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County of Sonoma California

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Medical Reserve Corps

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In a nationwide follow-up to 9/11 events, and as part of Sonoma County's emergency planning and response system, in 2003 the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors instituted a local health-medical disaster response volunteer corps known as the Medical Reserve Corps. Housed in the Dept of Health Services (DHS) Public Health Preparedness, the primary mission of the Sonoma County MRC is to help protect the community in a public health disaster.

This group consists locally of about 425 trained health care professionals including nurses, physicians, CNAs, and pharmacists; mental health professionals such as psychologists, social workers, and psychiatric technicians; and a variety non-medical personnel, all of who desire to serve as volunteers to protect public health in our community during health-related emergencies.

DHS recruits and trains MRC volunteers to staff mass vaccination and prophylactic medication dispensing sites, and to function as surge personnel in evacuation shelters, hospitals, alternate care sites, and other venues in a large health emergency. In a disaster, volunteer roles may be defined with the help of community planning partners. Public Health facilitates training and exercises for MRC members. CEUs are offered when possible.

Positions in the MRC

Many skills and abilities are needed during a public health emergency. Volunteer positions with the Medical Reserve Corps are organized into five broad categories:

The Medical Volunteer performs clinical evaluations in an emergency clinical setting. Tasks may include medical information counseling, patient screening, assisting patients with completion of forms, conducting physical exams and evaluations, managing medical supply inventory, and dispensing medication or administering vaccine under the supervision of a physician. Licensed Clinician Volunteers may also be asked to perform non-clinical functions, such as providing general assistance to patients or stocking supplies.

The Physician Volunteer performs a range of physician services in an emergency clinical setting. Tasks typically include medical consultation with patients or staff, patient screening, and first aid medical advice. These volunteers may also conduct physical exams, administer vaccinations, dispense medication, or consult with Public Health staff to determine the need for isolation. They may also be asked to perform non-clinical functions, such as providing general assistance to patients.

The Support Staff Volunteer performs a wide variety of tasks in a health emergency setting. Tasks may include greeting people and traffic control in parking areas, or providing general, non-medical information to patients, assisting patients with completion of forms, or providing translation services. Volunteers may help with short-term childcare, materials stocking, or set-up and take-down of workspaces, or provide security services and other tasks that may arise.

The Mental Health Volunteer (psychologist, LCSW, MFT, psychiatric technician) performs tasks such as checking staff and patients for signs of stress or other mental health concerns, maintaining safety of the workplace, evaluating and triaging individuals and staff for a higher level of mental health care, training staff on assisting the "worried well" during medical and public health emergencies, or the emergency response workforce. Mental health volunteers may also be asked to perform non-licensed tasks as needed.

The Pharmacist Volunteer performs pharmaceutical services in an emergency clinical setting. Tasks typically include medication and medical supplies inventory management, packaging, and distribution of medications at the dispensing site, secure management of DEA controlled medications, and patient counseling on medications. These volunteers may also dispense medication or consult with Public Health staff to determine the need for additional medications, or perform non-clinical functions.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the purpose of the MRC Program?

To respond to the health-medical emergency needs of the community including staffing shelters, alternate care sites or points of dispensing (PODs), or providing surge capacity (extra staffing) in emergency response locations determined by Public Health. The MRC does not replace existing staffing resources.

Who are the volunteers?

Volunteers include licensed or certified health professionals, licensed or certified mental health professionals and non-medical community members.

What is required to become a MRC volunteer?

First, prospective volunteers register on California's Disaster Healthcare Volunteers (DHV) website. Then, after making an appointment and completing a County volunteer application including disaster service worker Oath, they will become an official Sonoma County MRC volunteer. After that, volunteers can be protected by workers' compensation and liability coverage if deployed to disaster incidents or sponsored trainings and events.

Volunteers also receive a photo ID badge, MRC pen and small; emergency go-kit. (Application/oath and badging appointments can be made with Public Health Preparedness.)

All MRC volunteers are required to attend an MRC Orientation training, offered throughout the year. They may be held in person, but are also available in webinar format on this website below under Training. Here they learn how the MRC functions, what County emergency plans are currently in place, MRC roles and responsibilities in a disaster, the Incident Command System (ICS), and related biological, medical and/or mental health preparedness responses. They may also meet other MRC members. Again, for the required self-Orientation and required post-test, see this web page under Orientation.

