Why was the MRC created?
There was an outpouring of support for emergency relief efforts after the
terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Many Americans asked, �What can I do to
While these volunteers may have had the necessary skills, knowledge and desire to assist, their services could not be used. They had no identification as members of an emergency response system, no proof of credentials or training to deal with disasters. In fact, they could have been in danger of putting themselves and others at risk.
The anthrax attacks that followed in fall 2001 reinforced the need to pre-identified and train medical personnel. Over 40,000 individuals were screened and given medication. Clinics for dispensing mass amounts of medication or vaccinations within a very short time interval are essential for future disaster and public health emergency services.
To meet these needs, the Medical Reserve Corps was formed in 2002. These MRC units are community based and function as a way to locally organize and utilize volunteers for healthcare. It provides the structure necessary to pre-identify, train, credential and deploy personnel that are available and ready to respond. It is a way that we can become self reliant, particularly in the first 12- 72 hrs. When outside help may not be available.
Initially, the concept of the MRC was to provide an immediate response by local volunteers. However, the events of Katrina prompted an overwhelming number of MRC volunteers to ask if they could be of help. Over 6000 MRC volunteers assisted, adding yet another dimension to the MRC: the ability to not only respond locally but offer continued assistance regionally or nationally.
Why do we need a Medical Reserve Corps SW Florida?
SW Florida is growing at a rapid rate. Our healthcare,
public health and emergency response organizations are stretched to their limits
and in crisis can easily overwhelm the system.
While we are aware of the high risk of hurricanes, tornadoes and wildfires, there are unfortunately disasters, both natural and man-made, that we had never before contemplated � pandemic flu for one. We must prepare to meet these threats.
The MRC offers a formerly untapped resource of medical and non-medical local volunteers that are organized and trained to assist in critical times. The mission: to ensure the ongoing availability of healthcare, fill in the gaps and help when it counts the most.
During non-disaster times, MRC volunteers donate their time and expertise to make their community stronger, healthier and safer.
What are the benefits of joining the Medical Reserve Corps?
Nationally, a registered MRC unit receives immediate recognition by the
community, Office of Surgeon General, White House�s Freedom Corps, and Citizen
MRC National Program Office, housed in the Office of the U.S. Surgeon General, provides technical assistance, coordination and collaboration with national medical, health and emergency response organizations.
Regional MRC offices are set up across the country to further assist with education, research, technology , training and best practices which are passed on to the local MRC.
Local MRC units become part of the community�s emergency response system. When a specific need is identified, the MRC is contacted. This allows for effective utilization of our volunteers. An attempt is made to match knowledge, skills and areas of expertise with preferences, training and credentials.
Volunteers are always able to reject any assignment for any reason. Commitment of time and extent of training will vary widely depending on the individual. The decision is yours.
Disaster training has not been part of most healthcare curriculum. The MRC offers an opportunity for free training based on best practices. Participation in drills and exercises helps build the hands on skills that are needed to be effective.
Liability has always been a major concern of any healthcare professional. When you volunteer uncompensated services for the Lee County Health Department, such as being sent to a disaster assignment, liability insurance and workers� compensation are provided. Volunteers have the same insurance coverage that state employees receive as �agents of the state�. (See liability for details)
For many, however, being part of a nationwide movement, having a strong sense of mission and purpose, being able to learn how to prepare and care for ourselves, our families and our communities in times of crisis is the most important benefit.
How many MRC units are there and how many volunteers do they have?
The MRC was formed in 2002 and has grown way beyond expectations. Locally and
nationally they have been recognized as a significant resource.
The number of units is constantly changing, so check the national website for the exact numbers and where they are. As of July 2007, there are 660 units and 130,000 volunteers--- but expect that to change tomorrow!!
Are all MRC units alike? If I belong to one, can I belong to another?
There is no �typical� MRC unit. Each MRC organizes in response to their
community�s specific needs and may be structured under various lead
organizations: pubic health, hospitals, university medical centers, etc. Most
operate under the direction of public health, as does the SW Florida MRC, which
allows for maximum benefits and utilization of volunteer services.
SW Florida MRC links its services to official emergency response organizations. It also is developing special programs for hurricanes, disaster mental health, mass immunization and medication clinics, pan flu and hospital surge assistance programs.
In Florida, many individuals also belong to a MRC �up north� while volunteer with the SW Florida MRC during season. Your MRC Coordinator will be happy to assist you in registering with both units.
Do I need a medical background to become an MRC volunteer?
No. Many members have medical training but others have no special training
prior to joining. The main focus centers on healthcare, but you do not need to
be a healthcare professional to contribute to the mission.
MRC welcomes all individuals and depends on the diversity of talent, experience, skills and expertise to assist in every aspect of its organization, from strategic planning to day to day office activities.
Practicing, retired or otherwise employed medical
professionals, such as doctors, nurses, emergency medical technicians,
pharmacists, nursing assistants, social workers, mental health counselors,
dentists, veterinarians , students in healthcare professions and others.
