Sunday, June 2, 2013

Volunteer Management in Disaster- you are behind when you start

Last week I attended a a Volunteer Reception Center exercise by one of my contemporaries who is the EM coordinator for ESCA (a consortium of smaller cities who have come together to hire an Emergency Management group across two counties). A tip of the hat to Dan Good who wrote the plan and conducted the drill.
Our conversation got me thinking about this question:

As we have seen in the last few disasters the Volunteer Reception Centers are set up days after the impact. So what do you do to get all the spontaneous volunteers who are already running shelters, cleaning up and many other important task signed up?

Why bother you might say? Just a couple of good reasons:
  1.  The first is command and control! Not doing things twice; knowing the volunteer is who they say they are.
  2. The Second reason is that if this disaster becomes a presidential declared disaster you will have a chance for reimbursement from the Federal Government and State.  Typically you (or your county or state)have a percentage of that to share.  Usually 75% Feds + 25% at the state level, and the state often splits the 25% with the municipality. Guess what? Those volunteer hours can help pay down your city/counties portion.  But you have to track them.
Did that help get your attention? 

So now you have your Volunteer center up and are smoothly signing people in and dispatching them to leaders who will use them.  So now to scoop up the un-registered volunteer; you can do several things and these are just suggestions:
  1. send a team out in the field to register and brief people where they are (big groups).  take water and snacks to show support and give them a reason to stop working.
  2. Put the word out to the leaders of operations at the next meeting that all volunteers must pass through the registration station and you will get them back ASAP.
  3. Set up the sign up team at a common point- chow hall/shower area/sleeping area

Other reasons to get the unregistered logged in:
  •  Making sure everyone is working off the same page
  • Liability protection
  • Proper numbers for feeding- nothing like a tired hungry volunteer when you tell him not enough food
  • Proper numbers for sleeping places- Except a tired dirty volunteer with no place to sleep
  • Enough shower & bathrooms
  • Enough medical folks to care for booboo's