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National Homeland Security Knowledgebase 



The first response to any emergency begins locally

A Medical Reserve Corps unit is a community-based, organized group of
volunteers who can serve during a local emergency health situation and assist with
local public health needs. Volunteers should have the appropriate health care experience
and training in order to work together effectively as a team.


Major local emergencies can overwhelm the capability of first responders, especially
during the first 12 to 72 hours. Having citizens who are prepared to take care of
themselves, their families and others during times of crisis will allow first-responders to
focus their efforts on the most critical, life threatening situations.

An organized, well-trained MRC unit means that volunteers can effectively respond to an
emergency, are familiar with their community’s response plan, know what materials are available for their use, know who their partners in the response are, and
know where their skills can be utilized to their best advantage and in a coordinated

The local Medical Reserve Corps unit is a valuable asset for helping address public
health concerns in a community throughout the year.
Examples of activities might include:

1. Childhood immunization campaigns
2. Influenza shot campaigns
3. Health education, including nutrition and physical fitness for youth groups, faith based groups and the elderly
4. Support to existing local public service organizations


During an emergency, a local government will activate its local emergency operation
plan. These local plans define how the emergency personnel (fire, law enforcement, emergency medical) will respond to and manage the emergency. Spontaneous volunteers may hinder rescue efforts because they may not be familiar with local plans or procedures.

By creating a Medical Reserve Corps unit that is linked to a local government’s emergency operations plan, the members of the MRC unit can truly benefit the community by knowing what their role is during an emergency, how they fit into the local emergency plan, and how to best respond so that they are a positive support structure for the first responders.

Many communities, in response to the President’s call, are establishing Citizen
Corps Councils under the overall umbrella of the Citizen Corps, a part of the USA
Freedom Corps. As noted earlier, the Medical Reserve Corps is one of five initial
components of the Citizen Corps.

A community may decide that it would like its Citizen Corps Council to play an
oversight and general guidance role for the local MRC unit. This should be a local
decision, taking into account local circumstances. It is not a requirement that
MRC units report to a Citizen Corps Council. However, there should be an
identified local government office or department to which the MRC unit has
some level of accountability, whether this is through the Citizen Corps Council or



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