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Author Topic: What's your plan for emergent volunteers?  (Read 3015 times)

Posts: 161

« on: March 16, 2004, 02:22:36 AM »

The hurricane's subsided, the ARES team is activated, the EOC is up and running, and suddenly hams start showing up offering to help who you've never seen before.

What do you do with them? They haven't been background checked, so they can't work in the EOC. You don't want to reject a warm body, but you certainly don't want a liability either.

Has anyone come up with good answers?

Posts: 1045


« Reply #1 on: March 16, 2004, 12:09:48 PM »

Some of the best guidance on this subject is in the FEMA Independent Study Course IS-244, Developing Volunteer Resources, which you can download from the URL:

Local governments these days seldom use volunteers unless they have been been trained, security checked and drilled on their task assignments, policies, procedures, etc. all pre-event.

Volunteer agencies may be less "fussy," but using walk-in or convergent volunteers can pose serious liability issues for the using agency unless very careful attention is given to task instructions, a situation brief and safety conditions which includes expected weather conditions, and expectations for behavior and performance, accompanied by adequate supervision and personnel accountability to ensure safety.

I would encourage you to visit the URL:

I hope this gives you some of the answers you seek. 73


Posts: 536


« Reply #2 on: March 17, 2004, 02:49:38 PM »

Actually, you should definitely have a plan for them.  A simple technique is to team them individually with an experienced, trained member of your team.  That way you can cover twice as many locations and still maintain the buddy system.  I'm assuming that you're not going to be placing anyone into any hazardous environment anyway.

Instruct the walk-in to follow the instructions of the experienced person and that the experienced person will be writing an evaluation of the walk-ins performance for future efforts.

The Red Cross always has an experienced person in the role of "Coordinator of Local Volunteers" for any major disaster.  Walk-ins are thanked for volunteering, given non-critical clerical duties, but most importantly, invited to the formal training classes after the disaster ends.

Obviously folks who show up to a disaster are a prime source of your future trained volunteers and  shouldn't be discarded as an expedient solution for this particular disater!  Think long term.


Gary Wilson, K2GW

Posts: 56


« Reply #3 on: March 19, 2004, 08:09:17 AM »

<<<What do you do with them? They haven't been background checked, so they can't work in the EOC.>>>

Backgound check?  For AMATEUR radio?  Give me a break.

Why don't you do a background check on folks who operate 75 meters?

Blake N4GI


Posts: 1003

« Reply #4 on: March 20, 2004, 03:32:37 PM »

Blake, you obviously have not worked in an
EOC lately.  Things are a lot tighter now especially
at the State and Federal level.  Since the war on terror started, no one ham or not just strolls into
a State or Federal EOC.  Some counties aren't as
tightly controlled.

73 de Ronnie

Posts: 185

« Reply #5 on: March 20, 2004, 06:27:06 PM »


Yes! Background checks! Emergency Operation Centers are governmental entities and after 9/11/01 security requirements have doubled or even tripled. The EOCs will only use trusted personnel and background checks are a fact of life. It's a Homeland Security issue, and it will not be going away any time soon. Even volunteer firefighters and volunteer EMTs have background checks where I live.

Can't give you a break on this one!

73, Pete KA3RFE

Posts: 6252

« Reply #6 on: March 21, 2004, 01:20:42 PM »


Background checks are a necessity for volunteers that work in an EOC or other sensitive areas.  Consider, that volunteer will be passing along information for the local government, some of which could be extremely sensitive.  The same volunteers could also see other information that could do considerable harm in the wrong hands just laying on a desk in the EOC.

If an uncleared person who was allowed into the EOC area was actually someone out to do harm, think of the consequences that would come out of that access.  You may say "What are the chances of that actually happening?"  For an answer, just look at what happened in NYC, DC or PA on 9-11.  We never thought that could happen, either.

As another post stated, this is now part of homeland security and will be around for a long time--get used to it.