Community members without medical training can assist the medical teams or provide other important support services such as administrative, clerical, record keeping, hot lines, recruitment, fundraising, marketing, website and others.
What kind of medical volunteers do you need?
We are seeking ALL medical and ALL healthcare related professionals. Whether they are in active practice, retired, academic, a student or a member of an emergency response team, we welcome your participation.
Medical volunteers include:
Physicians (including surgeons, medical
Nurses (nurse practitioners,
RN�s, LPN, nursing assistants)
Mental Health practitioners (social workers, counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists)
Health educators/ communications
Other medical and public health professionals
Students in healthcare fields
What kind of non-medical volunteers do you need and what do they do?
A huge amount of assistance is needed during disasters. You can elect to be
active in a disaster and support disaster related activities. Greeters, runners,
information gatherers, screeners, phone assistance, material supplies, ham
operators, transportation, interpreters, chaplains, and others are just a the
few roles played by non-medical volunteers during a disaster.
Comforting a child whose parent is missing, an adult who is awaiting medical care or a family concerned about a loved one are just a few of things that volunteers do. Everyone has a role!
You may not want or be able to volunteer at a service site for victims and families but still want to be part of the disaster response. Office assistance is crucial during these times to coordinate efforts to check volunteer availability, manage hot lines, coordinate deployment assignments, etc.
In non-disaster times, your expertise, skills and efforts are needed for development, recruitment, maintaining and sustaining the infrastructure of the organization. Volunteers are the heart of the MRC. Without them, there would be no MRC.
Some areas of immediate need:
Administration and business
Administrative assistance and office support staff
Communications: newsletters, computer skills, webpage, e-mail, database
Marketing and pubic relations
Trainers/Assistance for training events
Supply and logistic managers
Other support personnel
What might I be asked to during a disaster?
The MRC will make every effort to place volunteers in an
emergency role that is compatible with their interest, training and experience.
Safety of our volunteers is top priority. You will not be placed in high-risk
situations. And, you may refuse any assignment for any reason.
There may be various service sites: hospitals, first aid stations, triage centers, field hospitals, shelters, mass medication - immunization clinics, family support centers or assisting other emergency response organizations.
Major emergencies can overwhelm the capabilities of first responders, particularly during the first 12- 72 hrs. Hospitals and emergency facilities will need additional physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists and other healthcare professionals to augment medical staff shortages for the anticipated large numbers of patients during this critical period. There may be the need to rapidly distribute medications and vaccines to large numbers of individuals.
There is a spectrum of support activity that entails treatment per se. Depending on your training you might be monitoring vital signs, taking a patient history, passing out information sheets, transporting supplies, material management, crowd control, administrative, intake or reception duties.
Providing basic needs, support and comfort for survivors, families and disaster responders is critical. MRC volunteers will be taught what to do so they can help patients connect with loved ones, give updates and information about resources available, assist the elderly or make sure a child is safe.
Everyone has a role. Volunteers are vital, providing the hundreds, if not thousands, of helping hands that are needed in a disaster.
What do MRC volunteers do doing non-disaster times?
Lots of things! Fortunately large-scale disasters do not happen everyday. During non-disaster times, MRC volunteers may be training other volunteers or healthcare professionals in the community, participating in drills and exercises, providing health education, assisting with flu shots and back to school immunizations, health fairs, diabetes detection programs, and others.
What type of commitment is expected?
You decide. How active you are is your choice. What�s important is that you receive the basic minimum training so you are prepared to protect the health, safety and overall wellbeing of yourself, your family, your team and the community.
What happens if I am not available all the time?
Different people will have different amounts of time to give. Some not is
available year-round, some may be interested in making only a minimal commitment
during times of crisis or for other specific community needs, and others may
have obligations such as work responsibilities that would conflict with MRC
These preferences are respected and can be discussed with the MRC Co-coordinator so that you can be matched with your interests and capabilities.
Does registering obligate me to volunteer in a disaster?
No. You may be contacted and asked to volunteer. Volunteers may select certain areas of interest and we will make every effort to train and place you for that role. Please understand that you will need to be flexible and may be asked to go where you are needed most. You have the right to refuse to volunteer for any reason.
Do I need a license?
Licensed healthcare professionals will be needed to provide treatment according to their level of training, knowledge, skills and level of expertise. If a disaster is declared and you have a valid license in another state, your license may be activated in Florida. Your MRC coordinator will keep you updated as to your status. Healthcare professionals who do not have a valid license, such as retired, academic, students or non-licensed professionals, play an important part. Your MRC coordinator will be able to place you in the most appropriate role.
Do I have liability protection?
