Volunteer training program aims to help others

Adria Barbour

Portage County is taking a hands-on approach to volunteer training for cases of disasters.

The Portage County Board of Commissioners and the Volunteer Administrators Network, an organization that works with volunteers and social services, is sponsoring a disaster response volunteer training program, said Kerry Macomber, executive assistant of the Portage County Board of Commissioners.

The training program will take place April 27 at 1 p.m. in the Martin Field House in the Coleman Center at Hiram College, Macomber said. It will be conducted by the Volunteer Services Agency Inc., which is being supported by the Ohio Homeland Security, Macomber said. It is open to the public.

The disaster response training details how to handle, receive and coordinate a volunteer in the event of a disaster, whether it is natural or manmade, Macomber said.

The Coleman Center will be set up as if it was an actual volunteer reception center. It will include identification assignments booth, a data and agency coordination booth and a place for volunteers to sign an insurance waiver and a safety briefing.

Mark Griffiths, director of Portage County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said the training will focus on how they will incorporate these volunteers into a system. The agencies will be taught on the proper way to identify and give credentials the volunteers that are needed and to get them aligned with the proper agency.

“If Townhall II was going to be a coordinating agency, and they wanted to use the Kent Field House, we would put Townhall’s information on the local news stations and people would go there to sign up as volunteers,” Macomber said.

The training specifically being provided in Portage County is new to all of Ohio, Griffiths said. Volunteers used to be closely aligned with specific agencies. Now volunteers can appear instantly on the scene of an emergency or disaster.

Macomber said the training offered in this program is in response to the tragedies of Katrina and other natural disasters in the southern states.

This program is one of the events scheduled for National County Government Week, which starts on April 23 and ends April 29, Macomber said. The theme for this year is “Protecting Our Communities.”

National County Government Week was established about 10 years ago, said Chuck Keiper, president of Portage County Board of Commissioners. Its purpose is to heighten people’s awareness about the services provided by the county and give appreciation and acknowledgment to county employees.

Contact public affairs reporter Adria Barbour at [email protected].