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    Chapter 7: Volunteer Utilization

    Jump to Section:

    ​A. Volunteer Utilization Plan

    MDRMRC Units are designed to supplement the existing local public health, medical, and emergency services in the event of an emergency and to support ongoing public health initiatives within their communities. Although the types of activities in which MDRMRC Units are utilized are diverse, there are principles and considerations common to all of them that should guide their actions. As such, it is recommended that Unit Administrators develop a volunteer utilization plan that clearly defines the scope and authority for volunteer activation. The plan should be based on community needs, goals, and resources and should be included in the MDRMRC Unit Volunteer Management Plan – Template. Unit volunteer utilization plans should address the following: 
    • Volunteer activities
    • Activation authority
    • Activation procedures
    • Mobilization procedures
    • Demobilization procedures
    • SUVs

    B. Volunteer Activities

    Emergency Response Operations

    Emergency response operations involve activities that address the direct effects of an incident. Incidents can include major disasters and emergencies such as terrorist attacks, natural disasters (e.g., floods, hurricanes, etc.), hazardous material spills, nuclear accidents, aircraft accidents, war-related disasters, public health and medical emergencies, and other occurrences requiring an emergency response.

    During an emergency, a jurisdiction will activate its local emergency operations plan which defines how they will respond to the incident. MDRMRC Units should develop a plan for how they will support the local emergency response operations. This plan should be consistent with (and ideally, included in) local emergency operations plans. It important for MDRMRC Units to be linked to the local emergency operations plans as this will ensure that the Unit’s role is clearly defined.

    As such, it is highly recommended that Unit Administrators pre-identify the types of emergency response operations their Unit may be activated to support so that protocols can be developed for each type of operation. Below is a list of example emergency response operations the Unit could be activated to support. This list is not exhaustive. Unit Administrators are encouraged to tailor emergency response activities to the needs of their community.
    • ​Alternate care sites
    • Comfort/first-aid stations
    • Field hospital operations
    • Hospital surge response
    • Mass care/shelter operations
    • Mass casualty/fatality incidents
    • Mass distribution of medical countermeasures
    • Pandemic flu response
    • Patient evacuation/transportation operations
    • Point of Dispensing (POD) operations
    • Psychological first aid/disaster behavioral health
    • Radiation exposure events

    In addition, Unit Administrators should consider the following when planning for emergency response activations:
    • Determine the Unit’s capabilities to address the emergency response operation activity, as identified through a needs assessment and in coordination with local response partners
    • Develop emergency activation, mobilization, and demobilization procedures*
    • Ensure that every volunteer’s participation in emergency operations is properly documented and recognized
    • Develop plans and procedures for managing SUVs as appropriate*
    • Develop and implement procedures for conducting after action surveys following Unit activations*
    • Ensure volunteers have access to mental health counseling during and immediately following emergency operations, if necessary*
    • Conduct after action reviews in-house and with community response partners. Document recommendations, lessons learned, and corrective actions from these after action surveys in AARs to improve emergency response operations*
    • Ensure that emergency response operations procedures are detailed in the Unit’s volunteer management plan (see MDRMRC Unit Volunteer Management Plan – Template)

    *See guidance below.

    Non-Emergency, Public Health Activities

    Non-emergency public health activities are planned events scheduled in advance. Such activities have a public health focus and foster the resilience and health of the community. As with emergency response operations, Unit Administrators should also pre-identify the types of public health activities their Unit may be activated for so that protocols can be developed for each type of activity. Below is a list* of example public health activities that the Unit could be activated to support. This list is not exhaustive. Unit Administrators are encouraged to tailor public health activities to the needs of their community.
    • ​Community outreach (e.g., health fairs)
    • Disease detection/screening (e.g., diabetes, hypertension)
    • Emergency operations exercise participation (e.g., full-scale, tabletop)
    • Health clinic support/staffing
    • Health education initiatives
    • Health promotion/disease prevention initiatives
    • Immunization clinics (e.g., back to school)
    • MDRMRC Unit administrative support
    • MDRMRC Unit recruitment event support
    • Planned community events (e.g., sporting event, concert, parade, marathons, etc.)
    • Seasonal flu vaccination clinics
    • Smoking prevention/cessation initiatives

