There are times during disasters when first responders will be overwhelmed and unable to do all that needs to be done without help from volunteers, who will do much of the work either in an organized fashion or spontaneously.
Volunteers are an important cog in disaster response, and developing a volunteer program before disaster strikes can be invaluable.
A good volunteer program needs up-front planning and recruitment, and it needs to keep volunteers engaged in between emergencies. Colleges and universities are good sources, especially if they have training programs for doctors, nurses, pharmacists and veterinarians — all people with skills that are valuable in emergencies. Approach the private sector, since many companies match dollars for volunteer hours to encourage community service. Retirees are another good source — with the baby boomers leaving the workforce, there are a lot of skilled people who may be interested in volunteer opportunities.
Ideally every participant is an affiliated volunteer — signed up, given a background check and trained in certain areas, said Barbara Nelson, a community educator with Pierce County Emergency Management in Washington.
Shelter volunteers work with a variety of groups, including churches that open emergency housing when necessary.
Once the list of volunteers is developed, it’s also important to keep participants engaged. Nichols’ program includes a reserve corps of 700 active volunteers who are used frequently in the community. Nichols’ department uses volunteers to test its ability to handle mass vaccinations by giving flu shots to the uninsured.
California is developing a statewide Disaster Volunteer Network, an online tool to help local programs manage their volunteers.
Debbie Goetz, community planning coordinator with the Seattle Office of Emergency Management, said her office coordinates volunteer ham radio operators. Nichols’ office uses the WAserv (Washington State Emergency Registry of Volunteers) Web-based system to reach volunteers, though they must have Internet access to see it. In addition to the volunteers who were scheduled but can’t make it to help, there will be spontaneous volunteers who show up.
Continue to page 2 to read about the seven tips for creating a successful volunteer program.
These efforts include our popular community training courses such as Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). This web site has a series of informative articles that give practical advice for surviving and preparing for natural emergencies as well as a list of local emergency numbers and online resources.
The City of Moreno Valley places a high priority on being prepared for emergencies and disasters.


The City of Moreno Valley is looking to recruit volunteer interns to assist in conducting research and writing of the Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan (CEMP), updating Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Standardized Operating Procedures, functional annexes, Homeland Security and plan for Citywide Full Scale Disaster Exercise.
The purpose of the Riverside County Operational Area Mass Care and Shelter Guidance and Annex for Emergency Planners is to establish plans, procedures and guidelines for providing protective shelters, temporary lodging and feeding of persons affected by an emergency, disaster, or precautionary evacuation.
The City of Moreno Valley Emergency Operations Center (EOC) is a centralized location for decision making about our jurisdiction’s emergency response. City of Moreno Valley Emergency Operations Center (EOC) staff are organized around the five Standardized Emergency Management System (SEMS) functions.
Operations Section is responsible for coordinating all field operations in support of the emergency. Finance Section is responsible for financial activities such as tracking emergency hours, compensation and claims, and overall emergency costs. The Emergency Response Force (ERF) is an emergency management volunteer program supervised by the Office of Emergency Management and Volunteer Services. ACES is defined as Amateur Communications Emergency Services and RACES is defined as Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Services. For phones, the system will automatically call listed and unlisted telephone numbers within the area affected by the emergency and deliver a recorded message. The City of Moreno Valley assumes no responsibility if an emergency message cannot be delivered or is not received. The City of Moreno Valley uses both the Standardized Emergency Management System (SEMS) and the National Incident Management System (NIMS) when responding to emergencies. It allows emergency responders to focus on some of the more major tasks as volunteers handle easier work like traffic control and light search and rescue. A first step for local emergency management professionals who think they need a volunteer program is to decide what they want volunteers to do. Especially when they have been hit hard by budget cuts, agencies may want volunteers to answer phones and do other routine tasks. Nelson’s office also tries to associate volunteers with agencies or organizations that can use their help. If volunteers are recruited for just a one-time event, they may not respond the next time unless they’re continually engaged, Tai said.
About half are medically licensed, and the rest are support volunteers who can handle logistics. The organization also is creating a plan to use ham radio operators to contact volunteers if necessary.
Ideally the center should be away from the area impacted by the disaster, so volunteers can be organized and assigned to appropriate jobs before being bused to the site, according to Nelson.


To help residents prepare for emergencies, the City provides Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training at a minimal cost. The EOC is where our emergency response actions can be managed and resource allocations and responses can be tracked and coordinated with the field, operational area, and OES region. EOC staff are asked to refer to our Standarized Operating Procedures (SOP) manual for position descriptions and checklists.
The Management Section includes the following positions: EOC Director, EOC Manager, Liaison Officer, City Attorney, Public Information Officer (PIO), Safety Officer and Security Officer. Members consist of trained individuals who typically have a background in CPR and first aid and emergency response. Utilizing state of the art ham radio technology, they provide vital communications support during emergency incidents and routine events and activities. The meetings are located at: Moreno Valley Emergency Operations Center, 22870 Calle San Juan De Los Lagos.
The team provides emergency communications in the field and in the Emergency Operations Center (EOC).
A big part of Nichols’ job is managing volunteers, and he is also a volunteer with ShelterBox, a British nonprofit that responds to disasters around the world.
But they can also create complications and be a distraction during the middle of an emergency, which is not the time to figure out who people are.
His office is working with local hospitals to develop a system so that emergency workers could recognize hospital employees’ badges and know which badges mean the person has had the proper background checks. EOC staff facilitate decisions for overall local government level emergency response activities will use multi-agency or inter-agency coordination. In the afternoon, members conduct a show-and-tell by displaying our Emergency Communications trailer and demonstrating our ham radio equipment. If an answering machine picks up the call, the emergency message will be left on the machine. Then, after a background check, they receive a badge and vest that identify them as volunteers. However, since these volunteers are inevitable, it’s important to think through what they will be able to do and have a plan for that. For example, spontaneous volunteers are perfect for certain jobs, such as filling sandbags and clearing rubble, where a background check isn’t necessary.



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Comments

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    Author: PREZIDENT