Category: News

How the Finance & Logistics Program plays an integral role in the Maryland-National Capital Region Emergency Response System

The goal of the Finance & Logistics (F&L) Program is to develop, maintain, improve, and coordinate the fiscal, procurement, and resource management responsibilities of the Maryland-National Capital Region Emergency Response System (MDERS) staff and stakeholders.

The F&L Program works through the entire capability development cycle. From generating budgets to submitting grant proposals to purchasing equipment, the program is a vital and integral contributor to the process. Once the equipment and supplies are purchased, the program tracks, oversees deployment, and plans for maintenance and replacement of all items. The program also handles all financial matters, including seeking grant reimbursement for organization expenditures.

The F&L Program staff consists of a Program Manager, a Financial Administrator, and a Logistician. The Program Manager oversees the financial and logistical aspects of all capability development and project management plans. She also manages the purchases of equipment and resources to support the MDERS staff and its mission, and directs all related financial and logistical tracking and reporting responsibilities. The Financial Administrator fulfills multiple accounting, budgetary, and procurement responsibilities. The Logistician fulfills various duties including equipment and supply acquisition, distribution, tracking, maintenance, and replenishment.

For more information about the MDERS Finance and Logistics Program please contact info@mders.org.

Embracing Remote Learning in the Height of a Global Pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has significantly impacted the training and exercise world, forcing many organizations to transition to online mediums, accelerating the evolution of e-learning. Prior to the pandemic, virtual learning made up approximately 10% of the MDERS training program. At the onset of the pandemic, 90% of the MDERS sponsored/funded training was either canceled or postponed. The MDERS Training and Exercise (T&E) Program shifted gears and sought virtual learning opportunities that enabled collaborative, interactive social learning experiences while still offering the same quality of instruction as one would find in an in-person instructor-led course. The T&E Program set its sights on cross-disciplinary training that supported the MDERS strategic goals and objectives.

At the onset of the pandemic, the MDERS T&E Program quickly pivoted to designing and executing virtual tabletop exercises (TTX) and workshops to accommodate social distancing requirements.  Since September 2020, the MDERS exercise planning team has successfully delivered several virtual TTXs to the ERS stakeholder community, including fire/EMS and public health.

In the last 15 months, MDERS has collaborated with Harvard’s National Preparedness Leadership Initiative (NPLI) to provide two four-part seminar series focused on various aspects of meta-leadership, including negotiation and conflict resolution. MDERS and NPLI staff are currently in the final planning phase to deliver a third four-part seminar series highlighting transformational connectivity to foster high performance in the workplace.

MDERS teamed up with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Short Programs to offer a two-part instructor-led online crisis management and resiliency training to the ERS stakeholder community. These courses provided ERS stakeholders with the knowledge and tools necessary to benchmark, assess, and improve their organization’s business continuity, disaster recovery, and crisis management programs.

Partnering with Antioch University, MDERS provided a series of online courses highlighting the impacts of climate change and what the emergency response community can do to become more resilient. MDERS joined forces with the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation (ICISF) Speakers Bureau to deliver training to ERS stakeholders to help them navigate the many complexities of critical incident stress management and crisis intervention.

Capitalizing on the momentum gained from the virtual TTX’s and leadership seminar series, the MDERS T&E Program launched its first-ever virtual Emergency Response Symposium in May 2021. Leveraging a virtual conferencing platform, MDERS delivered an immersive and engaging experience to a wider audience, promoting inclusivity in an online environment.

The transition to virtual training and exercises is not without its challenges, and each instance has allowed the T&E Program to adjust and improve future offerings. While it will not completely replace face-to-face instruction, e-learning is here to stay, and the MDERS community will continue to adapt.

For more information about the MDERS Training & Exercise Program, please contact Training and Exercise Program Manager Nicole Markuski at Nicole.Markuski1@Maryland.gov.

