I just read a great article that definitely frowns upon the notion of using volunteers in emergency situations. The article details a recent search and rescue operation in Texas to locate a missing 3-year-old boy, and it goes into a ton of detail on the mobilization of the effort – including how multiple agencies from all disciplines and jurisdictions operated together under the National Incident Management System (NIMS). One element of the effort that was especially interesting was the perspective on using volunteers in emergency situations.
Downsides of Using Volunteers in Emergency Situations
The article essentially dismisses the idea of emergency situation volunteerism. Obviously, there is little-to-no place in the utility industry for such volunteerism, but I would think a missing child search would be a different animal. Not so, according to the article.
The reason is that the volunteers were not properly trained to assist in a mission of such a time-critical nature. You see, no one knew the status of the child, and so there was a great sense of urgency to locate him as quickly as possible. This, coupled with challenging weather and terrain conditions, placed a premium on trained personnel and avoiding “wasting valuable time trying to organize hundreds of volunteers.” By the way, the child was located safe and sound!
If you are reading this and you’re a serial volunteer, I can feel your pain. But if you really want to help, a better option is to join your county Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). This is a great way to help, and even utilities utilize CERT to source volunteers in emergency situations.