thursday at Hopkins County Memorial Hospital after a invitation was sent out by the Texas Department of State Health Services encouraging participation by medical professionalsin the event of a local emergency or epidemic.

In the event of a public health emergency or natural disaster, a large number of volunteers would be needed to help protect local citizens on a mass scale. The Community Preparedness Teams of Texas Department of State Health Services conduct free training programs in all areas of public health concerns.

Joyce Vaginault, a public health technician for Texas Department of State Health Services community preparedness/disease surveillance division of Sulphur Springs, said that at the last emergency preparedness exercises she was involved in locally, a veterinarian was the only medical professional on hand to provide his services.

"It's sad that he was the only one who stepped up," she said. "We always seem to fall short in the medical field. We want to get the health profession more involved in preparedness plans and exercises."

"We need home health agents, dentists, paramedics -- certified nurses will be invaluable," said Williams, also with the Texas Department of State Health Services. "We won't turn anyone away."

Those retired from the medical field are highly valuable as emergency public health volunteers, as well, according to Williams.

"But there are many positions here that anyone could perform," said Vaginault, noting people are needed for supply managers, translators, greeters and many other jobs.

For volunteer applications or more information call 903-439-9338.

Older Archives

Looking for News-Telegram Sports and News Archives for January 2004 - November 2008