When designed for emergencies ONLY, it functions as a reserve that provides volunteer operators to augment communications related to emergency response and disaster-related work. The participants come in to perform a specific function and when the emergency is over they go away to await the next call out. There is normally little or no on-going involvement with paid staff.
When designed as an on-going active program, however, it not only provides the reserve function but can provide trained personnel that can assist in day-to-day operations. In the alternate, the on-going involvement brings the unit leaders to a level of agency familiarity unable to be otherwise obtained.
The on-going program has certain advantages over a reserve:
- It develops close rapport with skilled volunteers and provides a valuable resource not otherwise available.
- It extends staff ability to function in other than emergencies (communications aides can provide backup during staff illness, training sessions or vacations. This strengthens bonds with program participants and achieves better emergency coordination.)
- It enriches staff as paid personnel learn from the talented unpaid professionals.
- It may provide a pool for future paid staff when positions open
- On-going day-to-day activities helps participants rise to a level of proficiency not otherwise possible.
In California, the Governor's Office of Emergency Services ACS is an on-going program. ACS participants (volunteers) are involved in administrative assistance, EOC support, computer services, vital equipment delivery, and support of Public Safety communi- cations. Operation of equipment is only a part of the program. This breadth of participation strengthens both the paid and unpaid staff.