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Department of Health Services

Medical Reserve Corps (MRC)

Handbook for Volunteers

Emergency Action Plan 750

Medical Reserve CorpsWhen you are called to serve in your role as an MRC volunteer in response to a health emergency, will you be ready? Will your family?

Prepare your family for your absence during a health emergency by being ready for disasters in general: create and maintain your own family disaster plan and disaster supply kit.

Prepare yourself to serve on short notice by creating your own personal go-kit, packed in advance so that if a health emergency strikes, you can just pick up the kit and GO!

This information summarizes what you need to know when you serve, to help you better serve in your role as an MRC volunteer.

Download the Handbook in PDF format (972 kB)

I. Prepare Your Family and Yourself

The following steps will help you and your family develop your own family disaster plan:

Designate an out-of-county or state contact person. Try to pick someone who is far enough away to not be affected by the same emergency. Give this person the names and contact information for the people you want to keep informed of your situation. Family or household members can call this person to get information about you.

Make copies of important documents and keep them off-site, either in a safety deposit box or with someone you trust. Documents to duplicate may include: birth certificate, passport, driver’s license, social security card, will,marriage license, deeds, financial statements, credit cards, medical and other insurance policy information, and prescriptions.

Make your home safe. View each room with a “disaster eye” and fix any possible hazards such as heavy objects that could fall.

Disaster planMake a household/family plan. Talk with your family about preparing for potential disasters. Put together a home disaster supply kit for staying at home, and personal go-kits for each in case you have to evacuate. Review the plan every year! Plan supplies for yourself and family for at least three days after a disaster. Make sure everyone knows where to find the kits.

  • Keep a flashlight and a pair of shoes next to beds in case of an earthquake during the night.
  • Determine the best two escape routes from your home and practice using them.
  • Plan where to meet if your home becomes unsafe. Choose one just outside your home, and another outside your neighborhood in case you are told to evacuate.
  • Create “communications plan” cards for household members.
  • Show household members how and when to turn the utilities off.
  • Have a fire extinguisher on hand; learn how to use it.
  • Take into account the special needs of children, seniors, people with disabilities, family members who don’t speak English, and pets.

Sign up for, check, local alerts at:

During emergencies tune in to a local radio broadcast for current information Locally: KSRO 1350 AM KZST 100.1 FM

Learn More

Check out these websites:

Prepare with Sonoma Ready:

Disaster Planning and MRC Information

California DHV (Disaster Healthcare Volunteers) 

PG&E Safety Tips

Pandemic Flu Planning Checklist

“Preparedness is not an event, it is a continuous process.”
Julie Gerberding, MD, MPH Former Director, Centers for Disease Control Prevention

II. MRC Services 

As part of Public Health’s plan to respond to a health emergency, you may be contacted to deploy. At the Sonoma County MRC volunteer application process you took the loyalty oath, which gives you worker’s compensation and liability insurance protection when you are deployed or at a training.

When you are called and able to deploy as an MRC volunteer, you will:

  • Receive a pre-deployment briefing from Health Services staff
  • Receive a Deployment Information Sheet covering aspects of deployment (location, transportation, contacts, conditions, duties, what to bring, and more)
  • Assess your own health regarding field conditions
  • Report for duty as directed. Be transported or drive yourself.
  • Receive training in advance or on the spot (“just in time” training)
  • Receive any supplies, equipment or medication needed to work safely  Keep in touch with your lead worker
  • Sign in, sign out and track your time
  • Follow the chain of command (ICS, NIMS, SEMS) during activities
  • Follow the MRC Code of Conduct of professional, safety, cultural and ethical standards and procedures.
  • Give feedback on your experience and the processes afterward for use in the improvement report..
  • If you have to cancel always let your contact know.

Performance Qualifications

Core Competencies - A baseline set of knowledge and skills that MRC volunteers should have:

  • Have personal and family preparedness plans.
  • Know MRC members’ communication responsibilities.
  • Be aware of the psychological and emotional impacts of an event on family, community, and one’s self.
  • Demonstrate professional, ethical, safe and culturally appropriate behaviors during MRC activities.
  • Know the chain of command during an event and follow procedures to successfully activate, report and demobilize.
  • Be familiar with MRC and Public Health roles in the community.



Disaster Healthcare Volunteers

The DHV Notification System

The Disaster Healthcare Volunteers (DHV) of California is a statewide system to register, verify credentials and notify volunteer medical / health, and non-medical, workers for deployment in disaster response and recovery activities. Public Health uses the DHV system to call up MRC volunteers in an emergency

Visit the California Disaster Healthcare Volunteers at

All MRC volunteers initially register as disaster healthcare workers on the State DHV website. MRC volunteers must update their information when it changes so it will always be accurate and you can be contacted. DHV can provide assistance with questions.

Public Health will organize periodic DHV alerts and drills to help MRC volunteers become familiar with this notification system. You might be contacted regarding a Statewide exercise or a local hospital drill, an availability request, a training, or other event, to practice local disaster notification.