MRC Volunteers are encouraged to attend trainings, drills and exercises held in person or online, and to look for announcements from Public Health via email or on this website. Trainings may include pandemic influenza preparedness, using safety needles, psychological first aid, shelter operations, personal preparedness, and a variety of other public health topics. Volunteers can participate in drills and exercises such as the setup of public health Point of Dispensing sites (PODs), annual Statewide exercises, and hospital emergency preparedness drills.

Public Health may also invite MRC Volunteers to participate in certain community events such as helping train in hands-only CPR or respiratory/hand hygiene for school children, and other health activities. Finally, MRC volunteers prepare themselves to serve on short notice by creating a personal go-kit, and prepare their families by creating and maintaining a family emergency plan and supply kit.

What are volunteers asked to do and where?

MRC volunteers are trained to serve in a variety of emergency response settings. These emergency field assignments may be located at evacuation shelters, Public Health Point of Dispensing sites (PODs), hospitals, special emergency health facilities, alternate care sites, or other locations. Just in Time training and orientations will be given. MRC volunteers are not required to deploy; and they take care of themselves, their families and their jobs first.

How does the MRC program communicate with its volunteers?

Volunteers receive email messages through the State's DHV system or directly from Public Health Preparedness. These may include small drills, invitations for trainings, conferences, events and exercises.  For emergency notification and deployment, volunteers may receive an email or an automated telephone notification call via the DHV system or email from Public Health Preparedness.

MRC Training Resources

Sonoma County MRC Orientation (4 PDFs below)

Volunteers are required to complete 1.5 hour Orientation (see PDFs below) and take the Orientation Post-Test Survey (below the PDFs).

Sonoma County Medical Reserve Corps: An Introduction

Sonoma County MRC: An Introduction (pdf) presented 2019

MRC Clinical Orientation

MRC Clinical Orientation (pdf) presented 2019

Disaster Services Worker Emergency Management Training

Disaster Services Worker Emergency Management Training (pdf) presented 2019

MRC Clinical Orientation

Health Department Emergency Response Plans: An Introduction for MRC Volunteers (pdf) presented 2019

MRC Clinical Orientation

MRC Orientation Post-Test Survey (Required) 2019

MRC Core Competencies

MRC Core Competencies (pdf)

TB 101: Infection vs. Disease

TB 101: Infection vs. Disease (pdf) presented May 18, 2017

Stop the Bleed Poster

Stop the Bleed Poster presented May 18, 2017
Source: American College of Surgeons.

Save a Life Flowchart

Save a Life Flowchart presented May 18, 2017
Source: American College of Surgeons.

FEMA Online Courses

Completion of these courses is recommended. A free user account is required to access the courses.


MRC-TRAIN Online Courses

Completion of these courses is recommended. A free user account is required to access the courses.

MRC-TRAIN 101 for Volunteers (How To Use MRC-TRAIN)
15 minutes, 0 CEUs

MRC Volunteer Core Competencies: An Introduction and Overview
25 minutes, 0 CEUs

IS-100.b - Introduction to Incident Command System ICS-100
3 hours, .3 CEUs

IS-200.B - ICS for Single Resources and Initial Action Incidents
3 hours, .3 CEUs

IS-700.a - NIMS: An Introduction
3 hours, .3 CEUs

Personal Preparedness (Core Competency #1/#2)
1.0 CEUs

Related Links

Disaster Healthcare Volunteers of California
Source: California Emergency Medical Services Authority.

Source: Training Finder Real-time Affiliate Integrated Network (TRAIN).

Related Links

Medical and Health Disaster Planning

Community Preparedness
Disaster information and resources for the public.

Healthcare Coalition
Resources for community healthcare providers.

Health Department Disaster Planning
Health Department disaster planning resources.


For medical questions:
Ask a Disease Control Nurse

For administrative questions:
Public Health Preparedness
625 5th Street
Santa Rosa, CA 95404
Phone: (707) 565-4496
Fax: (707) 565-4411