Public health emergencies

In an emergency, call 911

The Hennepin County Public Health Emergency Preparedness department works continually to build the county’s capacity to respond to large-scale public health emergencies.

We work cooperatively with federal, state and local agencies, and with local hospitals and clinics to plan and coordinate emergency responses.

We communicate with county residents to ensure that everyone has effective and accurate information about potential health and safety risks.

We work to investigate and limit outbreaks of infectious disease, and to control its spread.

Read more about how to stay safe, and how you might help.

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Cool options to escape the heat

This map provides Hennepin County residents with some options for places that can provide relief from the heat. In a normal year, about 175 Americans die of complications from overheating. Young children, senior citizens and people who are sick or overweight are most vulnerable. Extreme heat conditions differ by region, but generally are feared when unusually hot and humid weather conditions last for several days. Protect yourself from the heat. Start by being informed about heat alerts, issued by the National Weather Service and publicized by local news media. When the weather gets hot, it’s important to stay cool by staying indoors in air-conditioned buildings. For more information about the warning signs of heat exposure, visit the CDC website.

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Medical Reserve Corps

The Medical Reserve Corps of Hennepin County (MRC-HC) is a countywide resource of health professionals and other volunteers who strengthen our community by preparing for and responding to local public health and medical emergencies and assisting with key ongoing public health initiatives.

Minnesota Reserve Corps online application

Reasons to join

During times of crisis, it’s natural to want to help, but it can be difficult to know what to do or find out where you’re needed. During the New York 9-11 tragedy, many health professionals tried to be of assistance but were turned away because there was no mechanism to integrate them into a system already in crisis.

When you sign up for the Medical Reserve Corps of Hennepin County, you become a known and identified professional resource. You will know when you’re needed and be told exactly what you’re needed to do, learn about local emergency procedures and build on your established expertise, avoid the usual heat-of-the-moment headaches about liability, licensing, security and safety because you’ll have resolved these issues ahead of time and you will not be turned away as another well-meaning, but unknown volunteer.

Depending on the emergency, Medical Reserve Corps volunteers may work in mass dispensing or vaccination clinics, support epidemiologists in case or contact investigations, serve as supplemental staff at a local hospital or temporary off-site care facility, provide expert information to local residents via a phone bank or hotline or assist in activating other volunteers.

We also have need for many volunteers without medical training to be part of the Medical Reserve Corps for translating, greeting, helping with a wide array of non-medical programs and duties.  Hennepin County’s Medical Reserve Corps has a component known as the Cultural Services Unit to assist constituents where English skills are limited and helping overcome cultural barriers to assist our residents.

As such, the Medical Reserve Corps needs:

  • Physicians and physician assistants
  • Nurses and nurse practitioners
  • Pharmacists
  • Dentists
  • Nursing and medical assistants
  • Lab personnel
  • Health educators
  • Respiratory care specialists
  • Social workers
  • Mental health professionals
  • Language and cultural interpreters
  • Chaplains
  • Medical data personnel
  • Veterinarians
  • Retired health professionals 
  • Medical and health care students
  • People from other backgrounds to fill critical staff positions

About us

One of the lessons learned from the September 11, 2001, emergencies was that, in the midst of a crisis, it is difficult to organize and utilize all the well-intentioned volunteers. Better to do the volunteer identification, certification and training before an emergency happens.

Our aim is to have identified, trained and credentialed Medical Reserve Corps volunteers ready to assist medical response professionals during large-scale emergencies that threaten local public health.

Time commitment

The level of involvement can be different for each volunteer, depending upon interest and availability. Volunteers are asked to enroll for a two-year period, with the option to extend their involvement for additional years. During the enrollment year, we expect volunteers to invest about 10 hours, to apply, attend an initial training, and participate in a drill or exercise. After completing the enrollment requirements, volunteers are expected to gain an additional six to eight hours of training by participating in free courses or exercises. Most training events also offer free continuing education credits.

Training on other relevant topics will be offered for interested volunteers beyond the basic commitment. Volunteers can elect to be more involved in such areas as training; program development; presenting information about the program in the community; becoming a team leader; volunteering for other public health opportunities in non-emergency times or supporting the Medical Reserves Corps office.

Your safety is a priority

Volunteers will not be deployed to the scene of a mass casualty or to a “hot zone” of a radiological or chemical incident. Rather, they will work in public health and hospital settings alongside personnel from those organizations.

During an emergency, all of the workforce will be required to have picture identification and suitable ID to enter the facility. Appropriate security personnel will be in the area.

Infection control procedures will be implemented in accordance with the situation. Use of personal protective equipment will be covered during training. If specific vaccinations are required to perform a specialized function, only persons who are vaccinated will be placed in those roles. Volunteers with health conditions that would limit their ability to work in some settings will be offered roles in suitable environments. All volunteers and staff will receive initial and ongoing status updates during the emergency and will be advised of precautions necessary to maintain health and safety.

Additionally, the Medical Reserve Corps of Hennepin County wants to support volunteers to ensure their families and loved ones are safe during an event. Information about developing a personal and family safety emergency preparedness plan is a part of the initial training. The American Red Cross has created several guides for personal and family preparedness.

Red Cross: Make a disaster preparedness plan

Personal liability

Minnesota State laws provide that individuals will not be held liable for acts or omissions committed while serving as emergency or disaster volunteers if:

  • They were acting within the scope of their volunteer responsibilities
  • They were properly licensed, certified, or authorized by the appropriate authorities for the activity or practice by the State of Minnesota, and the activities or practice was undertaken within the scope of their volunteer responsibility with Medical Reserve Corps
  • The harm caused is not the result of willful or criminal misconduct, gross negligence, reckless misconduct or a conscious flagrant indifference to the rights or safety of the person harmed

It is important for volunteers to keep the Medical Reserve Corps - Hennepin County office informed of any changes in licensure status.

If your license is expired, or if you have not worked with patients recently, know that your training and experience will still be a valuable asset to an emergency response. All MRC volunteers will learn about the range of positions available during orientation and will complete a job preference questionnaire to identify positions that best fit your skills and experience. Licensed professionals who have not had recent direct patient care will have opportunities for refreshers on such things as vaccinations and other tasks relevant to potential roles.

Read more:

Minnesota Statute 12.22

The Minnesota Department of Health volunteer registry

The Medical Reserve Corps of Hennepin County enrolls only residents or people who work in of Hennepin County. Applying is easy through the Minnesota Responds Medical Reserve Corps registry. The Minnesota Responds registry is a database of contact- and practice-related data from health care professionals or concerned residents who are interested in volunteering to assist our public health program. People who submit their contact information indicate a willingness to volunteer their time and professional skills in an emergency or for other community public health educational opportunities.

When you fill out the Minnesota Responds! online registration form and selecting the Hennepin County Medical Reserve Corps, your information will be automatically forwarded to us. Information that is collected through the registry will be kept private, as security information under state law. Only the Minnesota Department of Health and their federal, regional or local partners in planning, investigating, or controlling a public health emergency will have access to this information.

Read more:

Minnesota Responds

Orientation and training

Please contact Anna Carpenter, 612-596-9190, anna.carpenter@hennepin.us, for the current orientation and training schedule.

Read more:

University of Minnesota Center for Public Health Preparedness Online Modules

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