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NYC Medical Reserve Corps FAQs

mrc brochureThe primary role of the NYC MRC is to help distribute antibiotics or vaccine to a large number of New Yorkers during a health emergency requiring mass prophylaxis. Volunteers may also be asked to assist with medical surge capacity (e.g., during a pandemic influenza outbreak) and mass sheltering operations, for example, during a coastal storm).

NYC MRC volunteers may be called upon to fulfill other functions, such as Medical evaluation, Vaccination, Distribution of medication, Patient education, Screening, Patient “flow monitoring”, and Psychological first aid.




What is the NYC Medical Reserve Corps?
The NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s (DOHMH) NYC Medical Reserve Corps (NYC MRC) enhances New York City’s emergency preparedness by ensuring that a trained group of health professionals is ready to respond to health emergencies.  NYC MRC members represent a variety of health disciplines, including:

  • Physicians
  • Physician Assistants
  • Dentists
  • Nurses and Nurse Practitioners
  • Midwives
  • EMTs/Paramedics
  • Podiatrists
  • Pharmacists
  • Dental Hygienists/Assistants
  • Respiratory Therapists
  • Physical Therapists
  • Occupational Therapists
  • Veterinarians
  • Optometrists
  • Chiropractors
  • Medical Assistants and health professional students
  • Social Workers, Psychologists and other mental health professionals

The NYC MRC works in partnership with professional assoc iations, universities, and hospitals to organize this multidisciplinary group of volunteer health professionals. Although the NYC MRC is a federal initiative, NYC’s team was created to support the emergency needs of our local area.  A rapid emergency response will provide a timely return to stability for our communities.  NYC MRC volunteers can play a critical role in making this happen by being part of apre-identified, pre-credentialed, and pre-trained group of potential responders.


What does the NYC MRC do?
The primary role of the NYC MRC is to help distribute antibiotics or vaccine during a health emergency requiring mass prophylaxis of a large number of New Yorkers. NYC MRC volunteers may be called upon to fulfill any of several functions such as: medical evaluation, patient education, screening/triage, patient “flow monitoring,” vaccination, or distribution of medication.

Volunteers may also be called upon to assist the City with mass sheltering operations, such as during a coastal storm, or to assist with medical surge capacity, for example during a pandemic influenza outbreak. Every effort will be made to match the emergency roles of volunteers with their professional skills and licensure. The NYC MRC provides all volunteers with medication or vaccine to protect themselves, and gives specific training for any number of possible tasks


Where does the NYC MRC fit within the larger NYC emergency response?

During a health emergency:

  • NYC MRC volunteers will be used to supplement the work of NYC first responders
  • NYC MRC volunteers will only be activated when and if paid NYC resources (employees, contractors, etc.) are exhausted


Who is eligible to volunteer for the NYC MRC?
Any licensed or certified health professional or health professional student who lives or works in New York City can join. A large-scale health emergency would require the help of thousands of health professionals. Your individual licensure or certification, and state licensure and certification requirements at the time of an emergency, will help determine the role you may be asked to play.

All NYC MRC volunteers who possess professional licenses are required to keep their licenses current so that they may volunteer within their professional scope of practice. Volunteer licensure is checked regularly by NYC MRC program staff.


If I volunteer, what is the time commitment?
We ask that NYC MRC volunteers complete the available training modules through our website, as well as the in-person trainings offered to NYC MRC members throughout each year. However, individual volunteers should determine their availability to attend the trainings.

In the event that the Medical Reserve Corps is activated, services during emergencies require volunteer flexibility and commitment, usually on a 24-hour/day schedule. The expected time commitment of volunteers will depend on the scale of the emergency, as well as what other events are happening at the time.

For some health emergencies, it may be as little as part of one day. For wide-ranging events like a smallpox outbreak, we might mobilize volunteers to work several 12-hour shifts over several days. We would ask that you commit to serve throughout the event for all of the timeslots we would need you to cover, but your availability to volunteer is up to you.


How will I be notified if the NYC MRC is activated?
If we needed to mobilize the NYC MRC, we would send out a communication to all volunteers using an automated system that would attempt to reach you using the information you provided when you registered. This is the same system that we test every quarter with our volunteers. The order in which the system will try to contact you will be determined by the day of the week and time at which an event happens.

