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Volunteering During Declared Emergencies/Disasters

By Melissa Kemp, CRICO

Related to: Ambulatory, Emergency Medicine, Primary Care, Nursing, Obstetrics, Other Specialties, Surgery

The Harvard medical community has consistently responded to calls for its medical expertise and compassionate care during disasters like September 11 and Hurricane Katrina. If you are one of those generous individuals who volunteer, there are new procedures to follow if you want to offer your time and abilities.

After the World Trade Center attacks, New York City hospitals were unable to take advantage of the generosity of the vast numbers of volunteer health care providers who responded, because hospital administrators could not verify volunteers’ identities, basic licensing/credentialing information, training, skills, competencies, or employment. In addition, no single effective and efficient system existed at that time to pre-register health care volunteers for such disasters.

In response, Congress authorized an Emergency System for the Advanced Registration of Volunteer Health Professionals (ESAR-VHP) and designated the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the Department of Health and Human Services to implement the ESAR-VHP.

Locally, the Massachusetts System for Advance Registration program (MSAR) was implemented to identify, register, and pre-credential health care volunteers. This program requires pre-registration of those volunteers, and the verification of their credentials, prior to accepting their assistance in a disaster or other public health emergency.

Once entered into the MSAR system, volunteers in this program will be contacted directly when a need arises; at that time, they can choose to respond, or decline the opportunity to assist.

This program will only be activated during a declared public health emergency, or when there is a specific need for health care professionals that cannot be met by a local response. To register or to find out more about the MSAR, contact your Hospital Preparedness Coordinator.

June 1, 2006
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