Montgomery County Collaborates on small Unmanned Aerial Systems (sUAS)

In 2018, the Maryland-National Capital Region Emergency Response System Steering Committee identified small Unmanned Aerial Systems (sUAS) as a funding priority for capability development. To achieve this capability for the public safety agencies in Montgomery County, Maryland, a workgroup was established consisting of representatives from the Montgomery County Police Department (MCPD), Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service (MCFRS), and the Montgomery County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (OEMHS). This provided collaboration opportunities for policy development, equipment specification, and the coordination of future training.

MCPD was the first agency to work through internal processes to implement a policy and achieve the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) approval to purchase equipment: a required step for the purchase of any sUAS utilizing federal grant funds. Following approval of the policy, the department purchased various equipment and began its program.

 

The group continued to gain momentum in 2020, with MCFRS and OEMHS gaining FEMA approval. Both agencies then began the process of procuring equipment. All three agencies are actively crafting and implementing training programs to operationalize sUAS operations for emergency response throughout Montgomery County.

 

To add to the complexity of this project, a majority of Montgomery County falls within the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Flight Restricted Zone (FRZ) around Washington, D.C. The public safety agencies within this zone must work with the FAA to obtain waivers that allow them to operate sUAS within this airspace. To date, MCPD has already received a waiver, leading the way for other agencies within their jurisdiction.

 

As of Spring 2021, all three agencies are now working with the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST), a federal entity headquartered in Montgomery County. NIST personnel have been collaborating with public safety agencies nationwide to assist with training and mobilization of sUAS programs. Specifically, NIST provides a scalable, quantifiable framework for operator training, which the agencies are working to implement as part of their pilot training programs.

The National Capital Region Homeland Security Enterprise Coordination Structure

Introduction

The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG) is a non-profit organization that is designed to facilitate collaboration and coordination across the National Capital Region (NCR) and surrounding areas. The membership includes the governments of 24 cities and counties; the State of Maryland, Commonwealth of Virginia, and District of Columbia; and the federal government.

Given the NCR’s population, threat profile, and complexity, there is a need for regional collaboration for emergency response and public safety. This coordination is supported by MWCOG’s Department of Homeland Security and Public Safety (DHSPS). DHSPS has a full-time staff that supports groups of subject matter experts and public safety leaders from MWCOG member jurisdictions who come together to prepare for routine and large-scale emergencies. These leaders organize through a system of committees and boards.

Regional Emergency Support Function (RESF) Committees

The general approach to coordination across the region is bringing together the leaders of specific disciplines from across the NCR. These groups are organized based on the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) National Response Framework (NRF) and National Incident Management System (NIMS). The Emergency Support Functions (ESF) group together resources and capabilities based on functional areas and disciplines. These ESFs focus on a single discipline but bring together many jurisdictions and organizations responsible for providing that service. In the NCR, the active RESF committees consist of the following:

  • RESF-1: Transportation
  • RESF-2: Communications, Information Technology
  • RESF-4/9/10: Firefighting, Search and Rescue, Hazardous Materials
  • RESF-5: Emergency Management
  • RESF-6: Mass Care, Emergency Assistance, Human Services
  • RESF-8: Public Health and Medical Services
  • RESF-13: Law Enforcement, Public Safety and Security
  • RESF-15: Public Information, External Affairs

Regional Emergency Support Function (RESF) Subcommittees

Each of the aforementioned RESF Committees is supported by numerous subcommittees. These subcommittees, which are comprised of subject matter experts and leaders within the discipline, focus on a specific topic, task, specialty, or capability within the discipline. As an example, RESF-4/9/10, which is also known as the Fire Chiefs Committee, is supported by subcommittees that include:

  • Emergency Medical Services
  • Fire Health and Safety
  • Hazardous Materials
  • Passenger Rail Safety
  • Technical Rescue

