Public Health Emergency - Leading a Nation Prepared
Become a part of the Medical Reserve Corps, a national network of volunteer medical professionals, public health experts, and others who help make their communities stronger and healthier during disasters and every day. Local MRC volunteers are trained as part of a team and work within their community’s health, preparedness, and response infrastructures to help meet local medical and public health needs during emergencies. MRC volunteers also promote preparedness in their communities to improve everyday health, reducing potential public health risks and vulnerabilities.
local MRC unit near you and contact the unit coordinator to learnmore about local volunteer opportunities and the registration process.
You've worked hard in your career to master a variety of skills – in medicine, public health, safety, logistics, communications or a number of other areas. Volunteering with the Medical Reserve Corps is a simple and effective way to use and improve those skills, while helping to keep your family, friends and neighbors safe and healthy. For example, you may put those skills to use during an emergency, or while providing services for the most vulnerable members of your community. People volunteer for many reasons, but some volunteer for the MRC because:
MRC volunteers train ─ individually and with other members of the unit ─ in order to improve their skills, knowledge and abilities. Sometimes the training is coursework, and other times it is part of a drill or exercise conducted with partner organizations in the community. Continuing education units and credits are even available for some programs.Many MRC volunteers assist with activities to improve public health in their community – increasing health literacy, supporting prevention efforts, and eliminating health disparities. In an emergency, local resources get called upon first, sometimes with little or no warning. As a member of an MRC unit, you can be part of an organized and trained team that responds during a disaster or public health emergency. You will be ready and able to bolster local emergency planning and response capabilities.The specific role that you will play, and the activities in which you will participate, will depend upon your background, interests and skills, as well as the needs of the MRC unit and the community.
Every MRC unit is led by a local MRC unit coordinator, who matches volunteer capabilities and schedules with local needs for both emergency responses and public health initiatives.Many MRC members are just like you – nurses, doctors, pharmacists, therapists, public health officials and other community members who believe in keeping your local area healthy, prepared, and resilient. They share your commitment to helping others and making a difference. You may also work closely with staff members from the local health department, emergency management agency, hospital or other organizations that partner with the MRC. In fact, the services that you provide may help these other organizations to meet their mission.
The MRC program has developed the MRC Core Competencies, which is a suggested guide for training MRC volunteers at the local level. Core competencies represent the baseline level of knowledge and skills that all MRC volunteers should have, regardless of their roles within the MRC unit. They also provide a framework for unit training and assist in describing what communities can expect of their MRCs. Because the core competencies establish only a minimum standard, units may choose to expand on the competencies in order to train volunteers at a more advanced level. Units may also choose to link the MRC core competencies to other existing sets of competencies for health professionals. For more information, please view the
MRC Core Competencies.
All MRC volunteers need to undergo some form of orientation to the MRC, which includes an overview of the system in which the MRC's activities occur, whether in relation to emergency response or public health, or both.Support/administrative volunteers receive guidance on how to perform their particular functions, which vary depending on the needs of particular communities. They may need to participate in practice drills if their duties interface with those of the front-line/direct-service volunteers. Overall, the training includes support skills training, communications, and Incident Command System, or other local command systems.Training requirements for front-line/direct-service volunteers is typically extensive and specialized. Generally, these volunteers receive training in primary emergency response and public health procedures, including basic life support and CPR; identifying the signs, symptoms, and treatment of hazardous materials (including nuclear, biological, and chemical agents); and basic first aid skills to deal with emergencies such as shock, allergic reactions, bleeding, broken bones, burns, choking, head trauma, heat exhaustion, and more.
Different localities are subject to different legal liability laws and standards. Liability also is a highly complex area of the law, compounded by innumerable differences at the local level. Understanding and interpreting liability is based on individual cases and varied interpretations of the statutes in specific states. Because the rules and laws vary, it is not possible for the MRC Program Office to provide information applicable to all 50 states and to all jurisdictions within them. State offices may provide information about its liability rules. Some states offer greater protection to medical volunteers than others. Additionally, some response partners may be able to extend the liability and workers compensation privileges that normally apply to regular workers.
No. The MRC program seeks medical and public health professionals to assist with emergency preparedness and response efforts; however, other volunteers who have no medical or healthcare backgrounds also are needed to properly conduct these efforts. Community members without medical training can assist with administrative, logistics, and other essential support functions.
The MRC program seeks volunteers to assist with emergency preparedness and response efforts. Volunteers in the MRC program include:
United States citizenship is not required to be part of the MRC. Non-citizen, legal U.S. residents also are welcome to volunteer and contribute their time, knowledge, and skills to protecting and improving their communities.
Major emergencies can overwhelm the capabilities of first responders, particularly during the first 12 to 72 hours. Medical and other health volunteers can provide an important "surge" capacity during this critical period. They also can augment medical staffing shortages at local medical and emergency facilities. In short, communities often need medically trained individuals to fill in the gaps in their emergency response plans and to improve their response capabilities overall.Possible types of "front-line" medical and public health volunteers include:
Individuals with a non-medical or healthcare background typically serve their community by assisting with administrative and other essential support functions. Possible types of administrative and other support volunteers include:
Although MRC volunteers are ready to respond to disasters or emergencies, part of the MRC program's mission is to foster disaster preparedness. MRC volunteers also are called to help during non-emergency times. During non-emergent times, MRC volunteers strengthen the overall health of Americans by participating in general public health initiatives such as flu vaccination clinics. MRC volunteers also promote improving health literacy, increasing disease prevention, eliminating health disparities, and supporting public health preparedness.
Volunteer availability is discussed during the MRC volunteer application process. MRC volunteers do not have to be available all the time. Some volunteers may only be interested in making a minimal commitment during times of crisis or for other specific community needs. These preferences are respected, given that they can be accommodated by the MRC unit's mission and work plan.Local MRC unit coordinators match community needs for emergency medical response and public health initiatives with volunteer capabilities. They also determine prospective volunteers' availability and whether they have other obligations, such as regular work responsibilities, that might conflict with serving the MRC in times of limited advanced notice. Different people will have different amounts of time to give. Some may not be available year-round, and others may need to be utilized throughout the year to remain engaged with the MRC.
The first step in becoming an MRC volunteer is to locate the closest MRC unit to you. Access the list of registered MRC units to find contact information. Then, contact the local unit coordinator to find out more about volunteer opportunities in your community and the local registration process.
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