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Medical Reserve Corps Volunteers in New York and New Jersey During Superstorm Sandy


Superstorm Sandy resulted in 72 fatalities, and damage estimates totaled nearly $50 billion in the United States. Although many States in the northeastern United States were impacted by Superstorm Sandy, New York and New Jersey experienced the most damage. To assist with the response, the Department of Health and Human Services' network of volunteers, the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC), deployed volunteers in these two States. Previous OIG reports identified State and local challenges in incorporating volunteers into emergency preparedness and response plans. Therefore, we sought to determine how these volunteers were used during the response to Superstorm Sandy and any challenges or successes associated with their use during that response.


We collected information from five groups of MRC stakeholders in New York and New Jersey. These stakeholders were (1) MRC volunteers, (2) local health department staff, (3) local MRC coordinators, (4) State MRC coordinators, and (5) the regional MRC coordinator. Using the information we collected, we described MRC volunteers' response in New York and New Jersey for Superstorm Sandy. We also described the challenges and successes that these five groups of MRC stakeholders reported regarding the MRC volunteer response.


MRC units in New York and New Jersey deployed over 2,000 MRC volunteers during the Superstorm Sandy response and reported that these volunteers provided over 18,000 hours of service. A large part of the MRC volunteer response included assisting shelter operations, such as distributing food and clothing or providing medical care. MRC stakeholders reported several challenges and successes during Superstorm Sandy. These challenges and successes were most frequently associated with communication, shelter staffing, and shelter operations.


Although our review was limited to the MRC response in New York and New Jersey, the challenges that MRC stakeholders reported experiencing there are ones that other States may encounter when using MRC volunteers during future incident responses. Conversely, the successes that MRC stakeholders identified may highlight practices for States, including New York and New Jersey, to improve their future responses. We recommend that ASPR work with States and localities, as appropriate, to strengthen plans for volunteer communication, shelter staffing, and shelter operations. ASPR concurred with our recommendations.