The system will continue to try to reach you until you acknowledge that you received the message. In this message, you will be given further instructions regarding deployment. During a large-scale emergency, it is expected that there will also be mass media announcements for volunteers.


What should I do if there is an emergency and I have not heard from the NYC MRC?
If there is a health emergency and you have not been officially contacted by the NYC MRC, you should check the NYC MRC website and the local media to find out if any information about the activation of NYC MRC volunteers is available. If there is an announcement in the media or on the website you should follow any instructions given. If there is no activation announcement then you should do what you normally would do.

Please remember:

  • If and when volunteers are needed, they will be officially activated by the DOHMH
  • Volunteers should never self-deploy
  • Volunteers will receive mission assignments and all necessary briefings and instructions on-site
    • Whenever possible and necessary, each volunteer will be given a “Job Action Sheet”
    • All volunteers will know to whom they should report
    • Volunteers will receive “just-in-time” training that prepares them for the specific roles and tasks needed for the emergency
  • Volunteers will be asked to work as close as possible to their own neighborhoods


What if I am requested to assist but am unable or unwilling to respond?
Volunteers are never under any obligation to participate in an emergency response. Volunteers always retain the right to decline participation for any reason.


Will I be excused from work to volunteer?
Employers are not required by the State of New York to release volunteers to participate in an emergency response. Volunteers must obtain permission to be released from their work schedule by their employer.


What if I am a full-time member of a hospital staff?
Volunteers who are full-time hospital staff members must be released by their hospital administration before they may volunteer during an emergency activation. DOHMH will coordinate with hospitals for emergency deployment of health professionals.


What are the benefits of volunteering for the NYC MRC?
  • NYC MRC volunteers are prepared to deploy, and are more likely to be utilized than unaffiliated volunteers because they are:
    • Pre-identified 
    • Pre-credentialed 
    • Pre-trained

Volunteers play a critical role in ensuring a rapid return to stability for their communities during a public health emergency

  • The NYC MRC provides volunteers with opportunities to participate in continuing education on mass prophylaxis operations, and other emergency preparedness topics
  • Volunteers have automatic access to the NYC Health Alert Network (HAN)
  • Volunteers may gain personal satisfaction from knowing that you’re helping our city to become better prepared to handle health emergencies

Do volunteers receive any compensation?
No, you will be volunteering to help the City in a time of extreme need.


Are volunteers covered by the City's insurance?
NYC MRC volunteers assigned and deployed by NYC during an emergency are indemnified under General Municipal Law Section 50-k against malpractice for volunteer work performed with DOHMH. Volunteers are not covered by health insurance or Worker's Compensation.


What Training is Available?
Several live trainings are offered each year and are accredited for continuing education. In addition, training consists of several online tutorials. The online programs are accredited for Continuing Medical, Nursing, Dental, and Pharmacy Education credits. Only registered members of the NYC MRC may participate.
(Note: online trainings are unavailable until Spring 2010.)

  • Introduction to Points-of-Dispensing (PODs). An overview of how the City's POD system would work. It includes information on how people will flow through a clinic, the role of various staff, and command-and-control of clinic operations. (2.0 CME credits; 2.4 CNE credits; 2.0 CDE credits; 2.0 PCE credits)

  • Smallpox. A primer on smallpox developed by the Northwest Center for Public Health Practice, University of Washington. (3.0 CME credits; 2.4 CNE credits; 3.0 CDE credits; 3.0 PCE credits)

  • Smallpox Vaccination. Demonstrates how to properly administer a smallpox vaccination. (2.0 CME credits; 2.4 CNE credits; 2.0 CDE credits; 2.0 PCE credits)

  • Smallpox Vaccine-Take and Adverse Events. Describes what people can expect after vaccination and some adverse events that may occur. (2.0 CME credits; 2.4 CNE credits; 2.0 CDE credits; 2.0 PCE credits)

  • Disasters and Disaster Mental Health Basics. An overview of the mental health aspects of disasters and terrorism. (2.0 CME credits; 2.4 CNE credits; 2.0 CDE credits; 2.0 PCE credits)

  • Understanding and Addressing Mental Health Needs at PODs. A guide to recognizing patient and staff psychological needs at PODs to assist volunteers with addressing both their own, and the patients' psychological needs to alleviate the stress of mass prophylaxis. (2.0 CME credits; 2.4 CNE credits; 2.0 CDE credits; 2.0 PCE credits)


Do volunteers receive identification cards?
All volunteers are issued NYC MRC volunteer identification cards for use at NYC MRC trainings and exercises, and during health emergencies. These cards are the property of the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and must be returned to the DOHMH upon your resignation or removal from the NYC MRC.


