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Volunteer Management
Topic Collection
September 17, 2019

Topic Collection: Volunteer Management

During large-scale disasters or extended health emergencies, healthcare facilities may need to augment their teams (often with volunteers) to continue to provide patient care. Protocols defining when and how volunteers will be used; how they will be identified; how they will be credentialed and assigned; and how their work will be managed and evaluated must be developed as part of an organization’s emergency response plan. The resources in this Topic Collection include guidance and strategies, targeted legal information, and planning templates to assist healthcare facilities with successfully incorporating volunteers into their disaster management plans. In addition, some key resources for professionals responsible for the day-to-day management of a public health/healthcare volunteer program are included.

Please refer to the Healthcare-Related Disaster Legal/ Regulatory/ Federal Policy Topic Collection for additional legal resources.

Each resource in this Topic Collection is placed into one or more of the following categories (click on the category name to be taken directly to that set of resources). Resources marked with an asterisk (*) appear in more than one category.

Must Reads


Arizona Department of Health Services. (2018). Public Health Volunteer Coordination Plan.
This plan describes Arizona’s approach to coordinating the credentialing, verification, recruitment, activation, notification, deployment, movement, and demobilization of volunteers using its Emergency System for Advance Registration of Volunteer Health Professionals (ESAR-VHP) program. The plan structure and issues considered may be helpful to healthcare facilities in the development of plans to manage disaster volunteers.
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Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. (2013). Emergency Volunteer Toolkit.
This toolkit consists of a series of fact sheets and executive overviews focused on key concepts regarding emergency response volunteers, including types of volunteers; federal and state laws governing or affecting volunteers; and volunteer registration, licensing, credentialing, and privileging.
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This document defines four key functions for Volunteer Management: Recruit, coordinate, and train volunteers; Notify, organize, assemble, and deploy volunteers; Conduct or support volunteer safety and health monitoring and surveillance; Demobilize volunteers. Although written for public health departments, some of the tasks noted are also applicable to the development of healthcare facility volunteer plans.
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This report builds upon two previous Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) Network Profile reports, highlighting the impact the MRC program has had on the nation’s health and safety
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The aim of this guide is to provide an overview of volunteers and liability, including: a summary of the law and liability, sources of liability protection (e.g., volunteer acts, and Good Samaritan laws), and an explanation of risk management as it relates to liability. Also included are checklists that can be tailored by volunteer organizations.
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Hodge, J., and Arias, J. (2010). Liability Risks and Protections for Volunteer Health Practitioners in Emergencies. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Network for Public Health Law.
This slide-based presentation with bulleted text and helpful graphics describes different types of emergency declarations, notes differences between states, provides examples of liability issues during disasters, and discusses the federal- and state-level availability of liability and workers' compensation coverage for volunteers.
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National Association of County and City Health Officials. (2015). Medical Reserve Corps: Factors for Success Resources.
This 4-part course was developed to help Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) Unit Leaders manage their MRC units. Volunteer Management-Part 1 discusses volunteer performance evaluation, including disciplinary action and dismissal, and may be helpful to healthcare facilities in the development of disaster volunteer management plans.
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National Association of County and City Health Officials. (2018). National MRC Volunteer Training Plan.
The Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) Training Plan is a suggested guide for training MRC Volunteers at the local level. It presents a “menu” of options to guide MRC Unit leaders and volunteers with trainings that align with the Competencies for Disaster Medicine and Public Health.
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Terndrup, T., Leaming, J., Adams, R., and Adoff, S. (2012). Hospital-Based Coalition to Improve Regional Surge Capacity. The Western Journal of Emergency Medicine. 13(5):445-52.
The authors examined the effect of a newly-developed regional healthcare coalition (in south Central Pennsylvania) on six surge capacity-related objectives. In a two-year period, the healthcare coalition improved areas under all objectives. The authors also found that designating and training a coordinator for the state healthcare volunteer database contributed to a significant increase in volunteer registrations from the participating hospitals.
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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response. (n.d.). Emergency System for Advance Registration of Volunteer Health Professionals (ESAR-VHP). (Accessed 8/5/2019.)
This webpage describes the Emergency System for Advance Registration of Volunteer Health Professionals (ESAR-VHP) program, which provides standards and guidelines to assist states with setting up standardized volunteer databases to support public health and medical response during disasters. ESAR-VHP registries allow volunteers' identities, licenses, credentials, accreditations, and hospital privileges to be verified in advance of an emergency, facilitating more rapid deployment.
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University of Pittsburgh. (n.d.). Emergency Law Inventory. (Accessed 8/5/2019.)
This webpage describes laws and compacts related to volunteer liability, license reciprocity, scope of practice, and workers’ benefits. Information is searchable by profession, state, and status of emergency declaration.
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Western Region Homeland Security Advisory Council and Western Massachusetts Medical Reserve Corps. (2016). Spontaneous Volunteer Management System Plan Template.
This plan template can be tailored by emergency planners, incident commanders, and disaster volunteer groups, to help plan for and manage spontaneous volunteers. It may also be used as a general reference to guide development of a facility-specific volunteer plan.
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Education and Training


