FAQs – Medical Reserve Corps (MRC)

What is the Arlington County Medical Reserve Corps (ACMRC)?

The mission of the ACMRC is to increase the County’s ability to respond to local public health emergencies and support ongoing public health outreach programs.

Person standing in front of Information Booth

Who runs the program?

The ACMRC is administratively run through the Arlington County Public Health Division (ACPHD), under the direction of Dr. Reuben Varghese, Health Director. Contact us for more details.

Who can join the ACMRC or any MRC in Virginia?

You must meet the following requirements:

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Be able to present proof of valid identification
  • Be free of felony and serious misdemeanor convictions
  • Resident or resident student in Arlington County (If living in another jurisdiction in Virginia you should consider joining their MRC)

Do I have to be a medical professional in order to volunteer?

No. We welcome anyone who is interested in helping their community. Both medical and non-medical professionals with a wide range of skills.  No experience is required.

How do I become a member?

What do volunteers do?

In collaboration with the ACPHD, ACMRC members focus on emergency preparedness and response by assisting with public health emergencies (e.g., disease outbreaks, bioterrorism, power outages, hurricanes), public health outreach through a variety of projects and events that promote healthy living (e.g., flu etiquette, immunizations, HIV/AIDS education, food safety), and ongoing staff support (e.g., administrative assistance, medical record review).

Man holding up shirt with text in middle No H1N1 Flu 4 Me
No H1N1 Flu 4 Me! (We experienced a pandemic flu in 2009) Please cover your cough and wash your hands during any flu season!

What will be required of me?

New volunteers are asked to attend a two-hour orientation session within one-year of applying, and consider taking other trainings during the course of their membership. Members should be able and willing to assist the ACPHD staff in the event of a true emergency, participate in annual exercises and drills, and support ongoing public health outreach and education projects. Review ACMRC Volunteer Expectations.

Five people manning phone system

What will my role be in the ACMRC?

Your exact role within the ACMRC will depend upon your skills, interests and licensure, as well as the event itself.  As an example, during a public health emergency, ACMRC volunteers may be needed to help staff mass vaccination/medication clinics. ACMRC volunteer jobs could include distributing medication to the public, assisting schools with vision & hearing screenings, running health education sessions, directing the flow of people from one area to another, providing mental health referral, registering patients, reviewing paperwork, performing data entry, or stocking supplies.

Will I receive training?

Yes. Training is provided on a variety of topics, including mass medication dispensing, personal/family disaster preparedness, health communications, basic epidemiology, psychological first aid, citizen/community CPR/AED & First Aid, infection control, biological agents, the Incident Command System (ICS), National Incident Management System (NIMS), and much more!  Some trainings will be held periodically throughout the year, and others will be offered as Just in Time Training (JITT) prior to an activity/event.

What are the benefits to me from my membership with the ACMRC?

  • Training in emergency preparedness and response provided at no cost to you
  • Esprit de corps and camaraderie as part of a critically important specialized community team
  • Opportunities to serve the emergency response and public health needs of your community
  • Building public health professional experience
  • Being among the first to be called upon (deployed) in case of an emergency

What is the time commitment?

The time commitment depends entirely on you. At a minimum, volunteers are expected to participate in a new volunteer orientation (two hour training) within one-year of applying.  Additional trainings are voluntary, however, some are event-specific and may be required (trainings are always made as succinct as possible).  We expect that all members will participate in at least one event (training, exercise, meeting, presentation or deployment) per year, and commit to serve for at least one full year.

Person receiving medical attention

Will this interfere with my regular job?

The time commitments of the ACMRC should not interfere with usual employment. Disasters, of course, are not scheduled and potential volunteers should determine if their job will allow them to be available in the event of a major disaster. Talk to us if you have a question about the ACMRC and its effect on your employment responsibilities.

What about travel and transportation?

Most events occur locally. This does require, however, the ability to arrange for your own transportation to and from events, either by personal vehicle, public transportation, bicycle or walking.

What about liability?

Several sources of law offer potential immunity from civil liability to Volunteer Health Professionals (VHPs).  In addition, the Code of Virginia provides liability coverage for affiliated volunteers who are registered in our online database, the Virginia Volunteer Health System (VVHS)Contact us  with additional questions.

What do I do once I have registered?

You should plan to attend one of our new member orientations, a two-hour session within one-year of applying, during which we review the background of the MRC, emergency preparedness and response needs, public health outreach opportunities, the basics of personal/family preparedness, and more.  After orientation we offer a variety of trainings, drills and exercises. We’ll keep you informed of these opportunities via email.

Does acceptance for membership in the ACMRC legally obligate me to volunteer in an emergency?

No. Your service with the ACMRC is voluntary and you are not legally obligated to assist in an emergency or any other situation. At the time an emergency occurs, you may be alerted or called and asked to volunteer.  The decision you make at that time is up to you.  However, as an ACMRC volunteer, you should expect a call, and should therefore be as prepared as possible to respond.  Certainly work and family commitments are understood.  But we hope you will plan ahead and be prepared to assist your community should an emergency occur.

How will I be contacted in an emergency?

When you apply to the MRC, you will enter your contact information into our secure registry (maintained by the Virginia Department of Health). We will use this information ONLY to contact you about activities or in the event of a true emergency. It is very important that you keep your contact information up to date. Be assured that this information will not be shared with any other entities.

Are volunteers required to respond to alerts?

Yes, all MRC Volunteers are required to respond to quarterly call-down drill alerts through the Virginia Volunteer Health System (VVHS). They should respond as either “available” or “not available.”

Will training requirements change over time?

Yes. Our training requirements come from federal MRC and State MRC down to the local level. Once you become a member, It is very important that you keep current on your training requirements (e.g., New Volunteer Orientation (NVO), Intro to the Incident Command System (ICS), and Intro to the National Incident Management System (NIMS), all needing completion within your first year as of July 2016). If you keep up to date on your training then you will be deployable for all events and activities, including public health emergency response.