I understand that all volunteers should have a Family Emergency Plan. Where can I get more information about this?
All volunteers are expected to have a Family Emergency plan:

  • The plan should have information about where you and your family will meet and what you will do in case of an emergency (especially one requiring evacuation), as well as important phone numbers and other information

  • Families should also prepare “Go-Bags” and “Home Kits”  that contain the important supplies families may need in case of an emergency

  • Most supplies for the “Go-Bags” and “Home Kits” can be purchased at drug stores, discount stores such as Target, or home improvement stores such as Home Depot

  • Complete “Go-Bags” and other supplies are available for sale through the American Red Cross Store

  • Similar backpacks are available

Family Plan templates are available from:

Information for parents about preparing their children for emergencies is available from:


What is the CERT program? Can I be a member of both the CERT program and the NYC MRC program?
The Community Emergency Response Team program, or CERT program, trains citizens to prepare for and respond to emergencies in their local communities.  CERTs are groups of community-based volunteers that undergo an intensive, 25-hour training program in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, and medical operations. 

NYC MRC volunteers may belong to CERT teams, as well.  However, during an emergency where the NYC MRC is activated, it is requested that medically-trained volunteers report as NYC MRC volunteers, and not CERT volunteers.  For more information on CERT, visit NYC CERT

What is the difference between the NY State Volunteer Program (ServNY) and the NYC Medical Reserve Corps? Can I be registered with both if I live and/or work in New York City?

NYS Volunteer Program (ServNY)

NYC Medical Reserve Corps Program

Comprised of health professionals from across NY State who agree to volunteer on behalf of the NY State Department of Health (NYSDOH) throughout NY State when local resources are nonexistent or depleted.

Comprised of health professionals who live and/or work in New York City and agree to volunteer on behalf of the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) for local emergencies.

Managed by the NY State Department of Health (NYSDOH).

Managed by the DOHMH.

Volunteers may be registered with both the NY State Volunteer Program and the NYC MRC. However, NYC-based providers should join the NYC MRC to ensure that they are trained in NYC's specific emergency plans and may be deployed for NYC-based emergencies. Be sure to select the NYC affiliation if registering through the NY State Volunteer Registration page.

NYC MRC will begin to uses the ServNY database to register new volunteers and manage its data. This does not affect the local affiliation of NYC MRC volunteers; training and program management for local deployments will continue to be under the direction of the NYC DOHMH. However, interested volunteers have the opportunity to register as State volunteers if they wish to do so with one easy registration.

Malpractice Insurance and Indemnification
It is important to remember that the type of volunteer indemnification provided is contingent upon who activates and deploys the volunteer to the emergency response site; it is possible that NYSDOH would deploy volunteers from outside of NYC to a NYC emergency response site. However, NYC MRC volunteers will be deployed for local emergencies by the NYC DOHMH. That is why it is recommended that all NYC-based providers register with the NYC MRC.

NYS Volunteer Program

NYC Medical Reserve Corps Program

If the NYSDOH activates and deploys volunteers from the NY State Volunteer Program, volunteers will be considered employees of the State and provided defense and indemnification under Public Officers Law section 17.

If activated from the NYC MRC list, volunteers are indemnified through General Municipal Law Section 50-k and will be considered extensions of the City's workforce.

If a volunteer has liability insurance, the volunteer must turn to their liability carrier in addition to the State for coverage.

NYC would provide defense and indemnification to volunteers, regardless of whether or not their own malpractice insurance was used, provided that volunteers follow all instructions given by NYC and do not perform acts that may be considered grossly negligent.


How do I sign up for the NYC MRC?
Volunteers should register by clicking on “Sign Up Now!” on the NYC MRC website and following the directions on how to register as a first-time user in the ServNY volunteer database

Please provide as much contact information as possible because it is vital that we can reach you if we need to activate the NYC MRC. For more information on the Medical Reserve Corps, send an email to healthmrc@health.nyc.gov or call 1-866-NYC-DOH1 (692-3641) or 311 in New York City.


