Since 2004, September has been observed as National Preparedness Month. National Preparedness Month encourages citizens to take steps to prepare for emergencies in their homes, businesses, schools, and communities. Through two key programs, Volunteer Los Angeles works with local government and nonprofits to help prepare and support the community in the times of disaster and/or emergencies.
Our Emergency Volunteer Center (EVC) program is designed to support emergency response officials following a disaster by managing ‘spontaneous volunteers’, the everyday citizens who are galvanized to service when their community is in need. The EVC is designed to register those who want to volunteer to help their community recover, while at the same time identifying specific and appropriate disaster-related needs in the community, especially those of community-based organizations. The two are matched based on skill, experience and geography, leveraging the resource of volunteers to have the maximum impact on the community’s recovery.
To carry out this role, Volunteer LA itself needs to prepare, and this month is a great example of how we are doing that. We are swiftly finalizing our physical and virtual EVC plans and infrastructure so that we know exactly what to do and how to do it when disaster strikes. We are in the final stretch of a partnership agreement with American Red Cross – Los Angeles Region to collaborate on the management of spontaneous volunteers in a catastrophic disaster (such as a 7.8 earthquake). And we are in the early stages of building our EVC Team – trained volunteers that will help us operate an EVC. We are working with Veterans Upward Bound and other vet-service organizations on this initiative so that we can benefit from the valuable leadership experience of veterans while these vets have an opportunity for community engagement that will support their education, career and life goals.
Volunteer Los Angeles has also taken a leadership position in disaster volunteering through the CaliforniaVolunteers Regional Lead grant project. This project places Volunteer LA at the heart of spontaneous volunteer management for our entire region (Southern Region encompassing 11 counties). Our role is to work with volunteer centers throughout the region to support their EVC capacity building, and to help develop an effective communication and support network so that when one area is affected by disaster, we are better able to request and provide support from non-affected areas.
Our second program, the Los Angeles County Disaster Healthcare Volunteers (DHV) program, is part of a federally mandated, state and nationwide effort to recruit and register health care volunteers in advance of large scale disaster or public health emergency. The goals of the LA County DHV program are simple: identify health care providers and volunteers; pre-register them; prequalify them in terms of practice validation, licensure, and credentialing; and streamline their identification at disaster sites. All of these actions will help accelerate the deployment process in the event of an emergency.
The LA County Surge Unit is the largest of four volunteer groups under the “Disaster Healthcare Volunteers” umbrella. Volunteer Los Angeles provides the overall volunteer management for the Surge Unit, including volunteer recruitment, outreach, mobilization planning, volunteer record management, volunteer notification, disaster exercise and volunteer summit planning assistance, as well as disaster volunteer mobilization and staging support.
Since July of 2011, the Surge Unit team has participated in 45 hospital health fairs and continuing medical education and professional association events. As of September 1, 2012, 3,150 volunteers have registered with the Surge Unit. (In the last year alone, the program has registered over 1,000 volunteers!) Our overall goal is to have 4,000 volunteers registered by July 30th, 2013. A full scale volunteer exercise to deploy DHV volunteers to hospitals is scheduled in April 2013.
To learn more about Volunteer Los Angeles’ Disaster Volunteering programs contact email@example.com, for the Disaster Healthcare Volunteers Department, or firstname.lastname@example.org for the Emergency Volunteer Center Department.