Orange County
Medical Reserve Corps

Excellence in Volunteerism Award Winner

Orange County Health Care Agency
Health Disaster Management

ACTION: What level of involvement does the award winning volunteer program promote?

OC MRCThe County of Orange Health Care Agency Health Disaster Management Division’s Orange County Medical Reserve Corps (OC MRC) mobilizes hundreds of community members to serve as disaster volunteers. Since March 15, 2004, the program has enhanced Orange County’s emergency preparedness and response capabilities through advanced registration, organization and training of health care professionals and non-medical individuals who are willing to volunteer their time and expertise in emergency situations.

The OC MRC is recognized at a state and national level. Peggy McCormick, the OC MRC manager, serves on the State of California and Orange County Citizen Corps Councils. She chairs the Public Relations Committee for the local Citizen Corps Council and serves on several State of California workgroup committees that plan and coordinate MRC conferences. In addition, Peggy is actively involved in the National Association of County and City Health Officials as a workgroup member for MRC.

NEED: What community need does the award winning volunteer program address?

The OC MRC enhances emergency preparedness and response capabilities within the community and is included in the Orange County Disaster Plan. The program enhances Health Care Agency’s emergency preparedness efforts by recruiting highly skilled disaster volunteer professionals and well trained non-medical volunteers who are willing to assist the Health Disaster Management staff during an Orange County disaster or emergency.

The OC MRC includes a cadre of qualified medical professionals that can, on a temporary/emergency basis, assist in a voluntary capacity to expand the available number of medical professionals that can be deployed to either county-operated medical/health programs or to private sector facilities such as hospitals or clinics.

In addition, the OC MRC health care professionals are willing to volunteer their time to non-emergency activities requiring medical knowledge or expertise such as community education.

Currently, there are more than 800 OC MRC volunteers ready to staff the Health Care Agency’s Points of Dispensing sites (PODs) in the event of an anthrax attack or pandemic influenza.

IMPACT: What is different as a result of the award winning volunteer program?

The OC MRC enhances Orange County’s emergency preparedness and response capabilities through advanced registration, organization and training of health care professionals and non-medical individuals who are willing to serve as disaster volunteers. OC MRC volunteers can be quickly mobilized to respond to a major emergency or disaster, whether man-made or natural, when the existing health infrastructure is overwhelmed and unable to provide needed medical care in a timely manner. The program increases the Health Care Agency’s staffing capabilities in a disaster situation, which results in improved medical care and fewer fatalities.

INSPIRATION: What makes the award winning volunteer program unique/special?

The OC MRC is one of 43 Medical Reserve Corps within the State of California. It is the only program within Orange County whose volunteers are prepared to assist in medicating 3.2 million citizens in the event of an anthrax attack or pandemic influenza.

The OC MRC is sponsored under the Office of Civilian Volunteers of the United States Surgeon General. MRCs were formed after the tragedy of September 11, 2001 to support county and city governments in responding to disasters within local communities until federal assistance is available.

The California Emergency Services Association, a nationally recognized group of professional emergency managers, selected Peggy McCormick, the OC MRC manager, as the recipient of the Public Sector 2007 Gold Award for outstanding leadership and service in emergency management. In addition, OC MRC received the National Association of Counties Achievement Award in recognition of its innovative and effective approach to emergency management preparedness.

COMMITMENT: What are the award winning volunteer program's accomplishments?

In March 2005, the OC MRC began to actively recruit disaster volunteers. Over the past four years, more than 800 medical and non-medical volunteers have signed up to serve with the organization.

Volunteers attend an orientation and complete disaster preparedness classes such as Incident Command System (ICS-100) and NIMS (ICS-700). In addition, they attend classes offered through the American Red Cross that focus on assisting community members who have been evacuated from their homes and are temporarily living in local shelters.

Volunteers participate in the Health Disaster Management Division’s flu vaccination PODs to become familiar with the POD set-up and operation and to assume roles that they will be assigned to in an actual disaster or emergency situation. On November 3, 2006, MRC volunteers participated in a rapid dispensing clinic model providing flu vaccine to community members at three separate locations.

In September 2007, OC MRC volunteers joined forces with 26 other local jurisdictions to participate in a volunteer mutual-aid drill. The drill was a full-scale exercise designed to train volunteers in the Incident Command System, combine all volunteer programs into a mutual-aid environment and simulate a realistic catastrophic earthquake with hands-on training.

In October 2007, OC MRC nurses staffed American Red Cross shelters during the devastating Orange County fires that destroyed 28,000 acres and required mutual aid from several California Citizen Corps programs. Many of the volunteers worked 12-hour shifts, providing basic first aid to hundreds of evacuees. In the fall of 2008, fires once again raced through sections of Orange County. OC MRC emergency medical technicians were quickly activated to administer first aid treatment.

On April 29, 2009, OC MRC volunteers were activated at 1 a.m. to assist in receiving medication for H1N1 (swine flu). On May 2, 2009, following the H1N1 activation, MRC nurse volunteers answered public health hotlines, providing information and resources for local residents.

The OC MRC volunteers strengthen our community by offering their time, talents and expertise throughout the year and especially in times of disaster. They are critical to Orange County’s emergency preparedness efforts.

Click here to access the Orange County Medical Reserve Corps Web Site.