The role of the Health Department during an emergency
The Vermont Department of Health is the state’s lead agency for public health policy and advocacy. Through our 12 district offices we provide essential health promotion and disease prevention services - in partnership with local health care providers, voluntary agencies, schools, businesses and community organizations - to improve health and extend statewide initiatives in local communities throughout the state.
The Department of Health is the state agency that is trained to respond to Vermont public health emergencies, such as a natural disaster, an infectious disease outbreak, or a terrorist event. Communication planning, preparedness drills, and collaboration with multiple state agencies and private service organizations strengthens our ability to effectively provide the critical support needed to assist and protect the public.
What is VERV?
The Vermont Emergency Response Volunteers program (VERV) is a network of trained volunteers ready to assist in Vermont's emergency response activities. VERV volunteers can sign up to work alongside a number of state agencies, including the Health Department, in the event of a public health emergency.
Emergency Response volunteers are medical service professionals and Vermonters from all walks of life. Volunteers are trained to be a part of an emergency response team - performing critically needed jobs, such as supporting the operation of mass clinics, and assisting patients to get the help they need right away.
By becoming a Vermont Emergency Response Volunteer, you will:
- play an essential role in Vermont 's public health emergency response
- help protect your community during a time of need
- learn new information and skills
- meet new people through a rewarding volunteer experience
How do I register to be a volunteer?
The Volunteer Mobilizer is a state wide registry for health care and non-health care volunteers. Local hospitals and other emergency response organizations are also registering volunteers on the system.
The Mobilizer web site will walk you through the steps to register. You will be asked for contact and other information, as well as to select your professional affiliation and your Department of Health District Office group.
Each district office has a VERV administrator who will contact you to discuss the local district needs as well as upcoming trainings or sponsored events.
How much time will it take to be a volunteer?
We understand that volunteers are busy and may be able to devote only a limited amount of time to training and participation in preparedness exercises or drills.
Volunteers choose the level to which they want to be involved. We recommend that all volunteers take the short (approximately 45 minute) initial training. After completion, volunteers may choose to participate in further trainings and take on additional roles in the program. It's entirely up to you.
How will I know when and where to go during the emergency?
In an emergency, we will notify you as to where and when you should report as a volunteer.
For your safety, it is important for you to wait for us to contact you and not to “show up” at a clinic site. The volunteer program should always have up-to-date contact information so that we know how to reach you.
What if I'm unable to stand for very long or lift heavy objects?
We recognize that Vermonters bring many different abilities and strengths to their volunteer efforts. Please let us know if there are any activities that will not work for you, and we will find a more appropriate role.
What will be done to protect me and my family?
Your safety is our top priority. As volunteers, you and your family will be given medications to protect you from possible harm before you begin your volunteer duties. We will also provide you with any necessary personal protective equipment, such as gloves or masks.
Can I volunteer for the Health Department and another organization, like the American Red Cross?
Absolutely. When you register, you will be asked to list other organizations that might call you during an emergency situation. On the Volunteer Registration form, please be as specific as possible about when you think you will be available during an emergency to help the Vermont Department of Health. We are also working with other volunteer organizations to coordinate volunteer activities so that we can best use the talents of people who want to help.
I go away for the winter, can I still volunteer?
Yes. When you register, please tell us if there are times you will not be available. We will record this information and only call on you for when you are available.
Will I be protected from liability and workers' compensation?
The Vermont General Assembly amended Title 20 to clarify and include liability and worker compensation claims for those persons who are volunteers for the state, when they are training for or responding to a public health event or emergency. For more information:
How do I make changes to my contact information?
When would an emergency clinic be established?
The Health Department would set up an emergency clinic when there is a disease outbreak that has occurred naturally or through a bioterrorism attack.
What happens at an emergency clinic?
Medication at emergency clinics are distributed to prevent people from getting sick. Vaccinations and oral medicines (antibiotics) are provided during an emergency. A health care professional will review medication history for potential reactions, and clinic staff will provide information about the medication and answer questions.
Why does the Health Department need clinic volunteers?
The Health Department has well-trained staff who plan and set up emergency clinics, but help is needed from volunteers to fully staff the clinics so Vermonters quickly get the medication they need. The role of volunteers is vital to ensure efficient and organized distribution of medication in a time of crisis.
Do sick people receive treatment at the clinics?
No. The emergency clinics are for people who have been exposed to the disease but do not have symptoms. People who are sick will go to a hospital or other health care facility for treatment.
I am a currently licensed health care provider. Will I perform medical duties during the clinic?
Maybe – and only if you decide that's what you want to do. Clinically trained volunteers are among the state's most valuable resources in a crisis.
The Health Department will review the credentials of all licensed health care providers. After you are properly credentialed, you can perform medical duties at a clinic (screenings, distributing medications, reconstituting suspensions, etc.). We will provide medical staff with the necessary training and equipment. Credentialed, trained medical professionals will be a tremendous asset that can directly save lives and ease suffering.
What if I am a health care provider, but currently not licensed?
If you are not a currently licensed clinician, probably not. However, during an emergency the governor may allow persons without a current license to work in medical capacities, such as distributing bottles of pills to individuals or reconstituting pediatric suspensions. Additionally, there are other duties (performing contact tracing or simple triage) where having a health care background will be helpful.
Visit the VERV Online Training Resources web site
Peruse a variety of public and private agency training resources. This page also has the VERV training program.
Our VERV staff will contact you about opportunities to participate in drills or exercises that will strengthen our emergency preparedness. The drills - though infrequent - provide realistic tests of our readiness. Expanding the knowledge of individual volunteers is a key element of building and implementing an emergency response plan.
Please visit the VERV web site for additional information about the volunteer program, a list of training opportunities, and tools for registering for the program. You can also e-mail VERV to receive these materials through the mail and to find out about in-person orientation sessions in your area.