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Emergency Disaster

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“Your County Manager has just gone to a federally sponsored program on getting volunteers to support the management and administrative side of disaster and recovery portions of emergency management.

The Manager attended a seminar on a program called ‘Professional Volunteer Disaster Survey Team (PRO-V-DST)’ which had been developed in Texas in the mid-1990’s.

She was quite enthusiastic about the program as it provides:

A network of professional building inspectors, structural engineers, and architects to form damage survey teams that could be used by State and local governments in need of help surveying damage and evaluating structures following a disaster.

In assessing post disaster flood damage to structures in one county, PRO-V-DST impressed the county engineer of that county, who had been overwhelmed by the number of structures requiring a determination of substantial damage, by completing its evaluation in just 2 days.

The last tornado your county suffered took weeks to get the survey done and then some of it had to be done over.

The County Manager was sold on this program because it would provide professional damage survey resources at what appears to be no expenses as the teams provide volunteer labor, and FEMA provides the funding for meals, lodging, and travel expenses.

What difficulties would you have to overcome in implementing a similar program in your county? Although Volunteers providing emergency services are legally protected from civil liability in North Carolina (NC General Statute Section 1- 539.10), convincing the employers of the proposed network of professionals that their policy is protected may cause concern if injury or death occurs as a result of the volunteer work. Screening, qualifying, and building teams. Create another office within the County’s Office of Emergency Management to manage PRO-V-DST, fund and hire, take away from another department or convince taxpayers at town hall meetings of its benefit. (Teams A and B, different location throughout the county) as professionals, maintenance of licenses and insurance (county liability?) valid license, certificate, or permit

Would this program really be an asset?
Faster recovery means businesses and residents can return to normal life. Burden on County facilities (shelters) and food/water is reduced. Residents return to work to earn income that yields County tax revenue and businesses can return to selling goods and services that halt as a result of the disaster as well as increasing the tax revenue. Networked professional will be available to assist other counties throughout the state, strengthen relationships that may open the door to new ways that the other counties could also provide assistance in the event our county is affected. Prov_V-DST volunteers can help emergency responders to analyze the damage to develop the best risk-based response

How would you handle the County Manager?”
The approach will outline how the benefits out way the cost. The value of single staff member to manage the program of volunteers is only limited by the # of volunteers in the network. Recovery in other counties was limited to two days compared to the two weeks it required us after the last disaster. The added resource may lead to additional state awarded emergency management funds from both the state and federal level.

Teams can also provide expertise and guidance to CERT as well as other non-government based organizations that provide the manpower to assist residents and businesses with the “mudout and tearout” work to help prepare flood-damaged homes or businesses to be reoccupied.

Volunteers providing emergency services are legally protected from civil liability in North Carolina due to legislation amending NC General Statute

3. Government sponsored and managed emergency volunteers
Emergency management increasingly utilizes organized and trained groups of volunteers that supplement professional emergency responders. To address their needs, many emergency management statutes now protect registered emergency volunteers from civil liability, provide emergency volunteer injury benefits, and recognize licenses, certificates, and permits from other states.

Injury benefits for emergency volunteers
Emergency volunteers often have no similar protection. Some states provide benefits for registered emergency volunteers, but those benefits are often limited. The lack of reliable benefits may be a barrier for potential emergency volunteers. It may also discourage employers from assigning their employees to work as emergency volunteers, because the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance could be responsible if the employee is injured. Injured emergency volunteers who do not receive workers’ compensation benefits can file a civil liability lawsuit against the organization for which they were working, with a more unpredictable and potentially more costly outcome.

These requirements affect a wide variety of professions, but of particular relevance in the emergency management context are healthcare professionals, architects, and engineers.

In North Carolina’s VPA, emergency services workers are protected for emergency services activities, including emergency preparedness.1 North Carolina specifically protects Medical Reserve Corps units (MRCs), Community Emergency Response Teams (CERTs) and other functions related to civilian protection, including the administration of state and federal disaster recovery and assistance programs.

