AIHA Issues Guidance to Protect Volunteers from COVID-19 During Natural Disaster Response and Recovery

The guidelines provide volunteers with information about how volunteer organizations operate during a response to severe natural disasters

AIHA, the association for scientists and professionals committed to preserving and ensuring OEHS in the workplace and community, announced recommendations designed to protect unpaid natural disaster response volunteers from COVID-19. The free guidelines also provide volunteers with information about how volunteer organizations operate during a response to severe natural disasters including hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, wildfires, and more.

“Many communities throughout the nation are dependent upon volunteer firefighters and community response teams to respond to natural disasters,” said AIHA CEO Lawrence Sloan. “The AIHA guidelines provide comprehensive recommendations addressing the common facilities where they work, eat and sleep, PPE, legal protections for disaster volunteers, and more.”

Additionally, the guidelines, developed by occupational and environmental health and safety professionals (OEHS), include guidance to protect volunteers from COVID-19 during natural disaster response and recovery, information about the Incident Command System, personal measures to prevent COVID-19, deployment measures to prevent COVID-19, PPE, and personal safety and family considerations for volunteers.

The guidelines are designed for all types of volunteers, including:

  • community members responding on provisional bases to a disaster occurring within their own community
  • members of Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs)
  • associations of locally-based professionals who have been tasked under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) to prepare emergency plans on behalf of the communities which they serve
  • volunteers belonging to community- or faith-based organizations
  • volunteers serving under an organizational structure, such as the American Red Cross or Team Rubicon
  • volunteers trained for disaster preparedness and response, such as Community or Municipal Emergency Response Teams (CERT1 or MERT)
  • volunteers serving in a professional capacity, such as volunteer firefighters