Corporation for National and Community Service and Points of Light Institute. (2011). Managing Spontaneous Volunteers in Times of Disaster.
This webpage provides links to course materials for a training on how to manage spontaneous volunteers during disasters. Objectives include how to: understand spontaneous volunteers and the benefits and burden they can bring; identify the fundamentals of volunteer management in a disaster response setting; learn and use the vocabulary and concepts of disaster and disaster management; and understand the role of technology and social media in managing spontaneous volunteers in times of disaster.
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* Federal Emergency Management Agency, Emergency Management Institute. (2013). IS 244.B: Developing and Managing Volunteers.
This 4-hour course provides strategies for identifying, recruiting, assigning, training, supervising, and motivating volunteers before, during, and after a severe emergency or major disaster.
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* National Association of County and City Health Officials. (2015). Medical Reserve Corps: Factors for Success Resources.
This 4-part course was developed to help Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) Unit Leaders manage their MRC units. Volunteer Management-Part 1 discusses volunteer performance evaluation, including disciplinary action and dismissal, and may be helpful to healthcare facilities in the development of disaster volunteer management plans.
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* National Association of County and City Health Officials. (2018). National MRC Volunteer Training Plan.
The Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) Training Plan is a suggested guide for training MRC Volunteers at the local level. It presents a “menu” of options to guide MRC Unit leaders and volunteers with trainings that align with the Competencies for Disaster Medicine and Public Health.
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* National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster. (2019). Multi-agency Definitions of Mass Care Terms.
This document lists commonly used terms and categorizes and defines them. There is a source for the definition listed at the end of every entry.
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University of Washington, Northwest Center for Public Health Practice. (2014). Legal Aspects of Public Health Emergency Preparedness.
This 1.5-hour course provides an overview of public health law in emergency preparedness. Legal questions relating to the use of medical or public health volunteers during emergencies are addressed.
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Incorporating Volunteers into Healthcare Disaster Response


