- Who can register with MA Responds?
- Can I register in MA Responds if I'm not currently licensed or if I do not have any experience or training in public health or healthcare?
- I am already a member of my local Medical Reserve Corps. How does that work with MA Responds?
- I volunteer for other organizations that do not participate in MA Responds….will this interfere with that?
- Can I specify that I want to volunteer in my own community or outside my community?
- What kinds of local programs will I be able to work with? Do I have a choice as to what types of programs I can participate in?
- What is my responsibility to my current employer?
- How many people will you need during an incident?
- How do I register?
- How much personal information do I have to share with MA Responds?
- How often should I update my information?
- Who will have access to my personal data?
- What is required for participation?
- Do I have to have any special training or expertise to volunteer?
- Can I get training in order to be a more effective volunteer?
- How can I ensure that my particular talents/training/expertise will be utilized?
- What can I anticipate that I will be asked to do as part of MA Responds?
- What if multiple programs contact me to volunteer during a crisis?
- Are there any specific health concerns-e.g., vaccinations-that are required for me to participate in MA Responds?
- How will I be notified that my services are required?
- What if I am called and am unable or unwilling to help?
- How far would I have to travel?
- Once I've registered, how should I prepare for deployment? What should I bring with me?
- Is there any compensation for participating in MA Responds?
- Do I have professional liability and workers compensation protection?
Recent experience with large scale disasters has consistently shown that an effective response requires that volunteers be pre-credentialed and deployed through a coordinated effort. Well meaning but unaffiliated volunteers who spontaneously present to disaster sites are often unable to be assigned. With limited time and resources to process volunteers, often only those with known credentials are permitted access to the disaster response. By registering with MA Responds, you can be part of an alert system and respond, when activated, to a significant disaster or public health emergency. Participating volunteer organizations in Massachusetts have recognized that a statewide system will improve data management and alerting programs. MA Responds will serve as an asset to local volunteer groups and will improve volunteer coordination during a public health emergency.
MA Responds is Massachusetts's initiative to pre-register, manage, and mobilize existing clinical and non-clinical volunteers to help in responding to all types of disasters. The volunteer management system is part of a nation-wide effort to make sure that volunteer professionals can be quickly identified and their credentials checked so that they can be properly utilized in response to a public health emergency or disaster. This system is a partnership of local Medical Reserve Corps units (MRCs), the Massachusetts System for Advance Registration of Volunteer Health Professionals (MSAR) and other volunteer organizations in Massachusetts, coordinated administratively by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH).
Massachusetts is looking for anyone willing to volunteer their skills in the event of a health emergency. These persons include:
- Healthcare professionals, such as physicians, nurses, pharmacists, dentists, nursing assistants, respiratory therapists, veterinarians, and medical and health information technicians, etc.
- Public health professionals
- Behavioral health and social service professionals including psychologists, social workers, counselors, interpreters, and chaplains
- Support staff from other professions who will serve as clerical workers, data entry, greeters, traffic control, canteen workers, etc.
- Volunteers may be practicing, retired, college students, or otherwise employed
MA Responds offers both medical and non-medical volunteers a chance to join a network of people who are trained and ready to respond to an emergency when called to assist local health and safety officials. By registering with MA Responds volunteer nurses, doctors, pharmacists, dentists, EMTs, and other volunteers learn how to assist in the response to a disaster affecting their communities. Even people without medical training are encouraged to join, as their non-medical skills are also useful during a response. Volunteers are provided valuable training free of charge, and they learn how to prepare themselves and their families during an emergency.
2 . Can I register in MA Responds if I'm not currently licensed or if I do not have any experience or training in public health or healthcare?
Yes. Whether you are actively licensed, a student, retired health professional, or someone with an interest in volunteering during a health emergency, you are encouraged to register. Because many health professionals will already be committed to a role during an emergency, many areas are actively recruiting "non-health" professionals who will assist health professionals when the need arises.
This system is partnership of local MRCs, MSAR, and other volunteer organizations, coordinated administratively by DPH. Under MA Responds, MRC units retain full control of their volunteers, and you would continue to work directly with your local unit. MRC volunteers in the system will not be contacted or activated directly by MA Responds or the MA Department of Public Health without the permission of the local coordinator.
4 . I volunteer for other organizations that do not participate in MA Responds….will this interfere with that?
You may certainly volunteer in other ways. The system will ask you about prior commitments and ranking of volunteering preference so that this information is understood at the time of deployment. Prior commitments will be considered when deployment decisions are being made.
Yes. You can indicate that you are only willing to volunteer in your local area and/or that you are willing to volunteer in the event of a larger emergency that occurs in other communities, statewide, or even in other states that may require your assistance. If you register at www.maresponds.org, your local volunteer program will receive your information. You can also contact your local Public Health agency to find out who is coordinating volunteer efforts in your area.
6 . What kinds of local programs will I be able to work with? Do I have a choice as to what types of programs I can participate in?
When you register for MA Responds you may choose from a list of participating programs to volunteer with. As we add more volunteer programs to the MA Responds website, more choices will become available. Also, you may choose to volunteer with other programs in your area. Check with local public health, emergency management, and private agencies in your area to see what opportunities are available.
