Philadelphia City Branding Image

Frequently Asked Questions

Text Size:

Medical Reserve Corps

What is the Medical Reserve Corps?

The Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) program was founded in July 2002. It is part of a national initiative that provides a structure for volunteers to offer their expertise and serve as a team during times of emergency or need in their own community.

Each MRC is a local volunteer unit that brings together people who have medical, public health, behavioral health or other skills to supplement existing health and emergency response personnel. This team of volunteers is trained and available to respond locally in a public health emergency.

MRC units exist across the country, in urban, suburban, and rural areas. Each MRC unit conducts its role in the way that best suits the unique challenges for its area. Members may also choose to support communities in need in other areas of the state or country, as many did during hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

The Medical Reserve Corps program office is headquartered in the Office of the U.S. Surgeon General. It functions as a clearinghouse for information and best practices to help communities establish, implement and maintain MRC units across the nation. Learn more about the national MRC program.

What is the Philadelphia Medical Reserve Corps (MRC)?

The Philadelphia MRC is a group of medical, public health, and other volunteers who are ready to serve Philadelphia during public health emergencies or other times of need.

The Philadelphia MRC now has about 2,500 active members who are trained, credentialed, and ready to respond when needed. Members stay prepared by:

  • attending training on emergency preparedness and response
  • participating in preparedness drills and exercises hosted by PDPH and other City agencies
  • assisting with public health functions when needed, such as supporting flu vaccine clinics

What does a Philadelphia MRC volunteer do?

During an emergency, Philadelphia MRC volunteers may help in critical ways. They may:
  • conduct medical screening or evaluation
  • give vaccine or medicine
  • answer questions in a hotline call center
  • provide behavioral health support
  • help with mass patient care in shelters, clinics or hospitals
  • assist with disease control measures, such as case finding and monitoring

Volunteers may be asked to respond during large and small-scale emergencies, such as an influenza pandemic, a bioterrorism event, a severe storm that requires the City to open evacuation shelters, or other event that overwhelms community resources.

The Philadelphia MRC makes every effort to match the emergency roles of volunteers with their professional skills and licensure. In addition, all volunteers are given specific training for response and, if necessary, are provided with medication, vaccine or equipment to protect themselves.

What are the benefits of volunteering with the Philadelphia MRC?

  1. You will make a difference.
    After a disaster like Hurricane Katrina or 9/11, many people want to help. Philadelphia MRC volunteers are enrolled and trained before an emergency happens so they can give help as soon as it is needed. Philadelphia MRC volunteers are more likely to be utilized than unaffiliated volunteers because they are pre-identified, pre-credentialed, pre-trained, and prepared to deploy. Being part of an organized team of volunteers means you have the greatest potential to make an impact and you will help ensure a rapid return to stability for your community after a public health emergency.

  2. You will use your skills and expertise in a helpful way.
    If you are a health professional or have a background in health, there will be an opportunity for you to help out. The Philadelphia MRC will help you apply your skills where they are needed most. Also, because Philadelphia MRC volunteers are trained in advance, they are better prepared to help themselves and others during an emergency.

  3. You will stay connected.
    Philadelphia MRC volunteers are among the first who are notified when an emergency happens. Stay up-to-date by learning about public health preparedness, terrorism threats, emerging diseases, pandemic influenza, and other important topics. Plus, Philadelphia MRC trainings are an opportunity to earn continuing education credits and meet other people who have experience and insight in public health preparedness.

  4. You will be covered.
    When an emergency happens, people with medical training are often among the first who want to help out. The Philadelphia MRC ensures that these important volunteers are able to respond within an effective, organized framework and as part of the City's command and control structure. Also, volunteers working with the Philadelphia MRC are covered by liability protection and compensation for accidental injury.

Who should volunteer?