Regional Programmatic Working Groups

Many of the NCR’s public safety responsibilities transcend any single discipline. For these capabilities, it is necessary to bring together a diverse set of subject matter experts from a number of different fields to address the issue. Regional Programmatic Working Groups (RPWGs) are designed to be cross-disciplinary and cross-jurisdictional. Examples of NCR RPWGs include:

  • Health and Medical
  • Cyber Security
  • Situational Awareness
  • Complex Coordinated Attack

Advisory Council

The Advisory Council is a group that is tasked with collecting input across the RESF and RPWG groups, and making recommendations to the Homeland Security Executive Committee (HSEC) on issues of policy and funding. Each RESF has representation on the Advisory Council, which is appointed by membership of the respective RESF. The Advisory Council is charged with carrying out the strategic direction of the HSEC, while maintaining a feedback loop from the entire community of RESF and RPWG committees. The Advisory Council is expected to develop comprehensive solutions that complement the mission space of all disciplines and jurisdictions, while deconflicting the differing priorities across these groups.

Homeland Security Executive Committee

The Homeland Security Executive Committee (HSEC) is the policy making body of the NCR public safety community. The group is comprised of senior leadership from each of the core member jurisdictions. This includes Chief Administrative Officers (CAO) or Deputy Chief Administrative Officers (DCAO) for public safety and homeland security in the counties and cities of the NCR; the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia state directors for emergency management and homeland security; and the Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Office of National Capital Region Coordination (ONCRC). The group’s mission is to help NCR jurisdictions prevent, protect against, and respond to all-hazards, public safety, and homeland security events that require regional coordination. The group establishes a shared regional vision and strategic direction based on unmet needs found in capability and risk assessments. It allocates personnel to serve on the RESFs and RPWGs to carry out the direction of the group. Through the Advisory Council, the body receives recommendations for public safety enhancements, which can lead to policy changes and funding investment. The group is the designated Urban Area Working Group (UAWG), which is ultimately responsible for the distribution of the Urban Area Security Initiative grant (UASI) for the NCR. This multi-million-dollar grant is used to support capability development and expansion throughout the NCR in accordance with the strategic vision of the HSEC.

Maryland-National Capital Region Partners Explore Approaches to Negotiation & Conflict Resolution

Eric McNulty, Associate Director Harvard University National Preparedness Leadership Initiative

Leaders from the Maryland-National Capital Region and surrounding areas recently participated in a four-part leadership seminar series focusing on different approaches to negotiation and conflict resolution. The series was hosted by The Maryland-National Capital Region Emergency Response System (MDERS) in partnership with Harvard University’s National Preparedness Leadership Initiative (NPLI).

Darrell Darnell, Homeland Security and Emergency Management Subject Matter Expert Affiliated Faculty Member Harvard University National Preparedness Leadership Initiative

Following the principles of meta-leadership, this interactive program explored the dynamics of conflict, and presented pragmatic tools for managing and resolving disagreements. The program was led by NPLI Associate Director and co-author of the book You’re It, Eric McNulty, and homeland security and emergency management subject matter expert Darrell Darnell. The series also also featured presentations by NPLI Co-founding Director and You’re It co-author Dr. Leonard Marcus.

Dr. Leonard Marcus, Co-Founding Director Harvard University National Preparedness Leadership Initiative

Focusing on the roots and accelerants of conflict, participants developed an understanding of five different approaches to engaging in conflict, as well as two principal approaches to negotiation. The series concluded with participants taking part in a master class that included a negotiation and conflict resolution. The capstone activity culminated their experience, drawing on lessons learned in the course to solve the case. The program was tailored to the emergency response realm, specifically the unique characteristics and nuances of the Maryland-National Capital Region.

The program was well received by attendees and highlighted the need for further leadership development opportunities for emergency response leaders in the Maryland-NCR. As such, MDERS, in partnership with NPLI, is pleased to announce that we will be hosting another series of leadership seminars focused on connectivity and transforming your agency this fall.

For more information on future leadership seminars, please contact Nicole Markuski at Nicole.Markuski1@maryland.gov.