    In addition, Unit Administrators should consider the following when planning for public health activities:
    • Determine the Unit’s capabilities to address the public health need, as identified through the needs assessment and in coordination with local response partners
    • Develop non-emergency activation, mobilization, and demobilization procedures
    • Ensure that volunteers’ participation in public health activities are properly documented and recognized
    • Include public health preparedness in your Unit’s mission 
    • Seek existing public health preparedness opportunities for volunteers within your community
    • Ensure that your volunteers have their own family emergency preparedness plan. See “Family Emergency Plan − Template” (Appendix Y)
    • Develop a calendar of local preparedness events in which volunteers can participate
    • Use the weekly and monthly preparedness themes to promote both the MDRMRC Unit in the community and the importance of preparedness (FEMA’s Ready.gov website has a calendar ​of weekly and monthly themes that can be used to encourage and promote civic engagement, public safety, preparedness, resilience, and volunteerism)

    C. Activation Authority

    MDRMRC Units may be activated to support a wide variety of local emergency response operations as well as ongoing public health initiatives. However, to ensure volunteers are protected by state liability protections and workers’ compensation coverage if injured during a deployment, the Unit must be activated by the appropriate authority. It is an important to include information about the Unit’s activation authority in the Unit’s volunteer management plan. 

    Local MDRMRC Units*

    The decision to activate a local MDRMRC Unit to support a local emergency or a local public health activity will be made locally. 

    The local Health Officer should serve as the MDRMRC Unit’s activation authority. The local Health Officer has activation authority because they direct the overall operation of the LHD (and the local MDRMRC Unit as an extension of the LHD). 

    It is strongly recommended that the Unit Administrator, in cooperation with appropriate local officials, pre-identifies the types of incidents and activities that warrant activation of its volunteers and obtain prior approval from their local Health Officer, or designee, for all such activities. This will ensure volunteer protections and streamline the activation process during an emergency response.

    To qualify for state liability and workers’ compensation coverage, a volunteer activity (emergency or public health) must meet the following requirements: 
    • ​The activity has a specific need that MDRMRC volunteers can meet
    • The Unit has volunteers with the necessary skills to match the requirements of the activity
    • The activity is aligned with the mission of the LHD and the local Unit
    • The local Health Officer has approved of this activity as a public health or emergency activity
    • The Unit Administrator, or knowledgeable designee, will supervise MDRMRC volunteers during this activity

    *These guidelines apply to local activations only. For multi-jurisdictional or statewide activation, refer to Section H of this chapter.

    D. Activation Procedures

    Activation Request

    MDRMRC Units work in conjunction with local and state response partners who may request support from the Unit, similar to how other types of resources are requested through the local emergency operation center. As such, it is important to determine who may request activation of the MDRMRC Unit, how the request should be made, and what information will be needed from the requestor for successful activation and deployment of MDRMRC volunteers. 

    At a minimum, an activation request from a partnering or outside organization should provide the following information: 
    • Volunteer point of contact
    • Nature and scope of the activity (emergency response/public health)
    • Estimated number of patients and their injuries/symptoms, if applicable
    • Location/county(ies) affected
    • Staging area/check-in location
    • Deployment date/time
    • Professions/qualifications needed (and number of each needed)
    • Expected work conditions and possible hazards
    • Clothing and equipment requirements
    • Lodging, food, and parking details

    It is recommended that Unit Administrators develop a standardized activation request form for collecting all necessary information for a particular deployment. This will save time during an emergency and will enable Unit Administrators to easily create and send an activation notification message to qualified volunteers. Unit Administrators may use the “State Activation Request Forms” (Appendix Z) as a template for creating their version of the activation request form.​

    Activation Notification

    Properly informing volunteers and managing expectations can help ensure a successful response. In activation notifications, as well as other communications with volunteers, Unit Administrators should provide as much detailed information as possible regarding the deployment and what volunteers should expect. This information will reduce stress and facilitate operations.

    Unit Administrators can create and send an activation notification message to qualified volunteers through the Registry’s “Messages” tab or through the Mission Manager module.* The Mission Manager module allows Unit Administrators to create mission profiles, record deployment details, poll volunteer availability, and to notify confirmed volunteers. To view a sample activation notification message, see “Activation Notification Message – Example” (Appendix H). Refer to the Volunteer Registry − Administrator Protocols for instructions for creating and sending activation notifications and messages through the Registry.