A large-scale public health emergency would require the help of thousands of health professionals. The Philadelphia MRC needs people who have medical, public health, behavioral health or other skills, such as:
  • licensed, certified or retired health professionals including physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses, pharmacists, behavioral health providers, EMTs, paramedics, dentists, veterinarians, and respiratory care therapists
  • medical, nursing, pharmacy, public health, and other allied health professional students
  • non-medical personnel to fill key support positions, such as interpreters, chaplains, and administrative professionals

How can I sign up?

Join the Philadelphia MRC. The time commitment is small, the training is free, and joining is easy! For more information on how to register, click here.

1. Submit an online application by clicking here.

2. Attend an orientation session.

3. You’re ready to go! In an emergency, you’ll be called upon to help.

Do I need special training to volunteer?

Once you sign up online, all of the training for the MRC is offered for free. Volunteers are asked to participate in one New Volunteer Orientation Training and several optional trainings each year.

Events and training opportunities are also listed on the Philadelphia MRC Calendar.

If I volunteer, what is the time commitment?

All Philadelphia MRC volunteers must attend one Philadelphia MRC New Volunteer Orientation Training that is approximately four hours long. These trainings are often held on a Saturday, and there are typically three opportunities to attend per year. Notifications about new volunteer orientation trainings go out to volunteers via SERVPA.

Philadelphia MRC will offer several optional trainings throughout the year. These optional trainings are a great way to stay up-to-date by learning about public health preparedness, terrorism threats, emerging diseases, pandemic influenza, and other important topics. Plus, they are a perfect opportunity to earn continuing education credits!

A few times a year, Philadelphia MRC volunteers may also be invited to participate in vaccination clinics or emergency preparedness drills and exercises.

In the event that Philadelphia Medical Reserve Corps members are called to respond to an emergency, the expected time commitment of volunteers will depend on the scale of the emergency, as well as other events are happening at the time.

For some health emergencies, it may be as little as a few hours. For large-scale events like a major disease outbreak, the Philadelphia MRC may mobilize volunteers to work 8-12 hour shifts over several days.

If you are called to respond, you will have the opportunity to learn more about the specific event and the commitment required. Then, you may decide whether or not you are able to participate.

How are Philadelphia MRC volunteers notified?

The State Emergency Registry of Volunteers in Pennsylvania (SERVPA) is a system used to send notifications and emergency alerts to volunteers. This system can send e-mail and text messages to registered users.

The Philadelphia MRC uses SERVPA to maintain contact with volunteers and to communicate about training opportunities.

During an emergency, the Philadelphia MRC will send an alert to volunteers asking them if they can respond and telling them when and where to report.

Registered members may log on to SERVPA.

What should I do if there is an emergency but I have not heard from the Philadelphia MRC?

If there is a health emergency and you have not been officially contacted by the Philadelphia MRC, you should check the Philadelphia MRC website and tune in to local news stations to find out if any information is available.

Please remember:

If and when Philadelphia MRC volunteers are needed, they will be officially called to respond by the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.

  • Volunteers should never self-deploy.
  • Once on duty, volunteers will receive just-in-time training that prepares them for the specific roles and tasks needed for the emergency.
  • If necessary, volunteers will be provided with medication, vaccine, or equipment to protect themselves.

Are Philadelphia MRC volunteers covered by liability protection?

Volunteers deployed by the Philadelphia MRC are covered by liability protection and compensation for accidental injury.

What trainings are suggested for MRC volunteers?

Suggested online training:

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
Online training modules on various topics including Incident Command System IS-100 and National Incident Management System (NIMS) IS-700.

National Association of County & City Health Officials (NACCHO)
Programs and activities on emergency preparedness and response, Strategic National Stockpile, and infectious diseases.

North Carolina Center for Public Health Preparedness (NCCPHP)
Free, short, Internet-based trainings on public health preparedness topics such as disease surveillance, basic epidemiology, bioterrorism, and new/emerging disease agents.

Where can I find additional MRC resources online?

Who can I contact for more information about the Philadelphia MRC?

Philadelphia Medical Reserve Corps
Philadelphia Department of Public Health
500 South Broad Street, 2nd Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19146
Phone: 215-685-6861
Fax: 215-545-8362