Saturday, February 25, 2012

Integrating the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) into your disaster/exercise or special event

This article was originally posted in the February 2012 Version of the IAEM Bulletin

I have worked as a Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) Coordinator for the last year; it has become apparent some parts of emergency management are not utilizing MRC to its fullest.  What I would like to do in a short article is give you some examples of what the Corps can do for you.
The Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) was developed after 9-11 and the anthrax attacks in 2001, which makes it a new addition to the emergency management "tool box".  Since emergency managers cannot know everything, here is your primer for this valuable tool.
             The MRC is a volunteer organization comprised of two sets of valuable volunteers.  The first are medical volunteers, both working and retired, who maintain active medical licensure.  The second category is comprised of support volunteers.  Many units call these folks non-medical volunteers but this term sounds as if they are missing something.  They aren't lacking anything; they have important skills to support the operation of a medical team.  For instance, support volunteers can function as logistics staff, traffic controllers, drivers, couriers, telephone operators and many more positions.  Ever see a hospital run without support?
So how can you utilize them?  There are many ways, but I am going to give you two for now.
1.    Responders at a drill or exercise – For your next exercise contact ESF 8 through your EOC to bring in an MRC team to set up a clinic or a triage area.  Alternatively, if you are doing a tabletop exercise, utilize the MRC to fan out in the community and do public education about the tabletop and what the population would need to do if it had been a real disaster. Why just train the first responders, train the public too.
2.    Public Health Outreach in the Community – MRC volunteers have a wealth of knowledge and are interested in supporting the community they live in.  A great way to take advantage of their skills is using them as support in community outreach.  Whether it is during an exercise or a separate event, MRC members can be utilized to inform the public.  Specifically, medical volunteers interact with at-risk access and functional needs individuals (such as the homeless, elderly and special needs) regularly and are equipped to properly educate and assist this population.  Educating the public about how to prepare for an emergency will further alleviate the stress our response system feels in the event of a disaster. Events, such as health fairs and community block parties are a great opportunity to do public education.  MRC volunteers would be a great resource at your next fair or block party.

As we all know, it is vital to understand and utilize all of your emergency management tools both during practice and during a real world event; as you work with your local MRC you may come up with more ideas.  The goal is to include MRC volunteers in your planning and exercises so you will think to include them when the disaster happens.
Don't let a valuable resource atrophy, because you didn’t know about or utilize it!

Don’t know how to contact your local MRC?  Here is the link to the national site, look up your area by Region, State or zip code. FindMRC

Dave Nichols, CEM
Field Operations Manager
Public Health serving Seattle & King County, Washington


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