What is the UASI Grant Lifecycle?

The Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) grant lifecycle is the ten-stage process that UASI grants in the National Capital Region (NCR) go through from beginning to end.

Each year, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) awards UASI grants to enhance regional preparedness, and build capabilities in 31 high-threat, high-density urban areas. DHS awards these grants to State Administrative Agencies (SAAs) to administer and provide funds to localities and other eligible subrecipients to implement grant program objectives. The SAAs have a 3-year period of performance to complete UASI grant projects. Subrecipients of the SAAs are provided much shorter periods due to the time required to carry out the many grant lifecycle phases from application to closeout period. The District of Columbia Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency (DCHSEMA) is the SAA that issues UASI subawards to the NCR, which includes the Maryland-National Capital Region Emergency Response System (MDERS).  DCHSEMA provides its subrecipients an 18-month period of performance to carry out their projects, with occasional extensions for unique circumstances.

Since its inception, MDERS has become the single point of coordination for response partners across Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties. The Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems (MIEMSS) is the sponsoring agency of the MDERS program. Agencies within the counties receive funds to purchase equipment and supplies that will be used for their organization’s emergency response capabilities. UASI is a reimbursement grant; therefore, MIEMSS and the counties fund the initial purchases, and are later reimbursed by DCHSEMA. MDERS is often working on four grant years at once: one in the planning stage, two open grant years, and one in the close-out process.

Lifecycle Stages

The stages of the Grant Lifecycle for NCR UASI grants are as follows:

 

  1. Call for Proposal (January, Year 1) – The Homeland Security Executive Committee (HSEC) invites proposals from government and other eligible organizations within the NCR. Proposals must adhere to the criteria laid out in HSEC’s Regional Guidance, including linking to priority capability objectives, having a clear nexus to terrorism, and benefitting operational areas.
  2. Project Selection (April, Year 1) – After careful consideration, the HSEC selects projects that align with the criteria and will advance regional priorities by focusing resources to address risks.
  3. Grant application (May, Year 1) – DCHSEMA completes DHS’ regional grant application, demonstrating how proposed projects address gaps and deficiencies in current capabilities.
  4. Federal Award to SAA (July – September, Year 1) – Upon completion of the application review process, DHS awards UASI funds to the SAA based on risk and the anticipated effectiveness of the proposed use of grant funds.
  5. SAA issues Subawards (October, Year 1) – The SAA issues subaward letters. Once they are signed by all parties, the period of performance begins for the subrecipients. The period of performance is generally an 18-month period in which the project must be completed. Occasional extensions may be granted depending on the status of the project.
  6. Completion of Project Management Plan (PMP) (October, Year 1) – Subrecipients must complete or update the PMP for each award, as per the requirements of the SAA.
  7. Project Implementation (Approx. 18 months: November, Year 1 – May, Year 3) – Subrecipients implement their projects as per the approved PMPs, while following the terms and conditions of the subawards, and all applicable federal and local laws, policies, and procedures. Subrecipients should submit reimbursement requests to the SAA as the goods and/or services are paid.
  8. Monitoring – The SAA conducts monitoring throughout the grant’s period of performance by requiring Quarterly Status Reports (QSRs), which include updates on programmatic and spending progress. Additionally, DHS and the SAA have the right to make site visits to monitor and review project accomplishments and to provide any required technical assistance.
  9. Project Closeout (June – August, Year 3) – Subrecipients must meet all project closeout reporting requirements as per the terms and conditions of the grant award, including submitting final QSRs, and providing proof of deliverables, Equipment Purchases form, and all reimbursement requests are due no later than 30 days after the end of the performance period.
  10. Audit or Site Visit – Both external and internal audits or site visits could potentially take place after the project is closed out. It is vital that the subrecipient maintains subaward files that contain complete and up-to-date records. These files may be paper or electronic, if they are easily and quickly accessible and available for review.

