Volunteer responders—healthcare professionals in particular—tend to have a strong sense of altruism that drives their actions and decisions about helping others. Although many responding volunteers are often affiliated with established programs like the American Red Cross or area Fire Departments, unaffiliated spontaneous volunteers are often turned away in droves because they can’t be properly integrated into an official organized response. Worse yet, self-deploying volunteers (no matter how skilled and appropriate for the response) can end up getting in the way of first responders, take up precious resources (food, water, shelter, etc.) or even become victims themselves.
Healthcare professionals can help avoid adding to the chaos by remembering these four tips if they are interested in volunteering before, during, or after a natural disaster or other public health emergency.
1. Do Not Self Deploy
No matter how desperate the media makes the situation seem, it is never advisable to head to a disaster without being properly vetted and placed according to skill and need by the local, state or federal authorities leading the response.
2. Register with ESAR-VHP
The Emergency System for Advance Registration of Volunteer Health Professionals (ESAR-VHP) is a Federal program that preregisters healthcare professionals (state by state) so that qualified responders can be called upon by the appropriate volunteer management responding agencies when needed. Information on connecting with your state’s ESAR-VHP program can be found here.
3. Join a Local MRC Unit
The Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) is designed to work with communities to build teams of volunteers that can support a public health emergency response. There are close to 1,000 MRC units across the US (and you do not need to be a healthcare professional to join a unit)! Interested volunteers can learn more by visiting the national MRC website where you can find information on joining a local unit.
4. Sign Up Before Your Show Up!
There are numerous volunteer management programs (beyond ESAR-VHP and MRC) that are designed to support disaster and emergency operations. Becoming affiliated with a local or national program prior to an event is the best way to be prepared. Whether it is a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), Red Cross Chapter or Community Organization Active in Disaster (COAD) type organization, there are endless options to be proactive and ready for whatever affects your community in times of need.
Are you a volunteer manager looking to add ESAR-VHP functionality? Schedule a demo of Knowledge Center Volunteer ManagementTM now.