By Colleen Lehmann
There’s no time like a global pandemic to step into a new job as emergency response coordinator, but Phillip Haynes isn’t letting that dampen his enthusiasm. As a Texas native, he’s used to a “go big or go home” mentality … and he isn’t going home.
Haynes began his tenure with Douglas County Health Department in early October, hired for the job previously held by Adam Bulthuis, who accepted a similar position in northern Illinois.
“I’m excited about being here in Douglas County and look forward to establishing partnerships with all the county agencies involved in emergency response,” said Haynes. “We already were able to have a good training session with the Tuscola Fire Department, so I want to give them some love for their help. I’m hoping to be in touch with local police departments and highway patrols as well, to see how things work.”
Haynes hails from Dallas, specifically the Pleasant Grove neighborhood on the city’s southeast side. An offensive tackle for Skyline High School, he accepted a football scholarship from UNLV. Haynes red-shirted his freshman year, then played tight end while earning a degree in kinesiology with a minor in sociology.
While a kinesiology major and emergency response coordinator might, on the surface, seem to be a disconnect, Haynes thinks otherwise.
“I had a lot of public health courses as part of my degree program, and responding to emergencies is a big part of the public health world. I always knew I would do something like this. My mom worked in the medical field, in a laboratory, so I grew up hearing her talk about the CDC and other agencies. It feels like a natural fit for me.”
The core responsibility of ER coordinator is, said Haynes, “making sure the county is disaster ready. That means ensuring the equipment, plans and personnel are in place for when those unfortunate things happen.”
Keeping abreast of federal, state, and local regulations that affect emergency plans is another component of the job, as is ensuring team members are in compliance with regulatory and training requirements.
An additional role that falls under Haynes’ purview is the Douglas County Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) and Junior MRC. Both MRC and JMRC, according to their website (www.facebook.com/dchealthdeptmrc) “provide medical assistance with sudden emergencies … can be used to supplement existing emergency services when a disaster is of a magnitude that overwhelms existing resources … can provide relief for overworked personnel in the event of an emergency.”
Volunteers for these organizations do not necessarily need medical skills, as there are other roles that play a part. You may be asked to help with administrative duties, direct traffic, assist with communications. Volunteers with a healthcare background could be utilized for providing CPR, giving vaccinations, injury triaging, and other more medically-oriented tasks.
“We are looking for enthusiastic, able-bodied folks who want to help make their communities safer. Regular training sessions are held, and I want to make this a fun as well as functional process,” said Haynes.
For the MRC, which currently has a roster of 28 volunteers, trainings are traditionally held the second Tuesday evening of the month, though COVID restrictions put those on hold for some time. Haynes is hoping to get back onto schedule starting in January 2021, but noted it would depend on the county’s coronavirus status.
Trainings for JMRC, which were usually scheduled when the majority of volunteers could attend, will follow the same COVID guidelines. Haynes laments not being able to make personal visits to schools to recruit high schoolers for the JMRC, but is brainstorming other ways to reaching out for possible participants.
“I’m really looking forward to working with high school students, hopefully building up those numbers. This is a great thing to be involved in, it’s important work, and it really looks great on a college application, so keep that in mind,” he added.
If you would like to learn more about Douglas County MRC or JMRC, Haynes is eager to hear from you. Contact him via email at MRC@douglascountyil.com. Everyone is welcome. He would also love to talk with anyone certified to teach first aid and other emergency response-related courses who is interested in sharing that knowledge with other volunteers.