Yes. Medical volunteers have state liability protection when they volunteer uncompensated services for the Lee County Health Department. Volunteers are covered by state liability protection and have the same insurance coverage as state employees. Volunteers are also covered by the State�s workers compensation plan when they are providing volunteer services.Remember, you must be deployed by your Medical Core Reserve unit to receive this protection. You should never SELF deploy.Link to full statement on back of application blank titled:
Lee County Health Department
Section 110.501 Florida Statute Volunteer
State Liability Protection
Can I volunteer for more than one group?
Yes. The MRC program does not discourage cross volunteering and many of our members serve with the Red Cross, faith based organizations, DMATS, etc. Make sure you discuss your availability with your MRC coordinator.
How will I be contacted?
When you register you will provide MRC with various forms of contact information--- e-mail, phone, mailing address, etc. This information will be used to engage you in activities related to the MRC- alerts, upcoming trainings, drills, newsletters, social events and others. This information will not be sold or otherwise shared.
Why can�t I just show up at a disaster and help?
For safety reasons, disaster areas are often restricted to all but officially
sanctioned responders like MRC volunteers. Spontaneous volunteers having no
accepted identification or credentials may not be able to enter. Their presence
causes confusion, can strain recovery resources and take up the time of disaster
responders who need to be aiding victims. They may also put themselves and
official disaster responders at risk.
Don�t forget to bring your MRC ID badge. It�s the only way emergency officials will know who you are and admit you to the site!
Does the MRC provide opportunities to volunteer outside my immediate community or on a national level?
Volunteers will be asked in their application if they wish to volunteer
outside of their community. Those who elect to do so may be placed on a national
registry of volunteers. This national registry is just now being developed.
For the moment your MRC office/coordinator will contact you regarding an assignment should an out of town deployment opportunity arise. The MRC adjuncts to existing organizations which require additional help or special skills. In some cases, MRC�s have developed specialized teams that can stand alone and provide care at a field hospital.
It is very important that you keep your contact information current.
What training will I need?
MRC members come from a variety of backgrounds and enter with various skills
and credentials. The MRC has a suggested guide for training all MRC volunteers
at the local level called Core Competencies. These represent baseline knowledge
and skills, regardless of your role.
However, roles may vary and so will your training. You may already know how to perform some of the medical functions needed. In most cases, your training will focus on learning your local emergency and health procedures, trauma response techniques and other methods to enhance your effectiveness as a volunteer.
If you select to work in a particular area, you may receive specialized or just in time training.
What are Core Competencies?
The MRC has just posted a suggested guide for training. Core competencies
represent the baseline level of knowledge and skills that all MRC volunteers
should have regardless of their role within the MRC unit. MRC leaders may choose
trainings from the suggested guide use other trainings or create their own unit
specific training based on the competencies.
LINK into the Core Competency Matrix from the national website � posted April 2007
What type of training is available for MRC volunteers?
All MRC volunteers need to undergo some for of orientation to MRC, which
includes an overview of the system in which the MRC activities occur.
Training for front line/ direct-service volunteers can be as extensive and specialized as your interest.
Various levels of first aid, CPR, Disaster Mental Health, Incident Command System, core disaster life support, including WMD and mass casualty triage, are available. In addition, specific trainings in START triage, mass medication clinics, pandemic response, and hospital surge are available for those with special interest in these areas.
Most training is available in a variety of formats including: online courses, Webcasts, CDs, seminars, workshops and classrooms. Some courses are presented by local healthcare professionals and agencies, guest speakers and university affiliated schools of public health.
In addition, there are drills and exercises and cross training with other agencies to help build hands on skills. All training for MRC members is free. Whenever possible, CMEs and CEUs are provided.
How do I get this training?
Your MRC Coordinator will alert you to training opportunities. Neighboring
MRC units often share training opportunities and invite fellow MRC units to
participate. You also have the opportunity to benefit from the wide variety of
training offered by many of MRC�s partnering agencies � local, regional and
MRC members can also take advantage of the training offered by organizations such as: Lee County Health System, USF College of Public Health, Florida Center for Public Health Preparedness, U of Miami Disaster and Extreme Event Preparedness (DEEP), FEMA and the CDC.
In addition, as a member of the MRC you are able to participate in TRAIN. This is a free resource for MRC volunteers. TRAIN is a national network which allows you to access hundreds of nationally recognized courses, meets many of the licensure and certification requirements of professionals and maintains a printable transcript for every registered user.
Is there an national MRC website?
There you will find a great deal of information, updates on MRC activities, national newsletters, access to training materials, core competencies, a discussion board and much more.
How do I join?
Volunteers should register by going to http://www.swflmrcfound.org/join.html and completing the on-line registration or requesting an application from Steve Fettner, SW Florida Medical Reserve Corps Coordinator.If you wish to mail/ fax your application:
2295 Victoria Avenue
Ft. Myers, Fl 33901
Phone: (239)461-6109 FAX: (239)461-6101
Once submitted, information will be verified, added to our database and you will receive confirmation of acceptance.