    *At this time, activation notifications through the Registry’s Mission Manager module can only be made for one shift at a time. By June 2019, the Registry will include a new Schedule Manager module, which will allow for management of multiple shifts through Mission Manager. Until then, Unit Administrators can schedule multiple shifts by either creating separate activation notifications per shift, or by using an online scheduling site to poll volunteer availability (Doodle, SurveyMonkey®, Google Forms, etc.). Once the scheduling poll is created, the link can be included in messages sent to volunteers for them to enter availability for shifts. 

    ​E. Mobilization Procedures

    Once volunteers’ responses to the activation notification have been collected, they can be assigned roles. If more volunteers respond than are needed, contact the extra volunteers to let them know accordingly. After volunteers have been activated, the next step is mobilization.

    Deployment Packet

    Some deployments may require that volunteers receive additional information to review prior to arriving on site or before beginning their assignment. Such information should be given to volunteers in a deployment packet. A deployment packet expands on the activation notification message with more in-depth information. Additional information may include, but is not limited to: 
    • ​Location of and contact information for deployment site
    • Incident-specific precautions and hazards
    • Deployment go-kit checklist 
    • Job action sheets
    • JITT materials
    • List of supplies provided on-site to volunteers

    Volunteer Staging/Reception Area

    The volunteer staging area is the location designated for the assembly of activated MDRMRC volunteers. A staging area should be identified for all deployments, whether emergency response operations or non-emergency public health activity. The staging area must be accessible and clearly marked for volunteers to find and to avoid confusion. To see a sample plan submitted by Talbot County, refer to “Volunteer Reporting Center Plan – Talbot County Example” (Appendix AA). Upon arriving on the scene, activated MDRMRC volunteers should be instructed to report to the volunteer staging area to complete the following procedures:
    • Assemble pre-event or pre-shift to sign-in*
    • Have their state and/or MDRMRC ID badge checked and verified*
    • Receive incident briefing
    • Receive JITT
    • Receive supplies and personal protective equipment
    • Receive instructions regarding demobilization procedures
    • Assemble post-event or post-shift to sign-out*

    ​*This procedure is required for all deployments.

    The volunteer staging area can also serve as a central location for managing SUVs (otherwise known as a volunteer reception center (VRC). See Section G of this chapter for more information on managing SUVs. 

    Volunteer Supervision and Tracking

    When deployed locally, the Unit Administrator is responsible for identifying a health department staff member, or designee, to supervise volunteers during a deployment. The volunteer supervisor’s responsibilities include, but are not limited to, the following tasks:
    • ​Tracking volunteer attendance using a sign-in/sign-out sheet
      • See Appendix BB for a “Responder Check-in/Check-out Log – Template”
    • Verifying volunteer identification upon arrival (state ID and MDRMRC ID badges). 
      • ​See Appendix N for a depiction of the “Responder ID Badge − Example”
    • Ensuring volunteers receive all necessary information for completing their assigned role (e.g., incident briefing, JITT, equipment and personal protective equipment, etc.) 
    • Reporting any changes in the situation or the response operation to the Unit Administrator (e.g., shelter closing early, additional volunteers needed, etc.) 
    • Monitoring safety hazards and reporting any injuries involving volunteers using the “Responder Injury Reporting Packet” (Appendix JJ)
      • See Chapter 9​ for more information on reporting volunteer injuries
    • Evaluating volunteer performance if desired
      • ​See Appendix HH for a “Responder Evaluation Form – Template”
    • Documenting any issues or concerns related to volunteer conduct or performance 
      • ​Any issues that require corrective action or that should restrict a volunteer from future deployments should be reported to the MDRMRC State Program as soon as possible by using the “Incident Report Form” (Appendix CC
    • Ensuring volunteers have safely arrived home after the deployment