The DHV system also conducts periodic drills with MRC members.

In a real event, you would receive an initial notification telephone call and/or email from the DHV asking about your availability. It is important to respond to these calls whether or not you are available.

The Notification Call

Mobil PhonePublic Health may use the DHV automated system to call up volunteers during an emergency. The system will contact you by email, pager and /or a Public Health staff recorded voice message or robotic voicemail to your land line or mobile phone.

The DHV system will attempt to reach you a specified number of times using your contact information. It is very important that you listen and respond promptly to alerts, including practice drills.

*It is important to keep your information such as your driver’s license expiration date, address, phone numbers, profile and password current on the DHV website so that you may be reached and be able to serve during an emergency.

The Volunteer Code of Conduct

To help ensure a successful emergency response mission, MRC volunteers are asked to follow a code of conduct. It includes professional, ethical and safety standards of conduct briefed below. You may receive a copy to sign at time of deployment.


Maintain and abide by the standards of professional license, certification and training; confidentiality; abuse reporting. Work at one’s skill level dependably, and treat all individuals with dignity and respect.


Address any ethical issues directly. Do not accept any type of payment. Refrain from commenting to the media. Do not proselytize regarding any beliefs.


Review your fitness for an assignment prior to actual deployment. Follow safe workplace practices. Follow your supervisor /lead person’s directions; report to them. Report any incidents. Refrain from engaging in dangerous or illegal activities

Emergency Field Assignments

Mass Dispensing Sites: MRC volunteers may dispense medication or treatment to Sonoma County residents at locally designated sites such as veterans halls or high school gymnasiums. Volunteer roles may include traffic controller, greeter, line monitor or runner. Depending on your skills and licensure, you might be asked to serve as a patient educator, triage or first aid provider, medicine dispenser, or translator.

Evacuation Shelters: MRC volunteers may help provide medical services, personal care, and psychosocial support to shelter clients.

Alternate Care Sites (ACS): If hospital and other health facility beds are full, the Health Dept. may set up alternate care sites to provide additional, temporary beds for disaster victims. MRC volunteers may help provide medical care and non-medical functions at these locations.

Hospitals: Volunteers may help local hospitals during an emergency event. Duties may include triaging victims, taking medical histories, setting up outdoor tents or staffing a victim family information center.

Clinics: MRC may provide first aid,or give information.

Skilled Nursing Facilities: MRC may provide very limited patient care or family information.

Post Offices: If anthrax is detected, you may assist in dispensing prophylactic medicine to potentially exposed postal workers.

Other assignments as necessary: Every public health emergency situation will be unique and will require a unique response.

Items to Bring with You When Serving

Use your MRC fanny pack, backpack and/or vest with pockets to keep these items with you while working. Also see list on the Deployment Information Sheet when you are deployed. Items may include:

  • Driver’s license and medical license or copy, if applicable
  • MRC photo ID Badge with lanyard; other photo ID
  • Eyeglasses /contacts and/or sunglasses
  • Notebook and ballpoint pen
  • Comfortable clothing; walking shoes (for a 6 to 12-hour shift); gloves.
  • Seasonal items — eg, gear for heat, sun, insects, rain or cold.
  • Food/snacks/trail mix
  • Bottled water
  • Hygiene items
  • Cash
  • Personal medications
  • Cell phone and charger
  • Flashlight, batteries
  • Emergency Contacts list

Note: Plan to lock personal items in your car or keep them with you for secure storage.

III. Non-Emergency Activities

In addition to disaster services, MRC may participate in:

  • Annual MRC Assembly and Orientation
  • Local and Statewide Trainings, Drills and Exercises
  • Hands-Only CPR training at local schools
  • MRC application and badging updates
  • Public Education
  • Annual Homeless Survey
  • Flu Shot Clinics
  • Other Community Service

Mutual Committment

Public Health's Commitment

  • Provide MRC Basic Orientation, training and Photo ID badging
  • Conduct notification drills
  • Plan for volunteer assignments
  • Provide guidance before, during and after deployment
  • Provide for disaster volunteer protection including: personal protective equipment, (PPE), prophylaxis, and liability & worker’s comp insurance coverage
  • Provide advanced and special trainings, updated information, and exercises
  • Offer CEUs/CMEs as possible
  • Plan and oversee community service activities
  • Maintain volunteer information
  • Keep in touch

Your Commitment

  • Be on-call: participate in notification drills
  • Be willing to accept various assignments in support of the overall mission
  • Show up if you sign up, or call
  • Know and practice the MRC Core Competencies/Performance Qualifications
  • Keep your personal and professional information up to date on the DHV website
  • Be ready: have a household/ family plan, a personal go-kit and a family communications plan
  • Follow the MRC Code of Conduct during deployment
  • Participate in exercises, trainings and community service activities when possible.