4/2/10 - ARRL, American Red Cross, MOU - A Positive Step Forward

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kg7hq Fri, 04/02/2010 - 05:30

When the American Red Cross (ARC) implemented the policy of having both background and credit checks for everyone who volunteers to support them, I personally applied the brakes on any volunteer support to that agency. My reasoning was that as a volunteer emergency communicator operating under the umbrella of ARES or RACES, should not be subject to an external agency’s internal requirements to gain access to my personal information. With today’s challenges in keeping personal information safe, I can’t say with confidence, that volunteers representing the different chapters of the ARC’s will apply the same level of caution as I do.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) agreed upon by the ARRL takes a positive step forward in protecting personal information by waiving the requirements for amateur radio emergency communicators to have a credit check. For individuals who may not want to be directly associated with the ARC, this is a positive step forward allowing for mutual aid as supporting communicators.

As for the requirement for background checks, this still has sticky undertones. Even as a volunteer communicator you must have this done as a prerequisite to supporting this agency. I understand the reasoning for this policy as it was driven by those who abused their volunteer positions. What hasn’t been provided for is the definition of what qualifies for a background check. The ARC will do this for you free of charge, but you run the personal risk of your personal information being compromised by those who do not share your concerns for privacy (Remembering that you are turning this over to a volunteer). So for those of us who opt for a alternative approach, we do not have a definition of what can used in lieu of the ARC check.

Here in Skagit County, we have Department of Emergency Management (DEM) ID cards. You can only get one of these from completing a background check. The question that comes forth is…

Do this allow me to serve as a volunteer communicator in support of the ARC here in Skagit County?

Do this allow me to serve as a volunteer communicator in support of the ARC anywhere in Washington State? How about expanding this to… The State of Oregon?

What prompts me to ask these questions are due to not knowing if the Official Red Cross Volunteer, at the place of service, will have the resources to confirm whether any background check document is factual or not. How can he or she verify that my DEM Card fulfills the prerequisite requirement? This hole in process can be a show stopper for the well meaning radio communicator. It also can serve as an embarrassing scenario for both the ARC Representative and Radio Operator if not handled properly.

As we move forward as volunteer emergency communicators, we have some additional challenges to consider while applying our art to external agencies.

The American Red Cross is a premier provider of health and human services. They are second to none in supporting those in need during and after disaster strikes. I encourage you to consider volunteering your services to agencies like the ARC. But I also ask you to exercise caution on who you entrust your personal information to. Once compromised, the expense of recovery will over shadow the enjoyment of community service and hobby.