    Volunteer Code of Conduct​

    The following is the definition of the MDRMRC Volunteer Code of Conduct:
    • During all MDRMRC events volunteers are expected to adhere to this Code of Conduct:
      • Abide by all local, state, and federal laws at all times
      • Practice applicable safety standards and precautions
      • Work within the scope and guidelines of your job description
      • Project a professional manner and appearance
      • Follow chain of command
    • Based on their discretion, Incident Commanders (IC) of a specific response/event can deactivate volunteers from the response/event for behavior that goes against the Code of Conduct. ICs should work with either the Unit Administrator or designated volunteers supervisor to deactivate volunteers for Code of Conduct violations. Unit Administrators should review incidences of volunteer violations of the Code of Conduct with their supervisors and the MDRMRC State Program for appropriate action, which may include removal from the MDRMRC. The “Incident Report Form” (Appendix CC) can be used for this purpose. Examples of behaviors that violate the Code of Conduct include but are not limited to:  
      • Violation of any local, state, or federal law
      • Consumption of alcoholic beverages while on duty or any display of public drunkenness
      • Possession, use, or selling of any illegal drugs or substances
      • Sexual harassment
      • Lack of adherence to all laws and regulations that provide equal opportunity for all regardless of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, or disability
      • Theft of property or misuse of equipment and supplies
      • Gross negligence, inattention to duty, carelessness, insubordination, refusal to follow orders or directives, dishonesty, or willful misconduct in the performance of one’s duties
    • Contact the MDRMRC State Program with any issues. Each incident will be reviewed and a determination made on a case by case basis. 

    F. Demobilization Procedures

    MDRMRC volunteers should demobilize with other on-scene personnel and resources, in accordance with the Incident Action Plan (IAP) or the IC’s instructions. The Unit Administrator, or designee, should ensure the following procedures are completed to properly demobilize volunteers:

    Volunteer Debriefing

    Volunteer supervisors should make every effort to provide a debriefing process following a deployment; during this debriefing, supervisors should ensure that volunteers have access to mental health counseling during and/or following emergency operations, if necessary. Examples of these types of counseling include psychological first aid, grief counseling, and post-traumatic stress counseling. It is recommended that MDRMRC Units work with their local core services agencies to develop appropriate screening questionnaires to determine who may need follow-up. In certain incidences, it may be prudent to additionally follow-up with volunteers to ensure they arrived home safely. 

    After Action Survey

    Following a deployment, volunteers should be contacted to obtain feedback about their experience. One recommendation for collecting such information is through an after action survey that gives volunteers the opportunity to voice their evaluation of the overall response and provide suggestions for improvement. 

    One suggestion for making the survey accessible, is to create an online after action survey (e.g., SurveyMonkey®, Google Forms) and email the survey link to volunteers following their deployment. See “After Action Survey for Activation − Template” (Appendix DD). 

    ​Results from the after action survey will help improve deployment experiences for volunteers, response partners, and Unit Administrators. This information is best captured and utilized in an AAR. See Appendix EE for an AAR template. ​

    G. Spontaneous, Unaffiliated Volunteers (SUVs)

    SUVs are an unavoidable yet can be an important part of the emergency response and recovery spectrum. It is vital to plan for their participation; otherwise, they could cause an overwhelming disruption to emergency response efforts. 

    Planning for SUVs will also prevent Unit Administrators from having to turn down potential volunteers. An important aspect of community recovery (both physical and psychological) is engaging those citizens who feel the need to help. After an event occurs, SUVs can be recruited to join the MDRMRC and provided with further training.

    To facilitate this effort, the MDRMRC Unit should work with local partners to develop strategies for managing SUVs. Strategies for managing spontaneous volunteers include volunteer coordination teams, volunteer reception centers, JITT, position descriptions, job action sheets, and pairing experienced MDRMRC volunteers with spontaneous volunteers. 

    Strategies for Managing SUVs

    • ​Volunteer reception/reporting centers (VRCs) are sites that can act as a point of referral to support disaster and emergency response activities
    • A volunteer coordination team (VCT) can be comprised of representatives from the MDRMRC, be integrated into the EOC structure, and act as the primary coordination entity for unaffiliated volunteers (as well as affiliated volunteers) 
    • JITT is a critical piece of the management of SUVs and serves as a refresher for affiliated volunteers
    • Position descriptions and job action sheets (Appendix M) are also critical for successful SUV management − additional guidance is available in Chapter 4

