Although unpaid communicators are an expense to the parent agency (in that their familiarization and supervision involves both time, energy, space and equipment) in literally thousands of major emergencies the cost of insuring an effective reserve for the next major emergency is minuscule when compared to their often priceless contributions to an effective emergency response. They have made a hero of the emergency management agency in countless situations with selfless dedication to providing communications that was otherwise considered to be "impossible".
Emergency services administrators not yet using volunteer communicators may well wonder if such dedicated and reliable volunteers actually exist. They do, although they may not necessarily be the first group that comes to mind. In many parts of the country such people have been found and selected carefully from a pool of applicants, and then trained and employed for many years. The key elements are: selected with care and trained and employed for years.
While only a small percentage of the potential emergency communications reserve participants will have the dedication and meet the requirements to become truly professional emergency communicators, there usually are sufficient numbers. Once selected, organized and trained, they can become largely self-sustaining so long as the agency remembers to keep them actively involved in the day-to-day life of the agency.
That is, in itself, one of the essential actions that separates outstanding results from the mediocre for the agency. It is a process that is far easier to implement than to describe.
The effort required to establish a communications reserve assuredly will pay off. Check into the services that have dealt with recent disasters, such as the hurricanes in South Florida and Hawaii, earthquakes and fires in Southern California, floods in the Midwest. Volunteer communicators were indispensable in all of them.
Need help in finding such personnel? Help IS available to the agency that asks for it. Call Stan Harter or Cary Mangum 916-262-1600
s/s Bill Musladin
CA State Office of Emergency Services
Retired Chief State Radio Officer