building your volunteer program lessons learned from the fairfax medical reserve corps
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Building Your Volunteer Program: Lessons Learned from the Fairfax Medical Reserve Corps. Donna M. Foster, MRC Coordinator Jesse R. Habourn, MRC Database Manager. Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) in Fairfax County, VA . Primary function: operate mass dispensing sites

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building your volunteer program lessons learned from the fairfax medical reserve corps

Building Your Volunteer Program: Lessons Learned from the Fairfax Medical Reserve Corps

Donna M. Foster, MRC Coordinator

Jesse R. Habourn, MRC Database Manager

medical reserve corps mrc in fairfax county va
Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) in Fairfax County, VA
  • Primary function: operate mass dispensing sites
        • Current membership: 3,100 Medical & non-medical volunteers
          • 29% medical
          • 71% non-medical
  • Secondary functions
        • Community Health Partners: subset of MRC volunteers distribute health promotion/disease prevention information to public
        • “Interested in other volunteer opportunities?”
fairfax mrc planning
Fairfax MRC Planning
  • All hazards approach using smallpox as framework
  • Worst case scenario:
        • Multiple outbreaks
        • Mass vaccination of all 1.2 million Fairfax County residents within three to five days
        • Permits scaling down for alternative strategies or targeted events
fundamentals of fairfax mrc response plan
Fundamentals of Fairfax MRC Response Plan
  • Dispensing sites located at 24 high schools and George Mason University
  • Requires 54 teams of app. 234 volunteers each
  • Team will work 12 hour shifts for 3-5 days
fundamentals of fairfax mrc response plan cont d
Fundamentals of Fairfax MRC Response Plan cont’d
  • Residents arrive at dispensing site via bus pick-up from:
        • Elementary and middle schools
        • High school bus stops
        • 4 satellite locations
  • Residents with handicap parking stickers may drive to site if necessary
  • Media to alert residents about the plan
fairfax mrc organization
Fairfax MRC Organization
  • Incident Command System (ICS)
        • Clear chain of command
        • Easily plug in new volunteers/staff
        • National standard
  • Joint partnership: MRC volunteer team, school system staff, Fairfax PD
        • Incident Coordinator of each share Unified Command
mass dispensing site staffing
One MRC Team

1 Incident Coordinator 104 Site Assistant (min.)

1 Safety Officer 2 Medical Directors

1 Public Info. Officer (Media School) 2 NP/PA

4 Administrative Asst. 41 Registered Nurse

1 Volunteer Coordinator 4 Reg. Nurse Unit Leader

1 Support Branch Director 6 Physician

1 Sup. Branch Deputy Dir. 2 Pharmacist

10 Interpreters (min.) 2 Pharmacy Technician

1 ASL Interpreter 6 Public Health Staff

1 Data Entry Unit Leader 6 Mental Health Professional

24 Data Entry Specialists 6 Greeter (Counselor)

1 Flow Control Unit Leader 6 Special Needs Asst.

Total = 234 (min.)

Mass Dispensing Site Staffing
critical success factors
Critical Success Factors
  • Realization regarding the magnitude of the problem (Anthrax 2001, 2005 scare)
  • Executive sponsorship: CAO and Health Officer/Director of jurisdiction support at outset is crucial; eventual endorsement from elected officials
  • Buy-in from key stakeholders in emergency response (police, fire, schools, transportation, medical community)
lessons learned the do s
Lessons LearnedThe Do’s
  • Develop partnerships with community organizations
  • Factor diverse and special needs populations into your plan; be ethnically, linguistically sensitive
  • Dedicate staff resources necessary to develop emergency plan and program infrastructure
lessons learned the do s cont d
Lessons LearnedThe Do’s cont’d
  • Tag onto existing contracts for reverse 911, text/voice alerting systems, etc. to develop your volunteer database (eliminates RFP bidding process)
  • Utilize NIMS as an organizational concept for response plan
  • Use physicians in medical roles, not as Incident Coordinators or other leadership positions
  • Consider using mobile teams for senior and developmentally disabled populations
lessons learned the do s cont d11
Lessons LearnedThe Do’s cont’d
  • Develop Job Action Sheets (JAS): list of duties volunteer can expect to perform
        • Be as detailed as possible – describe every single duty
        • Create a JAS for each volunteer position in each unit (Nurse will have different duties in Unit A than in Unit B)
        • This is the core of training!
  • Always explain that program is evolving and that changes may be made
  • Practice your plan; adjust as necessary
lessons learned the don ts
Lessons LearnedThe Don’ts
  • Don’t start recruiting until plan is in place
  • Don’t start recruiting until system to manage volunteer information and communication is in place
  • Don’t let too much time pass between initial volunteer sign-up and first communication
  • Don’t promise what you can’t deliver
fairfax mrc alert network
Fairfax MRC Alert Network
  • Comprehensive online system manages volunteer contact info., communication, participation and program analysis
  • Scaleable, fully customizable to adapt to changing program
  • Created by Roam Secure, Inc.
alerting volunteers with mrcan
Alerting Volunteers with MRCAN
  • Text alerts to:
      • E-mail
      • Cell phones w/ text messaging
      • Alpha-numeric pagers
      • PDAs
  • Initiate remote alerts from cells or pagers
  • Include attachments
mrcan features
MRCAN Features
  • Grouping
  • Reporting
  • Track:
      • Volunteer contact info
      • Trainings completed
      • Replies to alerts
      • Bounced messages or invalid devices
      • System usage
planned improvements to mrcan
Planned Improvements to MRCAN
  • Increased alerting functionality
        • HTML-based messages
        • Automated notifications (application approval, training reminders, etc.)
        • Integrate interactive voice response to reply to alerts
  • Virtual tour of dispensing site
  • Generate team rosters and volunteer staffing plans on the fly
  • GIS compatibility; GIS alerting
planned improvements to mrcan17
Planned Improvements to MRCAN
  • Automate training sign-up process
  • Logical, exclusion-based application process
  • Library of information on biological agents, emergency preparedness, etc.
  • Volunteer photo ID creation/management
  • Online training capability
advice on alert networks
Advice on Alert Networks
  • Encourage volunteers to manage own account
  • Limit e-mail alerts to important announcements only. Limit cell/pager alerts to emergencies and annual tests only
  • Provide wealth of tech. support material
  • Have plan to deal with spam blockers and volunteers without e-mail accounts/cells, etc.
  • Make website a place volunteers want to visit instead of a place they’re required to visit
  • Install a backup server
recruitment strategies
Use volunteers to recruit others

Get your local politicians involved

Capitalize on current events re: issue news releases (e.g. recent anthrax scare)

Target non-essential public workers

Direct mail to:




Recently retired first responders, military personnel and jurisdiction employees

Physicians recruit physicians; phone calls seem to work best

Recruitment Strategies
training provided
Training Provided
  • All members receive:
        • General orientation
        • Role-specific training
        • Participate in annual exercise
  • Leaders additionally receive:
        • Leadership/Incident Command
        • Hands on Practice
        • Leadership Meeting at Assigned Site
  • Over 1/3 of volunteers have participated in training as of early April 2005
  • E-newsletter Fairfax MRC News