I signed up, but I haven't received any communications from the NYC MRC at the e-mail address I provided. What should I do?
If you provided an e-mail address when you registered for the NYC MRC, you will receive communications via e-mail.  In fact, you should receive an e-mail automatically generated by DOHMH within one hour of your registration.  You will hear directly from the NYC MRC program within a few weeks of your registration, as new registrations are checked during the first week of each month for the preceding month. 

Please make sure to add all addresses ending with “@health.nyc.gov” to your “Safe” list to ensure that NYC MRC communications are delivered to your e-mail Inbox, and not your “Junk” folder.  Volunteers without e-mail addresses will receive NYC MRC communications by mail or fax.  If you have concerns that you are not receiving information, please e-mail the NYC MRC or call 212-676-8400.

How do I update my contact information?
  • Visit NYC Medical Reserve Corps 
  • From the NYC MRC Home Page on ServNY select Log in
  • On the next screen enter your HPN/HIN User ID or your Public Account User ID and password
  • You'll be returned to the Home Page; from there select View My Profile
  • From your profile, select the Identity and Contact Information links on the left side of the screen to enter your updates. You may update other information in your profile such as that included in Skills/Other Commitments or Employment, as well
  • For assistance, contact the NYC DOHMH Help Desk at 1-888-692-6339 or nycmed@health.nyc.gov, or the ServNY Help Desk at 1-866-529-1890 or hinhpn@health.state.ny.us
  • Do not re-register as a new user

You may also send contact information to the general e-email address: healthmrc@health.nyc.gov or call 212-676-8417.

Volunteers with MACs should e-mail any changes to their personal information to healthmrc@health.nyc.gov or call 212-676-8417.


What should I expect during the quarterly tests of the NYC MRC notification system?
Volunteers are notified approximately 1-2 weeks prior to the quarterly tests of the NYC MRC notification system.  Tests are conducted between 9am and 6pm on weekdays.  Volunteers receive e-mails, and calls to the work and cell phone numbers we have on file for them (as applicable). 

The calls come from a 615 area code (Tennessee) where our vendor is located.  There is a pause at the beginning of the call, during which you must say “hello” to activate the system.

This will be followed by a computerized voice that states, “Please press any key for an important message.” 

Our NYC MRC-specific message then comes on reminding you that it is a test and that you would receive directions on where and when to report if there were an actual emergency. 

You should not hang up until prompted to press “2” at the conclusion of the call.  You may only respond to a live call, i.e., when you have answered the phone.  If it is only a message you receive on your voicemail, the call should simply end after our NYC MRC-specific message.  You cannot reply to a voicemail message. Alternatively, you may reply to the e-mail you receive by hitting “Reply” and typing the word, “Yes” in the body of the e-mail.


I haven't received my NYC MRC ID card or T-shirt. Who should I contact about this?
ID Cards and T-shirts are sent out on a monthly basis to all newly-registered volunteers from the preceding month’s time.  If you registered at the beginning of the month, you would not receive these items until 4-6 weeks later.  Volunteers that are concerned that they have not yet received their ID card or T-shirt should healthmrc@health.nyc.gov or call 212-676-8417.


How can I get more information about the NYC MRC?
The NYC MRC web site has a wealth of information for current and prospective volunteers, including:

  • The NYC MRC Brochure
    The brochure can be downloaded form the website and shared with colleagues and employers who may want more information about the program.
  • A list of NYC MRC Volunteer Core Competencies
    Volunteers come from a diverse set of disciplines and backgrounds and have a diverse set of skills and competencies

    Core Competencies are determined by the national MRC program and represent what skills and knowledge all volunteers should possess in order to carry out their responsibilities
  • Educational Resources of Interests
    Information about on-line trainings, webcasts, live trainings, preparedness toolkits, conferences and relevant articles; updated monthly
  • The Health Alert Network (HAN)
    The DOHMH HAN is an on-line information sharing forum for medical providers 
  • Training Modules
    The NYC MRC offers its volunteers relevant on-line training modules that are accredited for CE credits
  • The Health Emergency Culture and Communication Tip Sheet
    Provides tips and information for communication with individuals from different cultures and backgrounds during a health emergency

How can I contact the NYC MRC Program Staff?
  • E-mail: healthmrc@health.nyc.gov
    Telephone: 347-723-1696