What is a Volunteer Reception Center? (VRC)
When a disaster occurs in a community volunteers come running to help. Sometimes hundreds or even thousands of them will arrive with the best intentions and with skills that are urgently needed but all too often these volunteers aren't associated with any recognized disaster response agency. Even volunteers that are linked to disaster response agency need to have a place to report in order to be assigned to an area that can use their particular skills. What volunteers do and how they are utilized has tremendous impact on how quickly and effectively a community recovers so efficient and organized deployment of all responding volunteers is crucial
Originally designed to incorporate spontaneous volunteers into the response for a natural or manmade disaster, we also process pre-registered, task-identified Ohio Citizen Corps volunteers, pre-registered professional medical volunteers who are members of the Ohio Medical Reserve Corps, and, where possible, through rigid documentation, medical professionals who are not pre-certified, residents or fellows, medical and nursing students, aids, medical or nursing assistants, respiratory, physical, and occupational therapist.
A successful response to a natural or man-made disaster requires the effort and resources from a wide variety of agencies and organizations. A Volunteer Reception Center is one link in the chain of responses necessary for an organized disaster response.
Volunteer Reception Centers are typically established and managed by local Clermont County organizations. You might considered volunteering the resources in your organization, business or church to create a Volunteer Reception Center? You will not be alone in this effort. The Clermont County Citizen Corps Council along with the professional training resources from First Link and the Ohio Citizen Corps will be available to train and assist with the planning and implementation.
We need to plan ahead and establish functional VRC's in preparation for next natural disaster or man-made disaster in Clermont County.
If you're curious about the possibility of getting your organization involved, drop us a note and we can explain and discuss the possibility. We need your help.
Emergency managers, first responders and leaders of voluntary organizations who respond to disasters know that when a major event occurs, volunteers will come. When this happens with little planning beforehand, results have often been described as a “disaster within a disaster.”
Why, when such a response indicates good intentions and concern for those affected by a disaster, should this cause such an adverse reaction? The direct answer: emergency management requires planning, control and practice.
Imagine the questions that an emergency manager has that have unknown answers. How many volunteers will come? What skills and training have they had? What if there aren’t enough volunteers? What if there are too many? Who will supervise them? What if a volunteer is injured? What organization is responsible for them? Who feeds or houses them?
Many images come to mind…volunteers wearing sandals at a site littered with nails, splintered lumber and mud; citizens wanting to be trained on site when time and personnel are limited; or too-young students arriving and expecting to be fed as if they were at home. The results can be chaotic; there is no time or place at an active disaster site to incorporate willing but unprepared volunteers. The Volunteer Reception Center becomes the model to process these individuals.
The good news is that, no matter who or how many “they” turn out to be, the procedure for managing disaster volunteers is the same. It is straightforward and logical. It can be used in any size community, with the participation of any combination of community resources, for any type of disaster, no matter how extensive the damage or type of disaster. The process relies on the accepted principles of professional volunteer administration, including registration, personal interviews, agency referral and documentation. On site approved training may be necessary for first-time disaster volunteers.
There are several practical reasons for incorporating a VRC process into an emergency operations plan, (EOP) as has been done with the Donations and Volunteer Management Support Annex to the state EOP.
- A VRC provides a specific location, staffed by skilled volunteer managers capable of screening, interviewing and referring citizens in a professional manner.
- Though many are first-time disaster volunteers, they bring with them a wide range of skills and professional training, which is often in short supply after a catastrophic event.
- Documentation of volunteer service permits a dollar value to be placed on donated services, contributing to required matching funds for reimbursement purposes.
- The VRC encourages collaborative planning and implementation on a county and/or regional basis to meet first responders needs, contributing to a positive public perception of cooperation on mutual concerns.