Since the new volunteers do not usually respond to emergencies, training and education needs to be provided so the network of professionals have an understanding and appreciation for the tasks and procedures emergency responder may be involved with. The training will provide interaction with what will be familiar faces as they asses the damaged areas. What difficulties would you have to overcome in implementing a similar program in your county? Although Volunteers providing emergency services are legally protected from civil liability in North Carolina (NC General Statute Section 1- 539.10), convincing the employers of the proposed network of professionals that their policy is protected may cause concern if injury or death occurs as a result of the volunteer work.

Screening, qualifying, and building teams. Create another office within the County’s Office of Emergency Management to manage PRO-V-DST, fund and hire, take away from another department or convince taxpayers at town hall meetings of its benefit. (Teams A and B, different location throughout the county) as professionals, maintenance of licenses and insurance (county liability?) valid license, certificate, or permit Would this program really be an asset?

Faster recovery means businesses and residents can return to normal life. Burden on County facilities (shelters) and food/water is reduced. Residents return to work to earn income that yields County tax revenue and businesses can return to selling goods and services that halt as a result of the disaster as well as increasing the tax revenue. Networked professional will be available to assist other counties throughout the state, strengthen relationships that may open the door to new ways that the other counties could also provide assistance in the event our county is affected. Prov_V-DST volunteers can help emergency responders to analyze the damage to develop the best risk-based response

The benefit of implementing the program called ‘Professional Volunteer Disaster Survey Team (PRO-V-DST)’ in Craven County, North Carolina, outweigh the cost and is a program worth considering. The county has an abundant amount of professional building inspectors, structural engineers, and architects that support the historic downtown area of New Bern as well as surrounding areas to reach out to volunteer for this program. The demands of implementing the program will be difficult to involve the PRO-V-DST members to participate in disaster recovery but the program will clearly become an asset to the county..

Screening, qualifying, and building the network of teams will be a difficult task. The first difficulty will be to get the qualified building inspectors, structural engineers, and architects to participate in a program that will potentially take away from wage earning opportunities. Assuming the volunteer base will be great enough to start the program, participant’s valid licenses, certificates, or permits will have to be screen to ensure that meet county and state regulations. How robust the network will be depends solely on the previous two obstacles. In a post-disaster scenario, this network of professionals could be placing themselves in harm’s way and liability can also be obstacle. The NC General Statute Section 1- 539.10, states, “Volunteers providing emergency services are legally protected from civil liability in North Carolina” (North Carolina Disaster Recovery Guide, 2009).

Although the program would fall under these guidelines, individual or employer-based insurance policies may be concerned if their insured client is injured while performing volunteer duties. Lastly, since the new volunteers do not usually respond to emergencies or may lack the knowledge of how to perform their profession in the midst of disaster recovery. Training and education will need to be provided so that this network of professionals have an understanding and appreciation for the tasks and procedures emergency responder may be involved with.

A volunteer network of professional conducting disaster surveys will require management at the county level. The ability to notify, organize, dispatch, and demobilize volunteers are functions that requires increasing the tasks of an existing position or creating a new position to manage these tasks. Budget constraints may preclude the creation of a new position unless residents agree to a tax increase to pay for the additional cost. The additional duties or new hire would work within the Craven County Department of Planning and Inspections and work closely with the Craven County Department of Emergency Services.

This program will be an asset to the county in many different ways. The use of professional volunteers to inspect facilities beyond the capability of the county government will greatly reduce the amount of time residents and businesses are inconvenienced as a result of the disaster as the ability to enter their respective structure is cleared to start the recovery and rebuilding phase. The faster a community can return to pre-disaster conditions correlates directly to the resident’s ability to return to work as well as the ability for businesses to provide goods and services to the residents. This ability to recover faster means that tax revenue will resume and the administration and management burden of providing for the food and shelter will decrease.

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