KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Emergency management professionals know that success during any disaster relies heavily on the resources volunteer agencies bring to the scene.
Recently, staff members from FEMA Region VII attended a two-day course in Olathe, Kansas, presented by the Kansas Division of Emergency Management designed to help them better understand the unique situation volunteer resources face when marshalling their membership during a disaster.
The EMI-developed course, Developing Volunteer Resources, had several goals including improving the skills necessary to recognize volunteer agencies in the community; enhancing the ability of emergency managers to coordinate the involvement of volunteers at all phases of emergency management; and broaden participants' perspective on the benefits of volunteer involvement. It also is a required course for completion of FEMA's Professional Development Series, said Kathy Strange, regional training manager.
Steve Seton, training assistant, said the course re-emphasized to him that volunteer agencies are an integral part of the emergency management system at the state and local level.
"Now I understand more what the state and locals have to deal with," Seton said. "We wouldn't operate without them."
Rex Jennings, technical hazard program specialist, also attended the course and agreed with Seton adding that attending the course was a great chance for him to network with fellow professionals such as county emergency managers who regularly use volunteer agencies in local disasters that don't have FEMA as a participant.
Because non-paid members staff them, volunteer agencies face unique problems such as retaining trained people, Seton said, an issue emergency managers must take into consideration calling on the them during a disaster.
The course also shed light on the diversity of skills and abilities volunteer agencies such as the American Red Cross, Lutheran Disaster Services, and Mennonite Disaster Services, said Dennis Prevett, terrorism program coordinator.
"It's amazing what they bring to the table," Prevett said.