This ASPR TRACIE tip sheet (which is part of a series) can help healthcare system planners incorporate issues related to security, volunteers, media affairs, and donations into their no-notice incident plans.
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Auf der Heide, E. (2003). Convergence Behavior in Disasters. Annals of Emergency Medicine. 41(4): 463-466.
The author examines research on spontaneous volunteerism and how to manage it.
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This document contains considerations for the use of volunteers during disasters, and may be used as a reference for developing a healthcare facility volunteer plan.
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  • Bridget Kanawati This URL has been updated and should be accessible now. Thank you.
    6/28/2019 9:24:22 AM
  • Jenny Raspberry This link no longer works.
    6/25/2019 10:42:24 AM
This document defines four key functions for Volunteer Management: Recruit, coordinate, and train volunteers; Notify, organize, assemble, and deploy volunteers; Conduct or support volunteer safety and health monitoring and surveillance; Demobilize volunteers. Although written for public health departments, some of the tasks noted are also applicable to the development of healthcare facility volunteer plans.
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This report builds upon two previous Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) Network Profile reports, highlighting the impact the MRC program has had on the nation’s health and safety
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National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2017). Preparing for the Future of Disaster Health Volunteerism: Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief. National Academies Press.
This document summarizes the presentations and discussions from a workshop focused on identifying “the key resources, tools, and opportunities necessary to support the development of a robust, scalable, and regularly engaged disaster health volunteer workforce” to meet the anticipated needs of the future.
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National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster. (2008). Managing Spontaneous Volunteers in Times of Disaster: The Synergy of Structure and Good Intentions. Federal Emergency Management Agency.
This document was developed in support of a national strategy for managing spontaneous volunteers during disasters. It includes principles of, and concept of operations for, managing spontaneous unaffiliated volunteers.
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National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster. (2011). Points of Consensus: Volunteer Management.
This document defines best practices in the area of volunteer rights and responsibilities. These rights include: right to supervision, direction, and training; right to safe work environment; and right to clear expectations for volunteers.
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Pitney, N. (2013). Safeguarding Volunteers With Effective Risk Management. Nonprofit Quarterly.
This article provides information on risk reduction strategies for organizations that use volunteers.
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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response. (n.d.). Emergency System for Advance Registration of Volunteer Health Professionals (ESAR-VHP). (Accessed 8/5/2019.)
This webpage describes the Emergency System for Advance Registration of Volunteer Health Professionals (ESAR-VHP) program, which provides standards and guidelines to assist states with setting up standardized volunteer databases to support public health and medical response during disasters. ESAR-VHP registries allow volunteers' identities, licenses, credentials, accreditations, and hospital privileges to be verified in advance of an emergency, facilitating more rapid deployment.
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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response. (2017). Disaster Medical Assistance Teams (DMAT).
Disaster Medical Assistance Teams (DMATs) are an asset of the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS). DMATs are composed of professional and para-professional medical personnel, supported by pharmacists, logistical, and administrative staff that provide medical care during a disaster or other special events. The integration and use of federal personnel should be included in facility and coalition plans for staff surge capacity. Access this link for more information: https://www.phe.gov/Preparedness/responders/ndms/ndms-teams/Pages/dmat.aspx
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This document describes procedures for granting disaster privileges to volunteer licensed independent health practitioners, and allied health professionals, when a healthcare facility is unable to provide patient care using its credentialed staff, and its Emergency Management Plan has been activated.
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This document describes policies and procedures for the temporary assignment and oversight of volunteer health professionals by a healthcare facility when its disaster plan has been activated, and external assistance is needed to continue to provide patient care.
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  • Jenny Raspberry This link no longer works.
    6/25/2019 10:43:23 AM
Allen, D.C. and Harris, S.F. (2012). Licensure Issues in the Event of a Disaster or Emergency. American Health Lawyers Association.
This article provides an overview of licensure issues and relevant laws pertaining to healthcare professionals during disasters or emergencies.
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Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. (2013). Emergency Volunteer Toolkit.
This toolkit consists of a series of fact sheets and executive overviews focused on key concepts regarding emergency response volunteers, including types of volunteers; federal and state laws governing or affecting volunteers; and volunteer registration, licensing, credentialing, and privileging.
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Baker-White, A. (2013). Quick Reference: Reviewing Emergency Volunteer Liability and Protections. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Network for Public Health Law.
This one-page quick reference guide summarizes concepts and issues pertinent to emergency volunteers. It also includes an overview of state and federal laws that provide liability coverage and/or immunity to volunteers, and notes when such protections would apply.
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This report provides an overview of the federal and state liability protections available to volunteer health professionals.
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The aim of this guide is to provide an overview of volunteers and liability, including: a summary of the law and liability, sources of liability protection (e.g., volunteer acts, and Good Samaritan laws), and an explanation of risk management as it relates to liability. Also included are checklists that can be tailored by volunteer organizations.
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Hodge, J., and Arias, J. (2010). Liability Risks and Protections for Volunteer Health Practitioners in Emergencies. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Network for Public Health Law.
This slide-based presentation with bulleted text and helpful graphics describes different types of emergency declarations, notes differences between states, provides examples of liability issues during disasters, and discusses the federal- and state-level availability of liability and workers' compensation coverage for volunteers.
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Lopez, W., Kershner, S., and Penn, M. (2013). EMAC Volunteers: Liability and Workers' Compensation.
The authors discuss the application of the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) for volunteer deployment; gaps in the tort liability and workers’ compensation coverage it offers; and how the Uniform Emergency Volunteer Health Practitioners Act and other provisions address the limitations of protections under EMAC.
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National Emergency Management Association. (2017). Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC).
This webpage provides information on the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC), a congressionally-mandated interstate mutual aid agreement that has been adopted by all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Under EMAC, state assets (supplies, equipment, and/or volunteers) may be deployed to a requesting state. Reimbursement, liability, compensation, and licensure issues are also addressed. The website has links to training and education resources, as well as a document library, and information on deployable resources. The “Learn about EMAC" menu provides helpful documents for those not familiar with the agreement and process.
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U.S. Congress. (1997). Volunteer Protection Act. U.S. Government Publishing Office.
This is the text of the Volunteer Protection Act, which provides volunteers of nonprofit organizations or governmental entities some liability protections for economic damages resulting from activities relating to the work of the organizations. It does not cover gross negligence, willful misconduct, recklessness, or acts committed by the volunteer while intoxicated or operating a motor vehicle. Volunteers must be licensed or certified, as required to fulfill their assigned duties. Civil actions against volunteers by the organization they work for are not precluded. It does not cover organizational entities of any type, or persons volunteering at private businesses. A declared emergency is not necessary for volunteers to receive protections under this Act. States may opt out of the Volunteer Protection Act.
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Uniform Law Commission-the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws. (2017). Acts: Emergency Volunteer Health Practitioners.
This webpage provides information on which states have adopted the Uniform Emergency Volunteer Health Practitioners Act (UEVHPA), and which states have introduced legislation to do so. Links to the Uniform Emergency Volunteer Health Practitioners Act, a Legislative Information Kit, and other helpful resources are also available.
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University of Pittsburgh. (n.d.). Emergency Law Inventory. (Accessed 8/5/2019.)
This webpage describes laws and compacts related to volunteer liability, license reciprocity, scope of practice, and workers’ benefits. Information is searchable by profession, state, and status of emergency declaration.
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Lessons Learned


