Have A Plan

Ready to Respond

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, being prepared and having plans for emergencies and disasters is the most important thing you can do to assist in a disaster. However, for those who want to do more there are many opportunities, but there are a few things to understand and remember before getting into specifics.

The Key Word any volunteer needs to remember during any emergency is REQUESTED.

On-Site Volunteers

For many people, in the aftermath of September 11th, there was great frustration tied to a desire to do something. Many wanted to go to ground zero. To help in some way.

NEVER go to a disaster site unless requested by proper authorities.

Unfortunately, untrained volunteers or even trained volunteers who are unknown showing up at a disaster site offering their help is a nightmare for responding agencies.

Unless specifically requested, untrained people should never go to a disaster site. Any trained volunteers should have presented themselves, their and their organization's credentials long before any disaster and should only respond to a disaster site if requested by emergency authorities. Unrequested trained volunteers will be considered untrained and a liability to a emergency response.

In fact, an unknown, self-proclaimed trained volunteer presenting themselves at a disaster site is more of a concern for responding authorities than the untrained volunteer. This is due to the fact that almost every recognized and professional emergency volunteer organization will not deploy anyone without a request from the authorities commanding the incident.

There are many things emergency responders must worry about at a disaster. They need to limit the potential for emergencies within an emergency. A disaster area is a dangerous place, untrained volunteers are more likely to get hurt, diverting precious resources away from others.

Another critical concern at a disaster that is the result of a criminal act is scene preservation, clue recognition and preservation. Unless you are trained in these area, you shouldn't be there.

Saying that, there are some circumstances when an untrained volunteer, or an unknown trained volunteer might be used. An untrained volunteer if they are at the site before an event, before first responders arrive might be used. And an unknown trained volunteer might be used if they have credentials on them that are easily verified with another local authority.

There is only one other situation when untrained volunteers would be used at an emergency or disaster site. That would occur only when untrained manpower can be effectively used and is needed to free up trained personnel for more specialized tasks. This will only happen when authorities are certain they will not compromise the span of control and they request it.

Clearly the time to become affiliated with a responsible volunteer agency is before an incident. There are many organizations that you can join or contact now that will train you to assist in an emergency if needed and requested:

  1. Wayland's CERTs (Citizen Emergency Response Teams)
  2. Wayland's Specialized Resource List
  3. FEMA
  4. Red Cross
  5. National Association for Search and Rescue (NASAR)
  6. American Humane Association Disaster Relief

For More information about the following groups contact the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD)

  1. American Radio Relay League, Inc. (ARRL)
  2. Volunteers In Technical Assistance (VITA)
  3. Volunteers of America,
  4. Many Religious and Charitable Organizations

Off-Site Volunteers

When requested, there are many things a person can volunteer to do off-site during a disaster:

  1. Give Blood
  2. Collect specifically requested food and clothing, etc.
  3. Raise money
  4. Lend equipment
  5. Offer shelter to people or pets

If you are in the vicinity of the event and depending on its scope, stay off the phone entirely during and in the immediate aftermath. NEVER call your local authorities or agencies unless you are experiencing an actual life threatening emergency. Listen to the radio or watch TV to see if they give volunteer information.

Hopefully, you will already know the procedures and plans for the volunteer organization you are involved with.

Pre-Emergency Volunteers

Before an emergency happens there are some things you can do to help.

  1. Volunteer to play a role in your community's emergency exercises.
  2. Volunteer to get the props they might need.
  3. Volunteer to raise funds for items that are not considered critical due to budget constraints but could save your 1st Responder's life in certain emergencies:

Consider computers for Fire Engines. There are many programs (Cameo, Aloha, etc.) that can give vital, life saving, information to fire fighters on scene if they had lap top computers in their trucks and engines.

Douglas Leard 2014