Fairfax County health officials are launching a major volunteer recruitment initiative this fall to identify more than 13,000 people who could assist the government in responding to a public health emergency.
The volunteers are needed for the Fairfax Medical Reserve Corps, which consists of medical personnel such as retired or practicing doctors, nurses, pharmacists and mental health specialists, as well as non-medical personnel who would assist during emergencies.
In case of a bioterrorism attack or naturally occurring epidemic, for example, county health officials said the Medical Reserve Corps would help set up vaccination clinics to inoculate the more than 1 million Fairfax residents within three to five days.
If that worst-case scenario happened, the county would need 96 teams of 142 people per team to staff the dispensing sites at county high schools and George Mason University, officials said.
"Our goal is to have a trained volunteer force ready to help us respond to a public health emergency affecting Fairfax County and the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church," Gloria Addo-Ayensu, the county's health director, said in a written statement.
Addo-Ayensu said the Health Department was looking for "experienced and committed volunteers to fill leadership positions" at the dispensing sites.
Donna Foster, the medical corps coordinator, said, "While the name of our program is the Medical Reserve Corps, we clearly need non-medical volunteers to provide critical [administrative] support."
The medical corps program is part of a broader Citizen Corps initiative spurred by a White House effort to create more opportunities for volunteers to aid in homeland security. President Bush proposed the program in 2002.
Efforts to organize the local corps began last year but were slowed by a lack of federal funds, county officials said.
Since then, more federal money has become available, and county health officials have been recruiting specific medical professionals for the Medical Reserve Corps. The latest effort is a broader search for volunteers, officials said.
To volunteer or hear a presentation about the plan, call Foster at 703-246-2485 or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about the Citizen Corps, visit www.fairfaxcountycitizencorps.org.