What is the Medical Reserve Corps ?

The national MRC organization is comprised of volunteers who want to help their community in case of disaster, especially by applying their medical skills. See the national web site, www.medicalreservecorps.gov , for details.

What is the mission of the Upper Merrimack Valley MRC?

The overall mission is to prepare for response to disasters. The three areas of focus are:

  1. Public health emergencies
  2. Mass-casualty incidents
  3. Community service activities

See the home page for details.

How are MRCs across the U.S. similar, and how are they different?

The units are all the same in that they adhere to the basic principals of the national organization: response to disasters in their community, through medical volunteers who have been trained in advance.

They are different because each unit is entitled to operate in the best way for its unique situation. The climate, geography, number and composition of volunteers, sources of hazards, and many other aspects can vary wildly from one region to another. (For example, the issues faced by units in Alaska are entirely different from those in New York City or the U.S. Virgin Islands.) Therefore, it is vital for participants to structure and train their units according to local needs.

Because there can be such a difference between individual units, the answers to the remaining questions pertain specifically to the Upper Merrimack Valley MRC. Other units may handle things differently.

How do I become a member of the UMV MRC?

All you need to do is submit application and CORI forms . When we receive your application, you will be welcomed by the staff, and your name will be entered into our membership roster. All MA units run a CORI and SORI check on all members, per our statewide policy and as a common-sense precaution.

However, signing up is simply the first step. It’s even better to join by attending an MRC Overview or an Information Session. These low-key events explain more about the unit and the role its members can play to help their own community. Completion of various training classes help members to be eligible for various kinds of deployment.

Does the MRC require a big time commitment?

Members can devote as little or as much time as they wish. Although a wide range of training is available and encouraged, the primary request for all members is to complete the necessary forms and basic training, and then keep their skills sharp and be ready for emergencies. Be sure to keep your contact information up to date, too!

Because members have busy lives, the MRC prefers to limit the demands on its members. If we have a call-out, members always have the right to say no. However, there is always work to be done and ways in which to serve. Even if all you can do is serve one day at an annual flu clinic or a health fair, that involvement alone is helpful!

What kinds of activities is the MRC involved in?

Our most vital activity is to serve in deployments. We’ve been called on to help with a regional flooding disaster and several flu clinics. Our unit was on standby for two sudden explosions that resulted in hundreds of area residents being displaced from their homes. And while our focus is local, members have served broader needs resulting from Hurricane Katrina. See the web site for examples of our unit in action.

We continue to offer training and community service activities, and are always looking to develop programs that are specific to the MRC and the various categories of expertise (physicians, nurse practitioners, EMTs, others). After all, there is a wide range of functions to be performed by members, as they prepare for different levels of response.

What kinds of members are invited to join?

Anyone who wants to help can be useful in the MRC! In the same way that a hospital needs more than doctors and nurses in order to function, an MRC benefits from the contributions of each member, regardless of their level.

For general deployment purposes, we have identified three basic categories of service through our unit:

Advanced-level care providers have the most extensive certifications – including physicians, nurse practitioners, and paramedics.

  1. First-responder care providers include basic-level EMTs and LPNs.
  2. Non-medical care providers are those who offer crucial support functions, such as database administrators and “greeters” at clinics.

Each member can offer valuable service, regardless of their level of medical training, and may become indispensable in a given emergency!

What will I be doing as a member?

In the beginning, the focus is on coming up to speed in the various kinds of disaster response. Then, members can stay as active in the unit as they choose, participating in activities such as training programs and community service events. In the event of an emergency, the MRC Director will work with the appropriate personnel to deploy members for response, when and where they can do the greatest good for the greatest number.

How much training do I need?

The level of training required depends on each member’s role in potential deployments.

All members are encouraged to attend an MRC orientation – either in small groups with the coordinator, or in larger Information Sessions that are scheduled periodically throughout the region to recruit new members. The orientations include a short training video and the exchange of basic information, along with the opportunity to discuss the unit and answer any questions. The courses we have offered in the past have been free, and most result in CEUs (for nurses) or OEMS credit hours (for EMTs). We are looking into the prospects of CMEs (for physicians).

Training classes are scheduled periodically throughout each year. Check the Training section for the latest course schedules. In the past, courses have included:

• A four-module disaster series through the *American Red Cross

• Disaster mental health training

• Emergency Dispensing Site/Mass Dispensing Clinic

• Smallpox Certification

• Pandemic/Avian Flu

• Triage (adult and pediatric)


*When members complete the Red Cross series, they are recognized by the national MRC and Red Cross organizations throughout the U.S. as being qualified to support an emergency shelter, as well as trained in other basic disaster response functions.