MDERS Welcomes Peter McCullough!

The Maryland-National Capital Region Emergency Response System is excited to announce that Peter McCullough, JD, has joined the team in a contractor role to assist with numerous evolving projects. Peter joins us from the Center for Health and Homeland Security (CHHS), where he is a Law & Policy Analyst. He is a graduate of the University of Maryland, Francis King Carey School of Law, with a concentration in Cybersecurity and Crisis Management. Most recently, he worked directly with the District of Columbia Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency (DCHSEMA) as an integral part of the 2021 Presidential Inauguration. He brings both professionalism and a fresh perspective to the field of response. Peter is eager to work with the entire MDERS stakeholder community, sharing his expertise to help enhance many of the current projects.

During his tenure at MDERS, Peter will be tasked with assisting in the continued development of the Public Access Trauma Care (PATC) program and the buildout of the Technical Rescue (TR) capability. He is responsible for coordinating with stakeholders, identifying ways to enhance the current elements of each project and expand the current capability. Taking Peter’s experience with professional writing and his charismatic personality, he will provide our staff and stakeholders the chance to take these capabilities to the next level.

The MDERS team is happy to welcome Peter on board and we are excited to use his expertise in all aspects of capability development for our stakeholders.

Building Emergency Medical Services Surge Capability in the Maryland-National Capital Region

Large scale international and domestic events, both accidental and intentional, have resulted in mass casualty incidents (MCI). A mass casualty incident causes sufficient injuries to overwhelm response and healthcare resources. To prepare for these events, the Maryland-National Capital Region Emergency Response System (MDERS) stakeholders endeavored to build MCI response capability and capacity, starting with field response by emergency medical services (EMS).

Leaders from the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service (MCFRS) and the Prince George’s County Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department (PGFD) completed an MCI response needs assessment that identified several fire, rescue, and EMS gaps. The purpose of this needs assessment was to determine what resources are required to support a large EMS response in addition to the normal day-to-day incidents of the Maryland-National Capital Region. The assessment revealed that a plan to deploy additional EMS transport units to MCIs did not exist in either fire department.

To address this issue, EMS staff from each fire department, with MDERS assistance, formed a planning group and coordinated a series of meetings to identify a goal, develop objectives, and establish a plan of action. The goal was the safe, efficient, and effective deployment of additional EMS resources to respond to mass casualty incidents. The primary objective was the deployment of additional basic life support transport units to the scene or to backfill depleted resources within 180 minutes of notification of an MCI.

The planning team identified several key steps necessary to accomplish their goal, the first of which was to inventory supplies carried in the basic life support (BLS) transport unit (ambulance). Supplies are divided into two categories: soft supplies (e.g., bandages, other disposable items) and hard supplies (e.g., backboards, splints, other non-disposable items). Employing an inventory schedule is a critical component of sustainment and ensures supplies are utilized prior to expiration. The second step identified the need for a standardized storage methodology that would allow for the easy distribution of these resources to stock reserve ambulances when deployed into the field. The solution was a securable metal storage box on wheels that contained hard and soft supplies needed to respond to an emergency incident. In response to an MCI, the contents of this box could be placed on a reserve ambulance to transition it into a response asset.

The MDERS Steering Committee allocated funds to each agency through a scaled approach. Five kits were provided to each agency in the first phase, followed by an additional five kits in the second phase. This resulted in a total of ten BLS ambulance in a box kits for each agency. In the final phase, five kits in each county were equipped with additional supplies, such as cardiac monitors and advanced respiratory equipment to make them advanced life support (ALS) capable. These units are intended to treat the most severely injured and sick patients, who often require more invasive field treatment.

Although this capability has not yet been utilized for a mass casualty incident response, these boxes have been deployed in Montgomery and Prince George’s County to provide additional transport unit capacity during the most significant surges of the COVID-19 pandemic. They are also frequently deployed in Prince George’s County to provide dedicated ambulances for special events at FedEx Field. Using this equipment on a routine basis allows for providers to refine the process and develop proficiency so that the units are quickly deployed in the event of an MCI.

