Sunday, August 31, 2008

Outside Looking In, Lessons Learned Before A Disaster

During the summer, we had the opportunity to take a step back from local emergency preparedness and response, to observe other organizations in other countries. This provided an opportunity to take a step back and view things as an observer to local activities.

There have been several press releases concerning response for Hurricane Gustav. The Neighbors Helping Neighbors blog would like to show our support to all the responders.

From the outside looking in, it may be unclear to the everyday citizen if those volunteer efforts are coordinated or if they are being handled by individual agencies that have a service to provide, such as the Red Cross for Sheltering, Mass Care, and Emergency Response.

In a recent press release Virginia “Governor Kaine asks any volunteers or first responders to refrain from self-deploying to the area. Those who wish to help should contact a volunteer organization with a response mission, such as those listed on the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD) Web site,”

It was surprising to see that first responders should reach out to Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD). There was no mention of Citizen Corps, as Virginia Citizen Corps falls under the Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM).

VOAD is listed as, “Non-Government Assistance” and “Faith-Based Organizations”.

According to the VDEM website, “Virginia Citizen Corps, part of the national Citizen Corps program, gets Virginia citizens directly involved in homeland security and emergency preparedness. The program allows you to help your community by volunteering some of your time, energy and skills to emergency preparedness and response activities.”

How can those trained in these programs for “your community” help other areas that need assistance?

* Would an EMS or Fire first responder contact VOAD or would they work through their local or state emergency management agency? Generally when we think of first responders, we think of the trained professionals.

* What about all the volunteers who have been trained through Citizen Corps programs? Would they go directly to VOAD? Should their response be coordinated through local or state level Citizen Corps? If you go to the NVOAD website and search for Citizen Corps, nothing is found.

As mentioned by several Neighbors Helping Neighbors blog readers, there still needs to be better coordination between volunteer organizations, not just at the local level, but at the State and National Level as well.

While it is understood that response is generally coordinated at the local or state level, volunteers need to understand how they can respond to situations in other parts of the nation.

As we discussed in the ICS Training for Barangay captains, “Hats of Incident Management”, Who’s In Charge? The same applies to volunteer organizations.

Who’s In Charge (Of The Volunteers)?
* If the Virginia press release directed people to their local Citizen Corps organizations, would that be effective? Or would we now have individual city and county level organizations coordinating individual response?

These comments are not meant to discourage those who are interested in volunteering. They are just a few questions that our readers have been asking. While our feedback was included in the National Response Framework, additional guidance and resources needs to be provided to trained volunteers.

As mentioned by a reader, “do not take my word for it”, take a look at some of the frustration, some of which has been pretty obvious in recent weeks on this blog.

If you are interested in volunteering in the Gustav response or any emergency, please “contact a volunteer organization with a response mission”, start with a member VOAD organization or as NVOAD suggests, work through, “to connect to a volunteer center in your community.”

If nothing else, the press release should create increased awareness about an often unspoken disaster response organization. VOAD has been quite effective in times of need.

There are other organizations such as your local Red Cross, who can always use volunteers to go through their training to become members of their Disaster Action Teams (DAT).

Think about all the time you are spending trying to help out your neighbors in other cities.

* Would additional guidance in the National Response Framework be the answer? Should there be greater awareness of a single point for all volunteers to go to, such as

* Are there any immediate answers to these questions? As we are days away from a major hurricane to hit our shores, there is one thing clear,

now is not the time to be asking these questions.

And as we have said before, never forget to


Anonymous said...

It is amazing that groups of citizens are trained to deploy in the case of an emergency. Then when there is an emergency, these same citizens are told to follow different protocal and not to deploy. It is no wonder that there is confusion!!

For instance, Fairfax County CERT members are trained to self-deploy in the case of an emergency. Then after hundreds of citizens are trained, new rules come into effect saying that only those who have CERT 3 training can deploy (maybe... noone really knows). The bottom line is citizens are spending hours of their personal time to train. These citizens believe that after completing the training courses they have the necessary skills and qualifications to help others in a disaster and then the government agency tells them that actually they do not have the skills after all.

It does not seem that one hand knows what the other is doing which again causes more confusion for residents and government agencies alike.

I have been saying this for years.

Anonymous said...

There is written guidance on WHO can deploy. It is only the select pilot CERT (3) volunteer instructors and actors. It is a pilot to try out the new three-level system.

The others 500 plus do have a role and will self deploy.

The facts are there. Derek can clarify any questions.

Why pick on CERT, the MRC has more people, thousands!!!!!!! We train in the field not in the classroom only. That is the three-level system.

Anonymous said...

Exactly my point, the county has trained 500 people to 'self deploy' with no direction hoping that they won't get in the way of the organized government agencies that have been deployed in the emergency.

In addition,those that are self deploying are not insured by the government agency that trained them. So, they go into a dangerous situation with no back up personnel and no insurance.

Doesn't sound like such a smart idea!

Anonymous said...

The OFFICIAL Fairfax County CERT blog proves one thing, what is the CERT role?????????

CERT has been asked by Jeffrey, the fire dept. volunteer coordinator for two to three CERT members to work in an operational role at this event. These CERT members will be helping EMS; these CERTs will be working crowd control for EMS teams deployed to calls on site. Any CERT that has completed Fairfax County CERT training is elgible to work this duty.

Crowd control for CERT????????
Leave the police jobs to the police!!!!! Why not enough security so fire volunteers off the street do this JOB????????

CERT volunteers need to play security???????? It was Andy who OEM told to remove a CERT volunteer!!!!!!!! Fess up Andy, it is no secret!!!!!!!! This is not open to any CERT trained.

The Lorton exercise is asbestos site the county sold for pennies!!!!!!!! You worry about liabillity insurance???????? Not long term health insurance for cancer??????? Sign up today!!!!!!!

A bunch of !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Neighbors Helping Neighbors said...

This is a reminder that individual issues should be directed to the appropriate organization.

The information provided on this website is designed for educational and awareness purposes only.