During the Hayman fire (Colorado, early Summer 2002) there were several times when it became very difficult to obtain enough ARES volunteers. One of the people doing the staffing wrote an E-mail to his group asking for additional help. It is such an accurate assessment of the staffing problems encountered in obtaining ARES/RACES volunteers to do actual work that I thought it well worth publishing for everyone to see. Why? Simply because the problem described happens in every large and lengthy event.
In almost every emergency there will be a virtual plethora of volunteers. Most will either have no training or only have out dated training (Yes Virginia, your training must be on-going to be of use, during emergencies). Once the initial enthusiasm or "newness" wears off, it becomes very difficult to get volunteers.
Here is Rob's note - exactly as sent.
I heard a news report on the fire this morning, and this blaze has grown to over 130,000 acres. That's nearly a 50% increase in size from yesterday. Today the winds are blowing hard, and out of a different direction. This disaster is going to get much worse before it gets better.
Now I'd like each of you to consider what you registered for: Amateur Radio EMERGENCY Service. The word "emergency" is emphasized because that's what we have here. An emergency. Granted it's not affecting each of us to the degree that the residents of the fire area are affected. So we tend not to think about it too much.
But now it's time for ALL of you to start thinking about what you can go. Normally, when I've been calling on you to help, I'll ask if you can help tomorrow, or this weekend. Many of you can't always help out due to work, family, etc. But now I'm asking you to think LONG TERM here. Don't just think if you can help tomorrow, or the next day. I want you to look at the calendar and look out the next several weeks or more and pick a day or two that you can help.
I have about 40 regular volunteers out there, and they're giving up a lot of time, but they can't keep rotating through the shifts continuously. There are over 200 volunteers in the ARES data base, and many of you have indicated availability 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Or you've indicated availability during the week, during business hours. Yet when I call, you're not available to help out tomorrow, the next day, or this week or this weekend. No problem with that. But now, I want YOU to think about when you CAN help, instead of telling me when you CAN'T help.
If you have some vacation time coming up, maybe a bunch of it, and you can afford to spend one vacation day at the ICP or a shelter, please consider taking that extra day off with pay. If you don't, please consider negotiating with your boss to come in a little late or leave a little early so you can work that early morning or late evening shift. Or plan on a weekend or a regular day off, get away from the chores of home, and come help out. If I could get one day out of 200 people, I could have a lot of shifts covered.
For every ARES person at the incident, there are 4-5 other ARES members that aren't at the incident. Surely there must be a day, 8 hours here or there that you can squeeze out of your schedule. I want to get more people involved at fewer intervals, so I can spread the workload, so that the folks that have been volunteering regularly can be relieved to go home and take a shower, get some sleep, maybe even a change of clothes! If more of us get involved, it will actually become easier for all of us.
So think about it. After all, you knew what this was all about when you signed up for ARES (E = Emergency, remember?). If you can't find a day or two in the next 30-45 days that you can help, then you might want to reconsider why you signed up with ARES in the first place. Sorry to be so blunt, but this is where the rubber hits the road, so to speak.
I'd like to fill a schedule out to the end of June and into July. Not necessarily with actually assignment people to positions, but at least getting commitments from people that they WILL be available on a particular day, for whatever assignment I might have. I use people at the rate of 21 people per day at the moment. So you see the 40 volunteers are working every other day on the average. With 200+ people signed up, I can spread that out to where people can volunteer only about once every 10 days. Wouldn't that be easier for everyone??
Also, if you do have a medical condition where you can't go out, I certainly can use help with phone calls, etc.
Soapbox mode off.
Please seriously consider it.