Become a Volunteer
Local health, safety and preparedness begins with you
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
I’m in! How do I get started?
local MRC unit near you and contact the unit
coordinator to learn
more about local volunteer
opportunities and the registration process.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why should I volunteer?
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:
- It's a way to offer their skills that might not have
been used before because they were not adequately
prepared to be part of the response effort.
It's a significant benefit to communities because
skilled volunteers offer services during the year to
augment existing public health efforts or provide
emergency backup that would not otherwise be available.
It's a chance to belong to a group with a strong sense
of mission and purpose. Volunteers are at the very heart
of the MRC. The existence of this nationwide,
community-based network is due to the willingness of
volunteers to serve their communities in times of need.
What would I do as a volunteer?
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.
Who do I volunteer with?
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
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.
Are there core competencies required to become an MRC
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.
What type of training is available for MRC volunteers?
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
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.
Who is liable if I am injured or hurt while serving as
an MRC volunteer?
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.
Is the MRC volunteer program only for medical or
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.
What type of background do I need to become an MRC
The MRC program seeks volunteers to assist with emergency
preparedness and response efforts. Volunteers in the MRC
- Practicing, retired, or otherwise employed medical
professionals, such as doctors, nurses, emergency
medical technicians, pharmacists, nurses' assistants,
- Public health professionals
Community members without medical training can assist
with administrative and other essential support
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.
What do individuals with a medical or healthcare
background do as an MRC volunteer?
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
Possible types of "front-line"
medical and public health volunteers include:
- Physicians (including surgeons, medical specialists,
- Physician Assistants
(nurse practitioners, registered nurses, licensed
practical nurses, nursing assistants)
- Dental Assistants
- Public health workers
- Infectious disease specialists
- Mental health practitioners
(psychologists, substance abuse counselors, social
- Health educators/communicators
Other medical and public health professionals
What do individuals with a non-medical or healthcare
background do as an MRC volunteer?
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
- Administrators and business managers
Administrative assistants and office support staff
- Fundraising professionals
Supply and logistics managers
- Amateur radio operators
Other support personnel
Do MRC volunteers only help in disaster time (during
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.
Once I become an MRC volunteer, what happens if I am not
available all the time?
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.
I am interested in becoming an MRC volunteer. What do I
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