Members are encouraged to take additional courses that add breadth and depth to their disaster expertise. (The Training section offers course descriptions, with a calendar of scheduled classes and events.) Recommended online courses include ICS-100 (Incident Command System), NIMS-700 (National Incident Management System), and BT Awareness for Public Health (see web site).

When possible, we offer pointers to classes that other groups make available to our members. Other MRC units and various response partners invite members to each other’s programs – which is particularly helpful in getting acquainted and cross-trained before disaster strikes.

The more you learn, and the better your skills become, the more successful you can be in helping your community! We strive to develop a well-rounded unit that is as fully prepared as possible for all-hazards response. There is really no limit to the topics we can offer over time.

What does “all-hazards response” mean?

This term describes a complete range of disasters, for which trained responders could be essential. The MRC might be called to provide care to those who are impacted by anything from natural disasters (hurricanes, floods, fires), to a chemical spill on a highway, to a terrorist attack. No one can predict when a disaster will strike, nor the kind of skills that would be required to handle every situation. But the more we learn and prepare, the more effective our response can be, and the more lives can be saved.

What is “Just In Time” training?

The concept of JIT (Just In Time) training has been prevalent across industries for years. The purpose is to provide a predetermined list of responsibilities, to prepare someone quickly for discrete, clearly defined tasks.

For example, several good-hearted college students volunteered to help at an emergency Hepatitis-A clinic in the area. To help them serve as “people movers” at the clinic, they were quickly instructed in how to escort visitors, and how to notify each person in an orderly manner when it was their turn for inoculations.

Some MRCs have developed subsets of JIT training for various common tasks. There is usually some form of ‘job action sheet’ or assigned skills available, to provide some brief training at the site of a deployment. However, our focus is to arrive with members who have already been pre-credentialed and pre-trained in basic disaster response skills, so they can be as prepared as possible to respond when an event occurs.

What is the relationship between the MRC and the American Red Cross?

At a national level, the two organizations are separate yet cooperative. There is some overlap in the ways in which the MRC and ARC can respond to various disasters, but these two entities have different missions. (See ARC for more about the Red Cross.)

At the local level, the Upper Merrimack Valley MRC and the Merrimack Valley chapter of the American Red Cross enjoy a mutually beneficial relationship. The ARC provides several classes to UMV members free of charge. If the ARC needs extra volunteers in setting up and running an emergency shelter, they are invited to call the MRC staff for additional support.

See the Partners section for more detail about relations between the MRC and affiliates.

What is an MOA, or MOU?

A Memorandum of Agreement, or Memorandum of Understanding, is a document signed by multiple entities that may be interacting in the future, to clarify their roles and responsibilities ahead of time. For example, the MRC is developing MOA/MOU documents with a number of municipal and other organizations, as part of community response plans. An MOU could specify whether a school could serve as an emergency shelter, which resources would provide food and water, and whether various civic groups would be contacted for donations.

How do decisions in the MRC get made?

Basic decisions are made by the MRC Director, and are carried out by the MRC Coordinator. This leadership structure is expanded through the UMV MRC Advisory Council, which has representatives from each of the seven communities in the Upper Merrimack Valley . The Council serves as the executive steering committee. Other groups will be formed over time, such as task forces to address training, communications, and other vital functions.

Each of the Council members is endorsed by their town’s board of health, and agrees to serve as the liaison to their LEPC.

OK, what’s an LEPC?

Local Emergency Planning Committee. Most towns in the UMV either have their own LEPC, or are involved with multi-community LEPCs. The purpose is to ensure that the key groups are called when appropriate during an emergency, and that essential operations and materials have been planned in advance. This is significant for the UMV because Council reps can ensure that their communities are represented, and that the MRC becomes an integral part in regional emergency plans.

Do MRC units pose a problem for unions?

No! There’s no conflict in the interactions between a volunteer organization such as the MRC, and a union entity (fire, police, other), in responding to emergencies. The MRC is strictly available as “surge capacity,” and is invited to respond whenever additional medical support is needed in a disaster.

How do I get answers to other questions involving the MRC?

Send an e-mail to the MRC! The coordinator, at nburns@WestfordMA.gov , will follow up as soon as possible.