Volunteer FAQ

Why should I volunteer?

You've worked hard in your career to master a variety of skills – in medicine, public health, safety, logistics, communications or a number of other areas. Volunteering with the Maryland Responds Medical Reserve Corps is a simple and effective way to use and improve those skills, while helping to keep your family, friends and neighbors safe and healthy. For example, you may put those skills to use during an emergency, or while providing some services for the most vulnerable members of your community.
By volunteering with Maryland Responds, you will have the opportunity to train and work with local and state emergency management and response officials and gain valuable hands-on experience in disaster preparedness and public health emergency response.
Volunteering can give you the great satisfaction of helping others. For many individuals, volunteering provides a sense of purpose and meaning in their lives. Volunteering provides opportunities for social interactions with fellow volunteers and supports an important activity in the community. Interacting with others with a common interest is also a great way to create new relationships and to build your professional network.
Volunteering can have a significant effect on your own health. Research presented by the Corporation for National and Community Service shows a strong relationship between volunteering and health: those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer. For more information, see The Health Benefits of Volunteering: A Review of Recent Research.

What would I do as a volunteer?

MRC volunteers train - individually and with other members of the unit - in order to improve their skills, knowledge and abilities. Sometimes the training is coursework, and other times it is part of a drill or exercise conducted with partner organizations in the community. Continuing education units and credits are even available for some programs.
In an emergency, local resources get called upon first, sometimes with little or no warning. As a member of an MRC unit, you can be part of an organized and trained team. You will be ready and able to bolster local emergency planning and response capabilities. The specific role that you will play, and the activities in which you will participate, will depend upon your background, interests and skills, as well as the needs of the MRC unit and the community.
Maryland Responders may deliver a variety of necessary public health services during a crisis, such as providing care directly to individuals seeking medical or mental health attention at disaster relief shelters. Volunteers may also serve a vital role by assisting their communities with ongoing public health needs (e.g., immunizations, screenings, health and nutrition education, volunteering in community health centers and local hospitals). For more information, visit the News & Events tab to view our Quarterly Newsletters and Responder Spotlight Articles.

Who would I volunteer with?

Every MRC unit is led by a local MRC Unit Administrator, who matches local volunteer capabilities and schedules with local needs for both emergency responses and public health initiatives. Many MRC members are just like you – nurses, doctors, pharmacists, therapists, public health officials and other community members who believe in keeping their local area healthy, prepared and resilient. They share your commitment to helping others and making a difference. You may also work closely with staff members from the local health department, emergency management agency, hospital or other organizations that partner with the MRC. In fact, the services that you provide may help these other organizations to meet their mission.
Click here to view all occupations represented in the Maryland Responds Registry.

When will I be requested to deploy?

Maryland Responders will be called upon when local resources have been exhausted or are overwhelmed and additional help has been requested. In non-disaster situations, Maryland Responders may be asked to assist with community public health efforts, such as seasonal flu clinics. Volunteer opportunities are dependent on a need, so they often cannot be predicted or scheduled in advance. When a need arises, you will receive an activation request from the Maryland Responds MRC. You will then respond with your availability. 

Do I have to be available whenever a deployment request is made?

Membership with Maryland Responds does not require or imply 24/7 hour availability to the Maryland Responds MRC. 

What is a disaster or emergency response deployment and how can I get involved?

During and immediately after a disaster or public health emergency, Maryland Responds may be activated to support state or local emergency response personnel when local resources have been exhausted and additional help is needed. Incidents that may trigger an emergency  response  operation may include floods, hazardous materials spills, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, civil unrest, and disease outbreaks.

As a Maryland Responder, you may be deployed to support ongoing relief efforts in settings such as alternate care sites, mass care shelters, points of dispensing sites, and emergency call centers. Maryland Responds will strive to provide you with opportunities to work within your own field of expertise during an emergency event. However, deployment assignments are ultimately made based upon the needs of the incident. While your assignments may vary, you are always expected to work within your scope of practice or licensure. You may decline any assignment that you feel is above your scope, ability, or skill level.

When Maryland Responds receives an emergent activation request for volunteer support, you will be notified through the various contact methods listed in your Responder profile. For example, you may receive both an email and phone call to notify you of the incident and deployment details. The message will include instructions for responding with your availability for the deployment – usually in the form of, "I am available," or "I am not available." It is important to respond to the notification even if you are not available to deploy. This will prevent further communication on the specific deployment should the response operation continue long term.

What is a public health deployment and how can I get involved?

Public health deployments are planned events which are scheduled in advance. Such activities have a public health focus and foster the resilience and health of the community. As a Maryland Responder, you will have several opportunities to participate in public health deployments throughout the  year.  Examples  include  local health fairs, health promotion and disease prevention initiatives (e.g., immunization clinics), and planned community events (e.g., sporting event, parade, etc.) You will also have the opportunity to participate in state and local disaster exercises. Examples include mass care shelter exercises, hospital disaster drills, patient evacuation scenarios, points of distribution drills, and points of dispensing drills.

We strongly encourage you to participate in at least one exercise every year to practice your potential roles as a Responder. In addition, exercise participation is a great way to hone your skills during periods between emergency activations and to learn more about Maryland's emergency preparedness plans. You will be notified through your Responder profile, by email, and via social media when these types of opportunities become available. 

What kind of tasks would I be assigned during deployment?

All major tasks will be outlined in the activation request, and they vary based on situational needs. You may be asked to perform tasks related to your profession, trade or skills, or you may be given an opportunity to assist with duties unrelated to your profession. These tasks will be within your scope of practice or your medical license. You may always decline an task assignment if you are uncomfortable with it for any reason. 

As an Maryland Responder, what are my liability and workers' compensation protections?

The Maryland Responds MRC is a state volunteer program. As such, Maryland Responders are covered by State of Maryland liability and workers' compensation protections when they are deployed by the Maryland Responds MRC. Please keep in mind that this ONLY applies when the Maryland Responds MRC deploys volunteers on a mission. If you are a volunteer deployed by  a volunteer organization other than the Maryland Responds MRC, you are not covered under State protections during that deployment. See the State of Maryland Government Article §12-10 for more information on volunteer status. 

What about my personal safety when I volunteer?

Maryland Responders will be needed in various situations. Some deployments may place volunteers in adverse conditions that may present some risk to their well-being. Living conditions may be very basic and some resources may be scarce. Activation requests will contain details about a deployment site so that volunteers may make an informed decision about whether to accept a deployment. Maryland Responders may choose to refuse to respond to an activation request. Every attempt is made to ensure the safety of staff and volunteers responding to events; this is a guiding principle of emergency response. A safety officer may be appointed to monitor conditions. Maryland Responders are only asked to respond to situations that have provisions for their safety. 


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