Chester native gets FEMA instruction

Chester native Mary Bradley Lasorsa is a retired nurse with a penchant for adventure.

The Oak Glen High School alumna – Class of 1982 – recently took training from the Federal Emergency Management Agency that qualifies her to respond to chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive threats.

“If there is an anthrax or ricin attack, we can be deployed through FEMA to assist with the disaster,” said Lasorsa, 50, of Palm Desert, Calif.

Lasorsa took the training at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Center for Domestic Preparedness in Anniston, Ala. The four-day course was held at the only federally chartered training facility for weapons of mass destruction and toxic chemical threats in the nation.

“The course was intense and difficult at times,” Lasorsa said, “but an extremely rewarding experience.”

Lasorsa got her nursing degree from Pennsylvania State University in Monaca, Pa., and worked as a registered nurse until she retired.

“I was looking for more things to do,” she said. “I missed my nursing, so with this disaster training, I feel like I’m still giving back. I still keep the (nursing) license current.”

Lasorsa learned about the course through her involvement with the Riverside County Department of Public Health’s Medical Reserve Corps, which sponsored her. She also is active with Palm Desert’s Citizens on Patrol, a local disaster medical assistance team and the humanitarian organization Flying Doctors of America, which provides free medical and dental care.

“I volunteer with everything now,” she said, noting that she is on call and can be deployed to a disaster anywhere in the country.

Lasorsa said she took FEMA training courses online but wanted something more.

“Being in California, we have earthquakes here, so I originally signed up to take a short course. I just felt such an interest in wanting to help,” she said. “I want to make sure that I keep my skills up and my knowledge up because (in the event of a disaster) the fire department’s not going to be there, the police aren’t going to be there. You have to be able to self-sustain.”

Her most recent training, paid for by the government, involved responding to simulated chemical attacks, biological warfare and other scenarios.

“It’s realistic. They get you up at 4 o’clock in the morning, and you’re in those masks for four hours at a time. It’s very physically and mentally demanding work,” she said. “You have to locate anthrax and test for it in a haz-mat suit.”

As a result of the training, Lasorsa received her Chemical, Ordnance, Biological and Radiological 10 certification.

Lasorsa said she stays in touch with high school friends and visits Hancock County at least once a year. Her sister and niece live in Chester.