The United States has a long history of volunteerism. From the colonists banding together to survive the New World to Ladies’ Aid Societies during the Civil War to the founding of the first volunteer Bureau in 1919 to today’s use of the Internet to engage volunteers. The “how” may have changed but the desire to help one another will always be a part of our nations legacy.
Connections’ has developed a Volunteer Plan, as part of the Delaware County Emergency Operations Plan, to manage local volunteers interested in helping during an emergency and to manage spontaneous volunteers who may converge on the disaster area.
As a part of this plan, Connections’, is engaging volunteers to help during local emergency or disaster. One way Connections is doing this is through training volunteers to open and run a Volunteer Reception Center (VRC). A VRC may be opened following a disaster to process volunteers, especially if the disaster is large enough to make national news and spontaneous volunteers begin to arrive. A VRC is an organized process and a designated location that is large enough for volunteers to gather and be registered, organized, educated, and deployed for a community emergency response.
Connections recently secured and trained the counties third VRC site at Sunbury United Methodist Church. Twenty-five church and community members participated in the three-hour VRC Leadership Training on March 9. The training included learning about the operation of a VRC and a run through exercise based on a spring severe weather event. Everyone had an opportunity to participate on both sides of the table, as VRC volunteers and as a member of the general public wanting to help.
Andrews House, where Connections’ offices are, is the primary site for a VRC in Delaware County. If the building is unusable or if the number of volunteers exceeds building capacity one of the secondary sites will be chosen. Sunbury UMC is one of the secondary sites and Camp Lazarus is the other.
As a part of the Volunteer Plan, Connections is working with area agencies to learn what their volunteer needs may be during an emergency. During the disaster and in the days and months of recovery following the event, these local agencies will have a variety of extra and increased volunteer needs. An example of this increased need might include the Delaware County General Health District. If there were a pandemic or bioterrorist attack, volunteers could help during mass dispensing of medication by helping with registration, crowd control, parking, data entry, and passing out information to the public. Another example would be assisting the Salvation Army fulfill their mission of mass feeding through serving, crowd control, food prep, washing up, or hospitality.
Volunteers are encouraged to be prepared for disaster or emergency by planning ahead with your family and neighbors. Preparing makes sense and will help you respond in a calmer and more assured way to a disaster. Visit www.ready.gov to learn more.
We all have a role to play in keeping our hometowns safe and secure. To get involved with the Connections Disaster Volunteer Team, you can visit their website at ConnectionsVolunteerCenter.org and fill out the volunteer application or contact Connections directly at 740-363-5000.