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Public Health - Seattle & King County

Questions about volunteering


What will I be doing as a volunteer?

Volunteer roles will vary, depending on the emergency or disaster and what staffing needs exist. Volunteers may also be assigned duties that are different from traditional every day work duties. For example, a physician may assist with checking blood glucose at a community fair, giving injections at a vaccination clinic, or providing patient education on carbon monoxide poisoning. Support volunteers may be asked to set-up hospital beds, enter patient data, or serve as a patient greeter. PHRC volunteers will not be assigned to roles that they do not feel comfortable with or that jeopardize their health and safety.

Examples of volunteer roles may include but not limited to:

Medical roles:

  • Dispensing antibiotics
  • Injecting vaccines
  • Reviewing health histories
  • Conducting medical screening
  • Performing patient exams
  • Patient care
  • Triage
  • Outreach and education
  • Basic life support

PHRC volunteers serving in medical roles

Non-medical roles:

  • Interpretation
  • Transporting patients
  • Staffing a call center to provide information about a disease
  • Setting up hospital equipment
  • Greeting and directing people through a medication center
  • Managing the flow of people through a medication center
  • Volunteer recruitment
  • HAM radio operation
PHRC volunteers serving in non-medical roles


Who can become a support, non-medical volunteer?

Anyone who:

  • is 18 years old or older
  • successfully passes a criminal background check
  • is not employed by King County
  • works well in stressful situations
  • has good customer service skills
  • works well in a team


What type of emergencies would I be responding to?

The Public Health Reserve Corps augments response activities by Public Health Seattle & King County in an emergency. Currently, volunteers in the program will be focused on specific Public Health response functions like mass vaccination clinics or setting up and operating alternate care facilities to support and relieve the hospital/health care system in time of disaster or emergency. For example:

  • During the whooping cough epidemic of 2012, PHRC volunteers staffed an emergency vaccination clinic and assisted the epidemiology department as disease investigators.

  • Every fall, PHRC volunteers provide free flu shots to the homeless in downtown Seattle and south King County.

  • During the 2012 snow storm, volunteers staffed Red Cross evacuation shelters, set-up a public information call center to field questions related to carbon monoxide poisoning, and took to the streets in the international district to hand out information and educate individuals on alternative methods to stay warm during power outages.

  • In our newest affiliation we are partnering with veterinary groups to address the needs of animals residing in King County to help stave off massive animal loss suffered in recent times such as Hurricane Katrina.


What happens if I’m needed by my employer during an emergency?

First and foremost, Public Health understands that your first commitment is to your employer. In a large emergency in which the health care system is impacted, your responsibilities are with your employer.

However, many type of events in which the Public Health Reserve Corps would assist will be of a smaller scale and may not have a significant impact on the larger health care system. In addition, the Public Health Reserve Corps is involved in community outreach in the absence of an emergency.


Can medical, nursing, or public health students volunteer?

Students are encouraged to apply as a support volunteer. If students have an active professional license, they can apply as a medical volunteer.


Can medical residents and interns be a medical volunteer?

Yes. Medical residents and interns will work under the supervision of Public Health – Seattle & King County's Medical Director or Chief of Pharmacy.


Can retired medical professionals volunteer?

Yes. Retired medical professionals are valuable assets and are encouraged to apply. If they do not have an active professional license, they can apply as a support volunteer. If they have an active professional license, they can apply as a medical volunteer.


How do I become a Public Health Reserve Corps volunteer?

  1. Complete a Waserv volunteer profile.
  2. After receiving the application, the Public Health Reserve Corps will:
    • Review the application materials
    • Conduct a professional license check (for medical volunteer applicants)
    • Conduct a criminal background check
  1. Attend a PHRC volunteer orientation and complete required online FEMA courses.

The goal of this process is to ensure that:

  • Volunteers have clear expectations of the volunteer positions, and thus a rewarding experience.
  • Volunteers and the public are protected through a quality assurance screening procedure.


How much time is required to volunteer?

The minimum time required to become a volunteer is approximately 8 hours including orientation and online trainings. After becoming an active volunteer, the Public Health Reserve Corps is very much an opt-in experience; meaning that volunteers are able to choose their involvement level. Certain volunteers attend community outreach events, trainings, and drills consistently, whereas others provide support primarily during large scale incidents. Time spent volunteering during an emergency will vary depending on the scenario and volunteer availability.


What type of training do volunteers receive?

The Public Health Reserve Corps strives to offer monthly trainings relevant to emergency response and personal preparedness. Previous trainings offered include: Psychological first aid, HAM radio operation, basic disaster life support, and family preparedness. During an emergency, volunteers will receive just-in-time training relevant to their role in the incident. Several drills, including a mass vaccination drill, are held a year that also allow volunteers to train on public health equipment and practice working together.

Professional continuing education credits are offered whenever possible.


What type of training and certification are required of PHRC volunteers?

Prior to acceptance into the PHRC, volunteers are required to complete the following training:

Once trainings and certifications are complete volunteers must provide copies of completion certificates to Public Health to include in volunteer personnel files.


What type of liability protection is provided to volunteers?

Volunteers receive liability protection and compensation for injury or death through the State of Washington's Emergency Worker Program during State approved training events and emergency missions.

  • For liability protection description, see RCW 38.52.180(2)
  • For compensation for injury or death description, see RCW 38.52.260, .290, .340, and .190.
  • Washington state rules governing the Emergency Worker Program are contained in Chapter 118-04 WAC


Are Public Health Reserve Corps volunteers paid?

Volunteer time is uncompensated from King County.


What other Medical Reserve Corps Units are in Washington state?

The Public Health Reserve Corps is just one of many Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) programs in the county and Washington State. Learn more about Medical Reserve Corps units throughout the U.S.