Aitken, P., Leggat, P., Harley, H., et al. (2012). Human Resources Issues and Australian Disaster Medical Assistance Teams: Results of a National Survey of Team Members. Emerging Health Threats Journal. 5:18147.
The authors surveyed members of Australian Disaster Medical Assistance Teams and identified human resource issues (such as ideal shift length and role clarification) related to their deployment that should be considered in the development of disaster volunteer plans.
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This report builds upon two previous Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) Network Profile reports, highlighting the impact the MRC program has had on the nation’s health and safety
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The authors surveyed Canadian health professionals who volunteered in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake to assess the effectiveness of supports provided to them. They evaluated training strategies; safety and security supports; psychological and emotional supports; physical supports; team dynamics and effective team leaders; communication between the field and headquarters; and communication with the media. They concluded that improvements in training and provision of supports are needed to enhance volunteer effectiveness.
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This report details the successes and challenges associated with the deployment of Medical Reserve Corps volunteers during the response to Superstorm Sandy in 2012. The lessons learned related to communications are broadly applicable to the use of volunteers to support disaster response.
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Terndrup, T., Leaming, J., Adams, R., and Adoff, S. (2012). Hospital-Based Coalition to Improve Regional Surge Capacity. The Western Journal of Emergency Medicine. 13(5):445-52.
The authors examined the effect of a newly-developed regional healthcare coalition (in south Central Pennsylvania) on six surge capacity-related objectives. In a two-year period, the healthcare coalition improved areas under all objectives. The authors also found that designating and training a coordinator for the state healthcare volunteer database contributed to a significant increase in volunteer registrations from the participating hospitals.
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The authors discuss survey findings that suggest a gender difference in readiness to deploy, as well as a correlation between positive attitudes about training and deployment. The research could be used to inform training for volunteers, as well as policies to support female disaster volunteers.
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Plans, Tools, and Templates