Chris J. Smith, K1CJS
ARES EC and EMA volunteer, Fall River, MA

Posts: 410


« Reply #7 on: March 21, 2004, 04:13:29 PM »

Try under "Handling Walk-Ons"


Posts: 263


« Reply #8 on: May 20, 2004, 01:09:04 AM »

>>Background checks are a necessity for volunteers that work in an EOC or other sensitive areas. Consider, that volunteer will be passing along information for the local government, some of which could be extremely sensitive. The same volunteers could also see other information that could do considerable harm in the wrong hands just laying on a desk in the EOC. <<

Not to nitpick, but amateur radio is unencrypted.  During emergency ops (9-11, blackout '03 etc) we were advised NOT to pass along sensitive info over the air.  The media has scanners and they do use them.  We were told to use the phone instead.

I do agree with background checking volunteers though.  To me it's more of a reliability issue than one of who's a bad guy (terrorist/criminal) or not.

Posts: 99

« Reply #9 on: June 11, 2004, 08:57:58 PM »

My plan for emergent volunteers? Send them back home. The same as it would be if someone showed up at a house fire while I'm at work as a firefighter.  I don't know who this person is, what training he has, what he is capable of and he is most certainly not covered under our insurance. Just because the side of the truck says 'Volunteer Fire Department' doesn't mean that someone can just run up to a scene with a firefighters helmet they bought out of a catalog and start pulling hose. For all we know this is the person who set the fire in the first place and is now living out his 'hero' fantacy.
After the fire they can come in and apply.  We will conduct interviews, personally profiles, criminal background checks and then, if they pass all that, we send them to training BEFORE they can perform certain duties as a firefighter.
If I'm on scene at a Motor Vehicle Wreck and a stranger runs up and asks if they can help because they are a nurse, I thank them and ask them to return to their vehicle for their own saftey.  My fellow EMTs and Paramedics are trained on our equiptment to provide prehospital trama care.  Even if this bystander is indeed a nurse, he or she is almost certainly not trained in the type of prehospital care we have to perform in the field. On the rare occasions I accept help on such scenes it is from people I recognise as having the skills to assist me without doing harm to the patient such as employees of private EMS and Fire training businesses such as Eagle Industries or Rescue Training Institute who are the ones who come to our fire department or to area chemical plants to teach EMT classes or fire brigade classes. It kind of takes some of the stress out of the call when the guy who TAUGHT you how to use the 'Jaw's of Life' is driving by and pulls over to offer his advise and maybe help you figure out how to better help your patient.
Working as an EC or other EMCOMM supervisor should be no different in this day and age.  You learn of a job which may need doing.  You contact other people you know who may be interested in these EMCOMM duties.  You put forth a proposal to the agnecy you wish to serve which tells them the tasks you are willing to accept and are capable of performing. You ensure that you and your people are trained and are issued the proper photo IDs or credentuals to allow them acess to the equiptment and areas where they will most  likely work when called. You drill and train along with your served agency and when the time comes you are needed you are not an unknown entity but a trusted member of a larger team. If a task is beyond your capabilities you tell the person in charge so that they can make arraingements to perform that operation in some other way. In between events and emergencies you recruit, train and drill to be ready when needed again. Personally, if a emergent volunteer shows up to a shelter or operations center I'm at during an event wanting to operate as a Ham Radio volunteer, I would have him fill out a form with his name, address, phone number and e-mail address so that I can set up a time for him to come in and apply, interview and find out what training will be available in the next few months.
It sounds harsh but the world we live in is one which requires your people either be in the loop and ready to perform or go home.

Posts: 1003

« Reply #10 on: June 11, 2004, 09:23:02 PM »

Don't put all RNs in the same pot,
around here when there is a really bad
trauma case, they send the civilian medivac
helos with no, not EMTs, but (gasps) RNs
called Flight Nurses.  So you might inquire
as to what kinda nurse they are.  If they're
a floor nurse or something, send them on their way.
However, if they're a Flight Nurse they might know a thing or two.

73 de Ronnie
Volunteer EMT and Fire LT
in my much younger days
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