Sign Up Before You Show Up!
With so much media attention to the response and recovery efforts for recent hurricanes affected areas, it is heartwarming to know that so many people are willing to drop everything and help the victims and survivors of these devastating storms.
Healthcare professionals—often more than the average person—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, self-deploying spontaneous unaffiliated 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 during or after a 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 agency leading the response.
#2 REGISTER WITH ESAR-VHP
The Emergency System for Advance Registration of Volunteer Health Professionals (ESAR-VHP) is a federal program designed to have healthcare professionals register with a single state registry so that qualified responders can be called upon by the appropriate authorities when needed. In Maine we use Maine Responds (www.maineresponds.org) to register volunteers prior to a response.
#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. MRC units are established in each of Maine’s 8 Public Health Districts. Interested volunteers can learn more about MRC by visiting the national MRC website at https://mrc.hhs.gov/HomePage where they can find info on joining their local unit.
#4 SIGN-UP BEFORE YOU SHOW UP!
There are numerous volunteer programs (beyond ESAR-VHP and MRC) that are designed to support disaster and emergency operations. Becoming affiliated with an organized program prior to an event is the best way to prepare.
You can learn about these and other Public Health Emergency Preparedness volunteer opportunities by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Jared McCannell, CVA
Volunteer Management Coordinator
Department of Health and Human Services
Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention – Preserve • Promote • Protect
Division of Public Health Operations
District Public Health and Emergency Preparedness
Public Health Emergency Preparedness
286 Water Street, 4th Floor
11 State House Station
Augusta, ME 04333-0011
Mobile: (207) 441-0786
Office: (207) 287-4072