You must make necessary arrangements with your employer in order to take the time to volunteer. We recognize that your employer may have particular needs, including needs related to the specific disaster, and that you must choose how to respond to those needs. The conditions under which an employee will be released to volunteer in an emergency remain between the employer and the employee.
The number of volunteers needed vary depending on the emergency and the needs of the community. There is also the chance that a number of volunteers will have conflicts at the time they are requested to help that prevent them from volunteering. We would like to register a large number of volunteers so each community will have enough when the need arises.
Registering is as simple as logging on to the web site and entering the information requested. When you log on to www.maresponds.org, select "Register Now." You should have information about your applicable license and contact information available in order to complete the registration process. You may start and stop the registration process at any time. Simply login to the system using the username and password you have created to complete anything you have not finished.
You will be asked to provide details about your contact information and personal information required for background checks. You will also be asked to provide licensing information, if appropriate. You may choose not to provide some information, but if you do so, the extent of your volunteer participation may be limited. You will also be asked some general questions about your health status in order to determine if there is any limitation to your ability to be deployed.
We request that you update your information any time you have a change in status. In addition, we recommend that you check your profile and update as needed every 6 months. Licensure information must be kept up to date or your volunteer participation may be limited.
You, your local volunteer program administrator and specified staff at the Emergency Preparedness Bureau at DPH will have access to the data you provide. Anyone with access to the data will be trained in proper security and privacy procedures. Your information will be contained within a central, secure database administered by DPH. Your information will ONLY be used to engage you in activities related to your local volunteer program or MA Responds, including recruitment for participation in a disaster drill or exercise, to provide you with program information or to request your assistance at the time of a large-scale disaster or public health emergency. DPH will not sell or otherwise provide information to anyone else without your consent.
You must first register with the program at www.maresponds.org. Your local program administrator for your area will contact you about their expectations for participation. You may be asked to attend a program orientation or other training to help prepare you. If and when activation becomes necessary, the local volunteer coordinators will contact affiliated volunteers to determine availability. All volunteers can accept or refuse a request for help. No matter what the extent of the need is, these are voluntary deployments and participants are not required to respond to a request.
If you have questions about MA Responds, contact your local program administrator, or use the MA Responds website to contact us.
Your local program administrator will contact you for training opportunities, or any requirements for participation. Some programs will choose to wait until they need you and then provide just-in-time training to prepare you. When you are asked to volunteer, you will know what type of event it is, where you are being asked to respond, what will be expected from you, and what you need to know to help out and keep yourself safe.
All volunteers are encouraged to seek training opportunities that will make them more effective if deployed to an emergency. Contact your local program administrator to see what trainings are recommended or required. The MA Responds program plans to develop a wide array of training opportunities. As opportunities are created, enrollees will be notified and those opportunities will be posted on this site.
When you register, you will have the opportunity to enter information about your particular skills, expertise, certifications, etc. At the time of deployment, this information will be considered by those doing the deployment. Efforts will be made to match skills with needs. You can help ensure the proper match by keeping the information about your own competencies and certifications up-to-date in the system.
Assignments will be made by local volunteer coordinators and the clinical managers in receiving facilities. In making those assignments, licensure, training, experience, competencies, and certifications will all be considered. You can expect that you will be asked to perform tasks that are consistent with your level of licensure.
All volunteers have responsibilities that must be met before they can respond to a callout. Whether it is your family, your job, your local MRC, your local fire department, DMAT or other group or organization, you will need to decide for yourself what commitments you can make and what your preference is for deployment, which you will be able to designate in the system. Prior to accepting deployment, you should check with others and obtain any needed consent from your employer if deployment interferes with your work schedule.
19 . Are there any specific health concerns-e.g., vaccinations-that are required for me to participate in MA Responds?
No prior vaccinations are required for volunteers. However, in the event of certain emergencies (e.g., pandemic influenza, bioterrorism) where a medical countermeasure is available you may receive the countermeasure if needed.
When you register you will enter information on the best way to contact you. If a deployment is required, this is the information that the system will use to contact you. Therefore, please be sure that the information you give is accurate and up-to-date. Any time you have any change in that information, please log on and update the information.
When you are called to volunteer, you can make a decision about your availability at that time. MA Responds volunteers are never under any obligation to participate. You always retain the right to decline for any reason. You can withdraw your application or discontinue your enrollment as a volunteer at any time by emailing the MA Responds program at MAResponds@state.ma.us.
When you register, you will have the opportunity to indicate your willingness to travel. You will be asked if you are willing to volunteer locally, within the state, or even outside the state. These preferences will be considered when deployment decisions are being reached.
We are currently gathering a number of resources to help volunteers prepare for a possible deployment. Your local group may also have more information about what they would expect you to do to prepare for deployment. In the event of a deployment you will likely receive an e-mail about deployment preparation and, of course, you can always check back on the web site for more up to date information.
Volunteers will not be compensated for their service under MA Responds. Any person registered in the system as an employee of an entity that will respond to emergencies will be compensated according to the arrangement they have with that entity.
MA Responds does not provide overarching professional liability or workers compensation protections. You should ask your local MRC unit or other volunteer group if they provide coverage. There are several Massachusetts General Laws that offer some form of protection to health care professionals volunteering under public health programs. View a summary of liability and workers' compensation protections for Massachusetts health care volunteers in disaster response.
This information is provided by the Department of Public Health.