The Medical Reserve Corp (MRC) is an invaluable service in times of natural or man-made disaster and community crisis, by using volunteers to strengthen public health, emergency response and community resiliency.
MRC units are community-based and function as a way to locally organize and utilize volunteers who want to donate their time and expertise to prepare for and respond to emergencies and promote healthy living throughout the year. MRC volunteers supplement existing emergency and public health resources locally and have the option to do so on the state and national level.
When the southeast was battered by hurricanes in 2004, MRC volunteers helped communities by filling in at local hospitals, assisting their neighbors at local shelters and providing first aid to the injured. During this period, more than 30 MRC units worked as part of the relief efforts, and included called-in volunteers from across the country to assist the American Red Cross (ARC) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
During the 2005 hurricane season, MRC members provided support for ARC health services, mental health and shelter operations, including special needs shelters, community health centers and health clinics. They also assisted health assessment teams in the Gulf Coast region.
The responsibilities of MRC volunteers vary, depending on the needs in the community, and can involve assisting during emergencies or with public initiatives and ongoing community health outreach and education efforts. Because 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 staff shortages at local medical and emergency facilities. Communities often need medically trained individuals and others to fill in the gaps in their emergency response plans and to improve their response capabilities overall. MRC volunteers also strengthen the overall health of Americans by participating in general public health initiatives such as flu vaccination clinics and diabetes detection programs.
MRC volunteers come from all walks of life, including practicing, retired, or otherwise employed medical professionals, such as doctors, nurses, emergency medical technicians, pharmacists, nurses’ assistants and others. Public health professionals and community members without medical training can assist with administrative and other essential support functions in MRC volunteer roles as well.
In most cases, training as an MRC volunteer focuses primarily on learning the local emergency and health procedures, the trauma response techniques, the use of specialized equipment, as well as other methods of enhancing one’s effectiveness. Perhaps the most important part of training is learning to work as part of a team. An organized, well-trained MRC unit is familiar with its community’s response plan, knows its response partners, as well as what materials are available, and knows where its skills can best be put to use in a coordinated manner.
There will be an orientation meeting for anyone interested in joining the Clark County MRC unit from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 27 in the Conference Room of the Clark County Home Health building, 273 Shoppers Drive. A light meal will be served.
If you have any questions about being an MRC volunteer, contact Clark County MRC Unit Leader Jim Cowan at 859-744-1488 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
More information is also available online at www.medicalreservecorps.gov.
Clark County Health Department is a proud partner and community leader for the MRC. For more information about the MRC, or other health department services, visit www.clarkhealthdept.org.