Grant County Emergency Management is recruiting volunteers to help area communities respond to emergency and disaster occurrences.
Since 2009, the emergency management office has maintained a group of auxiliary volunteers who help the department with a number of critical tasks such as transporting supplies and equipment, assessing damages following storms, and helping with clerical work.
Emergency Management Director Steve Braun said volunteers can play many roles within the emergency management program, depending on their available time and individual interests. In addition to helping the department coordinate the response to an emergency, volunteers can assist with many jobs out in the field.
“People who are willing to do so can help us out in the field, with assessing and documenting damages, helping to coordinate donations and volunteer offers, working with the Red Cross to open and staff shelters, and other activities depending on the nature of the event,” he said.
According to Braun, major flooding events in 2007, 2008, and 2010 were great examples of how volunteers can contribute to the program.
“During the flash flooding, volunteers helped to make calls and answer phones while we were assessing the extent of damage to homes and infrastructure; they helped our human services agencies track the needs of affected families; and they helped to distribute cleanup kits, drinking water, and other donated items,” said Braun.
Braun also would like to see volunteers get more involved with a regional program that provides rest and rehabilitation to firefighters at major incidents.
Through Grant County’s mutual aid association, area fire and EMS departments have partnered together to staff a mobile firefighter rehabilitation unit. The unit responds to larger fires in Grant and surrounding counties with tents, fans, cooling chairs, bottled water, food, and other equipment to facilitate rest and rehydration to firefighters.
“With heart attacks being the leading cause of firefighter line-of-duty deaths, there is a true need to ensure that emergency responders receive adequate medical monitoring, rest breaks, and rehydration at emergency scenes,” said Braun.
Currently the unit is staffed mainly by fire and EMS personnel, who often have other jobs to do at emergency scenes.
According to Braun, many non-medical tasks can be done by anyone willing to help out if they have the proper training.
During off times when there is not a pending emergency, volunteers can also assist the department with public outreach, planning, and other jobs related to preparedness.
“We can always use help around the office with updating our emergency contact lists, gathering information to help with grant applications, maintaining our vehicles and emergency response equipment, and other tasks,” he said.
Applicants, who must be at least 18, must successfully pass a basic background check, and must be able to attend regularly scheduled training. Evening training meetings are held once a month on weeknights, and occasionally on Saturdays. All necessary disaster-specific training is provided to volunteers once an applicant has been approved.
“This isn’t a job for everybody,” said Braun. “It involves a great deal of commitment and training for those who sign up. But through this program, citizens can become an integral part of the emergency response system that is swiftly mobilized when emergencies and disasters strike.”
For those interested in learning more about volunteering with the department, an informational meeting has been scheduled for the Lancaster fire station Thursday, June 20 at 6:30 p.m. Information is also available from the emergency management office, 723-7171, or firstname.lastname@example.org.`