 

A fully stocked EMS in a Box Storage cabinet.

 

National Capital Region Emergency Response Systems

The National Capital Region (NCR) is comprised of the District of Columbia, the State of Maryland, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and 24 county and local governments within that area. The area is home to over 5.5 million residents, and is the seat of the federal government, as well as countless private enterprises. The Region, is particularly susceptible to number of threats, including terrorism and high impact disasters. Countering these threats requires a high degree of coordination across the multiple disciplines, agencies, and jurisdictions across the NCR. The Emergency Response System programs of the NCR are one of many approaches to ensure successful regional coordination.

There are three Emergency Response System (ERS) organizations in the National Capital Region, with one in Maryland, Northern Virginia, and D.C. The purpose of the ERS programs is to provide a platform dedicated to building preparedness and response capabilities in a fashion that leverages other disciplines’ strengths and missions. The approach ensures maximum efficiency and effectiveness of multiple agencies and jurisdictions operating in concert. The participating agencies include a number of response partners, including law enforcement, fire and emergency medical services, public health, hospitals, and emergency management.

The programs are supported by Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) funds from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. These funds provide full-time staff to support the planning and execution of emergency response capability development. The staff is comprised of subject matter experts in multiple aspects of emergency management, including discipline mission areas and tactics, capability realization, grants and financial management, training and exercise, and consensus leadership. The funding also supports training, exercises, equipment acquisition, and other expenses related to homeland security and emergency preparedness.

The NCR has been dedicated to regionalism since the late 1990s, with multiple cross-jurisdictional committees and organizations designed to address these complexities. The ERS programs bring together those various disciplines for a coordinated, comprehensive approach to emergency response. The programs are conducted at the subregional level (Maryland, Northern Virginia, and DC) to account for localized needs, threats, and constructs. The ERS programs coordinate with one another, as well as other NCR groups and governing bodies, to create region-wide capabilities to best protect the residents and visitors of the Greater Metropolitan Washington Area.

The Northern Virginia Emergency Response System (NVERS) was the first of its kind in the region. The organization started as a designated Metropolitan Medical Response System (MMRS), which was a grant program intended to build capabilities to respond to chemical, biological, radiological, and explosive events. In 2007, the program was rebranded as NVERS to focus on a more comprehensive set of emergency response capabilities. This expanded the multidisciplinary and multijurisdictional work that had begun through MMRS, and introduced new capability targets. At one point managed by the Northern Virginia Hospital Alliance, NVERS has since become a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, allowing it greater flexibility to address the ever-evolving needs of public safety and homeland security.

The Maryland-National Capital Region Emergency Response System (MDERS) has a history similar to that of NVERS. Both Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties, which legally comprise the Maryland-National Capital Region, were jurisdictions that participated in the MMRS program. Both programs were organized through the respective county’s fire and rescue department, but engaged other disciplines to meet healthcare objectives. In pursuit of lofty response goals that would require the cooperation of multiple jurisdictions, the two MMRS programs began working together to achieve greater capacity. In 2014, it was decided that the two programs would be combined into a single entity with a broader mission area to address additional aspects of emergency response, under the MDERS title. The organization was structured based on the successful NVERS model, with adjustments to best meet the needs of the MDERS stakeholders. Additional disciplines and jurisdictions were incorporated into the effort, and the program continues to grow. MDERS provides full capability development that includes planning, organization, equipping, training, and exercising that spans all participating jurisdictions, disciplines, and agencies. Since its inception, owing to its roots in a medical mission area, the program has been administered by the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems (MIEMSS).

