California Disaster Corps Program Tracks Volunteers, Improves Coordination

Web-based Disaster Volunteer Resource Inventory will help improve structure for incorporating volunteers in disaster response.

by / July 14, 2010
California Disaster Corps Courtesy of Peter Grigsby/Office of the Governor

Photo: California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger toured volunteer field demonstrations at the launch of the Disaster Corps program. Courtesy of Peter Grigsby/Office of the Governor.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced in June the formation of Disaster Corps, a group of highly trained and vetted volunteers tied closely to the state's mutual-aid system. The corps provides a network of volunteers ready to respond to emergencies.

A new statewide Disaster Volunteer Resource Inventory (DVRI) will house the volunteers' contact information, affiliations and training information to facilitate their utilization during disasters. About 1,000 volunteers will be categorized by capabilities, and the corps will initially be fed by programs in San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside and San Diego counties. Background checks will be conducted for each volunteer, and they will be certified in Red Cross CPR and first aid.

Volunteers aren't always included in emergency managers' responses to disasters and a mutual-aid mechanism for the use of volunteers outside their sponsoring jurisdiction didn't exist in California before the establishment of Disaster Corps, according to the state's Cabinet Secretary for Service and Volunteering Karen Baker.

Disaster Corps members will have their names, contact information, training and capabilities entered into a Web-based database, the DVRI, available to all emergency managers, volunteer coordinators, nonprofits and faith-based organizations that want to provide disaster assistance in the state.

The Los Angeles Disaster Corps has started selecting approximately 200 volunteers, out of the county's 5,000 Community Emergency Response Team members, to be part of the program. "In the middle of July we're going to have a process that we, internally in our department, will create that will allow our volunteer coordinators the ability to preselect through an application process or through some kind of check-off sheet on whether the volunteer wants to be in it, what skill sets they have [and] when they're available," said Wilson Lee, CERT coordinator for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

Go to Emergency Management to learn more about California's Disaster Corps program.