    SUV Timeline − Example

    Unit Administrators and other response partners should follow the guidance below to register an SUV during an emergency:
    1. ​SUV sees disaster coverage on the news or is in proximity to the disaster 
    2. SUV is referred to the VRC or directly to the Unit Administrator
    3. SUV registers as an MDRMRC volunteer online through the Registry
      • Volunteer is instructed to complete profile to include licensure information if applicable
      • If the Registry is unavailable for any reason (e.g., internet connectivity is down), SUVs can register using the “MDRMRC Paper Registration Form” (Appendix GG
        • ​​As soon as the system is back online, the volunteer coordinator, supervisor, or Unit Administrator can manually enter the volunteer’s information into the system and then forward the volunteer’s profile information (username and temporary password) to them so that they can complete the remainder of their profile
    4. If applicable, verify volunteer licensure, and request a background check, if possible
    5. Volunteer reports to the volunteer staging area to sign-in, receive incident briefing, job action sheet, and JITT
    6. Volunteer is placed in a role immediately or scheduled to work at a later date 
    7. Volunteer supports operations (be flexible in scheduling and shifts to accommodate a volunteer’s other commitments and to avoid burnout)
    8. At the conclusion of their shift, volunteer reports to the volunteer staging area to sign-out, return equipment, and complete other debriefing procedures, if necessary
    9. Volunteer provides feedback on the deployment by completing the after action survey sent to them by the Unit Administrator
    10. Volunteer completes R2R requirements for obtaining their Ready Responder Kit including uniform and badge and becomes eligible for future activation and deployments
    11. Volunteer is recognized for their service (e.g., certificate, letter, newspaper article, commemorative item, recognition event)

    H. Regional, Statewide, and Federal Activation

    Although MDRMRC Units are primarily intended to serve local needs, there may be occasions in which volunteers may be requested to serve other communities in the state or elsewhere in the nation. MDRMRC Unit Administrators will be contacted prior to regional, statewide, or federal activation of the MDRMRC to ensure that the needs of the local community are met before MDRMRC volunteers are permitted to deploy out-of-area. 

    Regional and Statewide Activation

    If local resources have been exhausted and additional volunteers are needed, a request may be made to the MDRMRC State Program to activate volunteers regionally or statewide. Request for regional or statewide activation can be made by following the steps listed below:
    1. ​Fill out the appropriate state activation request form, see Appendix Z​
    2. Submit completed State Activation Request Form
      • Submit completed online form to the MDRMRC State Program. The State Administrators can be reached via cell phone 24/7 at 443-934-5849, or 443-865-7802. 
      • If the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) has been activated, send a copy of the form for situational awareness to the MDH desk at the SEOC via email at mdh.mema@maryland.gov. 
    3. Once received, the MDRMRC State Administrators will:
      • Contact the Unit Administrators of the designated jurisdictions to discuss the request, ensure that local needs are met, and that there are no conflicts for deploying volunteers from their jurisdiction
      • Forward the request to the OP&R Director or designee for approval 
    4. If approved by both the appropriate Unit Administrators and the OP&R Director, the MDRMRC State Program will assume responsibility for: 
      • Initiating procedures to ensure that the appropriate number and type of volunteers are activated, at the necessary skill levels
      • Notifying qualified volunteers through the Registry, with instructions based on that particular incident
      • Working with requesting entity to schedule volunteer deployment shifts (for events of long-term duration)
      • Ensuring volunteers respond to the appropriate locations (such as a predefined staging area) with the appropriate gear and instructions
      • Monitoring responses and staffing levels with direction from the IC
      • Maintaining contact with volunteers or monitoring their involvement, as needed
      • Verifying that reporting and demobilization procedures are followed

     Federal Activation

    In the case of a national disaster, the MDRMRC may be requested for an out-of-state or federal deployment through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) system. EMAC can be used to request resources from a member state that can be shared with another member state. Resources can include MRC volunteers. So long as there is a Governor-declared state of emergency in the region requesting resources, EMAC can be called to action and used. 

    Activation of the MDRMRC through EMAC would require an official resource request to be submitted to the Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), who would then forward the request to the MDRMRC State Administrators. Once received, the MDRMRC State Administrators will contact the Unit Administrators of the affected jurisdictions to discuss the request and ensure local needs are met and then forward the request to the OP&R Director or designee for final approval. If approved by both the Unit Administrators and the OP&R Director, the MDRMRC State Program will assume responsibility for initiating procedures to ensure that the appropriate number and type of volunteers are activated, at the necessary skill levels. For additional information about EMAC, visit: http://www.emacweb.org​.​