The District of Columbia Emergency Response System (DCERS) was established at the same time that MDERS was founded. Though DC is a single jurisdiction, by its nature it has intense complexity with multiple agencies at both the city and federal level having jurisdiction within the city limits. The work of DCERS began with a heavy emphasis on response, as with NVERS and MDERS. In time, the program shifted to a goal of creating a culture of preparedness, assuming mission areas beyond response. To better reflect its mission and scope, the program was rebranded the District Preparedness System (DPS). Like its counterparts in Northern Virginia and Maryland, DPS conducts assessments to identify strategic target capabilities and capacities, and coordinates across all pertinent disciplines to achieve their goals. The program is housed in, and administered by, the D.C. Homeland Security and Management Agency (DCHSEMA) who provide a direct corollary to broader homeland security missions.

Each ERS program is managed at the subregional level, driven by the strategic vision and direction of local emergency response agency leaders. The programs are a portion of the broader approach of the NCR Homeland Security Executive Committee (HSEC), which oversees preparedness and response in the region. The efforts performed by the ERS programs, while managed locally, are informed by the regional goals of the HSEC. In furtherance of that intent, the ERS programs work closely with one another to ensure comprehensive coordination through the region. This includes leveraging resources, assuming combined efforts, and planning together to meet the homeland security and public safety needs as defined by the HSEC. Together with other regional bodies, the ERS programs contribute to the advanced state of readiness, unique capabilities, and enhanced capacity, all of which provide superior service and protection to the area’s residents and visitors.

Power in Volunteer Numbers: The Montgomery County Maryland Responds Team

Immediately following the September 11th attacks in 2001, the Freedom Corps was established in efforts to help Americans find volunteer opportunities and strengthen the nations culture of service. Shortly after the establishment of the Freedom Corps, an extension to this program, known as the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC), was created. Today, the Medical Reserve Corp (MRC) is sponsored by the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) and housed within the Department of Health and Human Services. This federal structure supports the implementation of MRC units throughout the nation at the local government level.

The Medical Reserve Corps a national network of community-based volunteers who assist their communities in activities related to public health emergency response. The MRC is not limited to strictly medically trained volunteers; non-medical professionals are also utilized for the unique skills they bring to their communities.

In Maryland, the MRC is known as Maryland Responds. With 24 local MRC units housed within the Local Health Departments, the State of Maryland has over 22,000 volunteers registered. To screen interested individuals, each volunteer must complete all the steps required in the “Road to Readiness (R2R)” program to be eligible for deployment. The R2R program is a series of five steps created to ensure all volunteers are trained in the basic functions of the Maryland Responds program, and, once completed, provides participants with state liability protection coverage during deployments.

Throughout the country, MRC volunteers most recently have been utilized for COVID-19 pandemic response. MRC volunteers can meet the growing demand for extra medical and administrative services needed throughout this pandemic. In Montgomery County, volunteers have assisted the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) in the following ways:

  • COVID-19 Testing Sites: Specimen collection and administrative site support
  • Vaccination Clinics: Medical vaccinators and non-medical site flow support, registration, and vaccination documentation
  • Call Center: Staffing for the COVID-19 Call Center to answer community and medical provider questions
  • Health Department Operations Center (HDOC): Supplemental staffing for the HDOC
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Distribution: Supplying community partners and county residents with proper PPE
  • Food Security Task Force: Providing food distribution sites for individuals impacted by the economic impacts of COVID-19

With almost 1,900 volunteers county-wide, the Montgomery County team has logged over 25,000 volunteer hours since the beginning of the COVID-19 response.

Jessica Pryor is the MRC Coordinator for Montgomery County. “The volunteers in the Maryland Responds Medical Reserve Corps have been a significant resource to the COVID-19 response,” Pryor stated. “They allow us to have staffing resources and flexibility to quickly respond to the needs of the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, the volunteers have provided us with the staff to open call centers and new testing sites or vaccination sites within only serval hours’ notice. The volunteers also help to provide ongoing support to operations and help us to meet the needs of Montgomery County residents during the COVID-19 response.”

For more information on how to become a Maryland Responds volunteer, please use the following link: