Julynn’s Ride-along

February 26, 2010
By Julynn_Benedetti

When I arrived for my ride-along last Saturday, it was at the same time as the reservist volunteer training.  When I talked to the guard about where I needed to go, he looked very confused about the terminology “ride-along” and sent me to the volunteer training.  When I arrived, I found out that the “Captain,” a volunteer who has gone through the requisite training and leads a response team, was out sick.  The other person on my team was Min.  He had been a volunteer for approximately one year and was also training to be a Captain.  He showed me the routine of checking out all the equipment and making sure that the vehicle was stocked and ready to go.

I was really surprised by the amount of equipment that the volunteers have to carry with them.  The reason they have a laptop is so that they can supposedly be “paperless,” but they also have to take a printer out with them, as it was required that they get a signature from the clients (people who receive help are not called victims, but clients) if a CAC (debit card) is distributed.  Additionally, another reason that they take the laptop is so that they can wirelessly transmit the documentation.  At the same time, they must also call back to the ECC (the team back at the HQ who coordinates communication) with the details of the form that they had just wirelessly transmitted.

I understand that it is important to have redundancies in place for emergencies, but it just seems so cumbersome to have to lug around your go-bag, jacket, laptop, 2-way radio, printer, forms, printer paper, etc.  I wonder if there’s a way to streamline this process so that not as much equipment is required.  Maybe the RC could invest in a hand-held device like FedEx or UPS uses where signatures can be captured electronically.

It seems like there is a significant amount of down-time while waiting for an incident.  There is also a significant amount of training that one must accomplish in order to become a full-fledged volunteer or Captain.  There are only two courses that are offered online, and they are minor (food safety training and another that Min didn’t remember the name of).  It would be more efficient if the training curriculum could be accomplished during the down-time.  If Captains must take the training to be leaders, then maybe they should be invested with the power to train their team members.

Both Min and Jean said that a lot of volunteers end up quitting after about a year, and I’m sure that the amount of training required is an obstacle.  People want to act and do, and having so much training before that opportunity makes it a bit discouraging.  There should be more “on-the-job” training.

Unfortunately for me (but fortunately for New Yorkers), there were no incidents during my shift, so I was not able to go out on a ride to see what procedures were in place for the actual ride-along.

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