Bay Area Urban Area Security Initiative, Regional Catastrophic Preparedness Grant Program. (2010). Monterey County Volunteer Management Plan.
This plan is an annex to the Monterey Operational Area Emergency Operations Plan (EOP), and establishes operational protocols for coordinating spontaneous unaffiliated volunteers, as well as affiliated volunteers for the Monterey County Operational Area.
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This template includes a range of concepts and considerations related to volunteer management and use. The authors note that in the rare event that federal responders may be deployed to assist, the procedures described in this document can be tailored to help integrate them into a healthcare organization’s response operations.
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This document identifies key planning and operational considerations for managing emergency volunteers in hospitals. It includes a planning checklist, templates, guidance, and resources for integrating emergency volunteers during a medical surge event.
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Los Angeles County Emergency Medical Services Agency. (2014). Los Angeles County Disaster Healthcare Volunteers Clinic Tabletop Exercise Guidebook.
This document provides a tabletop exercise template to assist clinics with developing a plan to use volunteers during disasters. The guidance questions included may be referenced on their own for plan development.
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* National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster. (2019). Multi-agency Definitions of Mass Care Terms.
This document lists commonly used terms and categorizes and defines them. There is a source for the definition listed at the end of every entry.
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Western Region Homeland Security Advisory Council and Western Massachusetts Medical Reserve Corps. (2016). Spontaneous Volunteer Management System Plan Template.
This plan template can be tailored by emergency planners, incident commanders, and disaster volunteer groups, to help plan for and manage spontaneous volunteers. It may also be used as a general reference to guide development of a facility-specific volunteer plan.
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Wisconsin Hospital Association. (2011). Inter-Facility Staffing Agreement.
Healthcare facilities may use this template to enter into agreements to share staff during emergencies or disasters.
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The authors discuss survey findings that suggest a gender difference in readiness to deploy, as well as a correlation between positive attitudes about training and deployment. The research could be used to inform training for volunteers, as well as policies to support female disaster volunteers.
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Volunteer Program Management


Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience. (2017). Communities Responding to Disasters: Planning for Spontaneous Volunteers.
While based on Australian disaster management principles, the information in this manual can be used by others to help develop and operationalize policies that support spontaneous volunteers during emergencies. Links to case studies from around the world are provided in an appendix.
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* Federal Emergency Management Agency, Emergency Management Institute. (2013). IS 244.B: Developing and Managing Volunteers.
This 4-hour course provides strategies for identifying, recruiting, assigning, training, supervising, and motivating volunteers before, during, and after a severe emergency or major disaster.
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Livingston County United Way. (n.d.). Volunteer Livingston-Harnessing the P.O.W.E.R. of Volunteers. (Accessed 8/6/2019.)
This document contains information to assist volunteer managers with developing their volunteer program, including defining a mission and vision; documenting volunteer roles and responsibilities; marketing and branding of the program; recruiting volunteers; and developing human resource policies for their volunteer program.
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Medical Reserve Corps. (n.d.). Guide to Volunteer Recruiting: A Guide for Local MRC Units. (Accessed 8/5/2019.)
This document provides guidance for local Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) volunteer coordinators to support their recruitment efforts. It reviews the importance of defining the mission and vision for your volunteer unit; determining the numbers and types of volunteers that are needed to support your mission; and different recruitment tools that may be used.
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National Association of County and City Health Officials. (n.d.). MRC Core Competencies. (Accessed 8/6/2019.)
This fact sheet provides information on the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) Core Competencies, organized into 4 learning paths. These core competencies define the baseline level of knowledge and skills for all MRC volunteers. A detailed training plan based on these core competencies and learning paths may be found on the NACCHO MRC webpage, as well.
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* National Association of County and City Health Officials. (2015). Medical Reserve Corps: Factors for Success Resources.
This 4-part course was developed to help Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) Unit Leaders manage their MRC units. Volunteer Management-Part 1 discusses volunteer performance evaluation, including disciplinary action and dismissal, and may be helpful to healthcare facilities in the development of disaster volunteer management plans.
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* National Association of County and City Health Officials. (2018). National MRC Volunteer Training Plan.
The Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) Training Plan is a suggested guide for training MRC Volunteers at the local level. It presents a “menu” of options to guide MRC Unit leaders and volunteers with trainings that align with the Competencies for Disaster Medicine and Public Health.
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National Center for Disaster Medicine and Public Health. (n.d.). Resources for Core Competencies in Disaster Health. (Accessed 8/6/2019.)
This webpage includes a list of the 11 core competencies for disaster health, along with links to resources to support each of the competencies.
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National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster. (n.d.). VOAD Members. (Accessed 8/6/2019.)
This document lists the members of the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD), along with a brief description of what each agency does. It may be used for partnership building among volunteer groups.
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Agencies and Organizations


American Red Cross. Training and Certification.
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Federal Emergency Management Agency. Community Emergency Response Teams.
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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response. Medical Reserve Corps.
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