Emergency response organizations – including the Medical Reserve Corps – cannot operate in a vacuum. Rather, a hallmark of effective disaster response is the careful interaction between responding agencies. This is especially true when emergency plans are being formed throughout a region of well over a quarter million residents.
The grant that proposed the formation of an MRC in the Upper Merrimack Valley in 2003 was accompanied by letters of endorsement from numerous major entities and key parties. (Staffing changes as of January 2015 are noted in the list below.)
- Board of Health directors from the seven UMC communities
- Director and deputy director for Lowell Emergency Management
- Emergency management co-directors for the Town of Westford
- Town of Tyngsborough director of emergency management
- Director of emergency services for American Red Cross of Merrimack Valley
- State Representative Geoffrey Hall (current rep: James Arciero)
- State Senator Steven Panagiotakos (current senator: Eileen Donoghue)
- Senator John F. Kerry (current senator: Ed Markey)
- Congressman Marty Meehan (current congresswoman: Niki Tsongas)
- Senator Edward M. Kennedy (current senator: Elizabeth Warren)
Emergency management co-directors for the Town of Westford Town of Tyngsborough director of emergency management Director of emergency services for American Red Cross of Merrimack Valley State Representative Geoffrey Hall (current rep: James Arciero) State Senator Steven Panagiotakos (current senator: Eileen Donoghue) Senator John F. Kerry (current senator: Ed Markey) Congressman Marty Meehan (current congresswoman: Niki Tsongas) Senator Edward M. Kennedy (current senator: Elizabeth Warren)
The Upper Merrimack Valley MRC has members on its Advisory Council to represent each of the seven UMV communities. The unit’s Coordinator has given presentations to all seven Boards of Health. Plans are underway to strengthen alliances with municipal and community service agencies as appropriate.
There is a special relationship between the Medical Reserve Corps system and the American Red Cross. The following are answers to some frequently asked questions about the MRC, ARC, and various sister organizations.
What is the relationship between the MRC and the American Red Cross?
At a national level, the two organizations are separate yet cooperative. Both the MRC and ARC include disaster response among their top priorities. There is some overlap in the ways in which the MRC and ARC are deployed, yet these two entities have different missions. (See www.RedCross.org to learn more about the Red Cross, and www.MedicalReserveCorps.gov for details on the MRC.)
The primary focus of the MRC is on emergency preparedness – through responses to public health emergencies and mass casualty incidents – as well as community service programs. Each MRC unit adapts to the needs of its local communities. The MRC system is relatively new, with the first grants issued in July 2002.
By contrast, ARC activities include blood drives, swimming lessons, and educational programs, as well as disaster response. Their initiatives throughout the country adhere to national ARC standards. This organization has been in place for over a century.
Regionally, some MRC and ARC groups interact more closely than others. An MRC may not have an ARC chapter operating anywhere within its territory. By contrast, some units nearly coexist with their ARC counterparts, working together in many capacities.
At the local level, many MRC units enjoy a warm and mutually beneficial relationship with the nearest chapter of the ARC. For example, the ARC can provide disaster classes to MRC members, even training members to become Red Cross instructors. If the ARC needs extra volunteers in setting up and running an emergency shelter, they may establish agreements with the director of their local MRC for additional support.
While ARC classes that are offered across the country adhere national Red Cross standards – thus courses such as the Introduction to Disaster are taught the same way in any state – they are not tailored to address the specific needs of an individual MRC. Thus each MRC needs to consider providing additional training for its members. Similarly, members of the MRC would only be deployed – when requested by the ARC or any other group in need of medical volunteers – at the direction of the MRC.
If I take Red Cross classes, does that make me a member of the Red Cross?
NO! The Red Cross is an invaluable resource for disaster training, because the ARC has had worldwide experience in a full range of disaster responses for over a century. They have developed numerous courses that can be applicable for many organizations – from non-medical neighborhood groups to military entities – which are standard across the U.S. However, completion of these courses does not mean that attendees must join the ARC. Furthermore, the staff of the MRC is the only group with the authority to contact or dispatch its own members.
If I take Red Cross classes, can I join the Red Cross?
This is America, so anyone can join any organization, according to their interest!
Note that membership in multiple organizations usually requires agreements up front on which group would be entitled to “first call” of an individual member.
It is up to each MRC volunteer whether to join the MRC only, or to hold additional memberships in organizations such as the Red Cross, CERT, VIPS, church auxiliaries, and other groups – many of which may interact.
Members who join multiple groups should clarify ahead of time where they would be deployed in case of disaster. (For example, hospital employees may have to honor a “first-call” to the hospital.) MRC members would be called for deployment through the MRC, unless other arrangements have been made.
What is the relationship between the MRC, CERT, VIPS, and Citizen Corps?
Citizen Corps is the umbrella under which several volunteer groups are organized. CERT (Community Emergency Response Teams), VIPS (Volunteers in Police Service), an expanded Neighborhood Watch, and the new Fire Services are sister organizations to the MRC, each with its own focus.