Citizen involvement in disaster management
Gonzalez, Michael M.
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Responding and recovering from large scale disasters is extremely labor intensive. Unfortunately, a problem confronting all communities is inability to employ on a regular basis the large number of personnel needed to effectively manage large scale disasters. One possible solution to increase workforce capacity during times of critical need is for emergency managers to integrate a volunteer component into their existing disaster management plan. The federal government is assisting local communities with volunteer recruitment by nationally sponsoring Neighborhood Watch, Volunteers in Police Service, Medical Reserve Corps, Community Emergency Response Team and Fire Corps programs through county-wide Citizen Corps Councils. The acceptance of volunteers by paid responders can vary significantly from one community to another. The results of a 13 item questionnaire from 50 CERT volunteers from a metropolitan community, who had at least one previous experience working with paid responders during the recovery phase of a large scale disaster identified that 24 percent felt as if they were in the way, 20 percent felt as if they worked harder than the paid responders, 36 percent were given assignments that did not match their skill level or training, only 48 percent were tasked immediately and only 60 percent reported that paid responders were helpful. Encouraging is the fact that even though some experiences may have been less than optimal, 100 percent reported that they would feel comfortable working with the same responders during another event. In addition, two case studies are used to tell the story of CERT volunteers that assisted with the recovery phase after the 2004 hurricane season in Florida. Each case study concludes with a list of lessons learned that emergency managers can consider when planning for similar missions. Primary issues and courses of action are provided to assist community leaders with deciding whether or not volunteers should be integrated into their existing disaster management plans. If the decision is made to integrate volunteers, several recommendations are discussed to assist planners with developing implementation strategies to address the needs and concerns of both populationâ s volunteers and paid responders.
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