The VPA of 1997, is a federal act that focuses on the promotion of volunteerism lowering or eliminating in totality volunteers risk of liability while working for, or carrying out duties for governmental or nonprofit organizations. This Act realizes that within the act of volunteering some actions, despite aiming at helping individuals may directly or indirectly result in the harm of other persons (VPA, 1997). Therefore while volunteering for governmental or nonprofit entities, the volunteer shall not be held liable if their acts or omission causes harm. However, it does not protect criminal activity carried out by such persons.
Liability Protections Provided
While the act allows immunity to volunteers, it limits the protections to only four areas. Firstly, a volunteer’s action must be within the range of their volunteer responsibility, outside which they are to be held liable. Secondly, it protects adequately licensed volunteer, authorized and certified to conduct the operations that caused the harm. Thirdly, it protects damage that did not occur willfully, or through gross negligence, conscious indifference to the rights of the individual harmed or criminal misconduct. Lastly, it protects damage by the volunteer that did not result from operating a motor vehicle.
Omissions in Coverage: Volunteer Perspective
Omissions on the part of the volunteer refer to the failure to act and in that case, attracts different legal consequences from positive conduct. Examples include failure to carry out preliminary tests while conducting a blood donation drive to help victims who have lost much blood (Milsten, 2015). The recipients are more likely to contract infections should the blood carry viruses or bacteria which would have otherwise been identified had screening occurred. On the one hand, the volunteer aims to help an individual on the other; he or she fails to carry out prerequisite tests, resulting in infection and legal proceedings.
Benefits of Participating in the NVOAD
During a disaster volunteers and organizations work to help individuals as much as they can. However given the number of persons who turn up to volunteer, confusion and wastage of resources ensues and chances of actions that increase the chances of harm increase. Under the NVOAD, the volunteer can undergo training and will receive assignments and supervision from the established emergency management systems. The volunteer can then be affiliated to an organization which removes him from liability in case of an omission. Additionally, during mobilization, working under NVOAD helps with consistent terminology and clear communication, increasing the volunteer’s impact (FEMA, 2008).
The benefit to the Incident Command Organization
The Incident command organization is an approach to the command control and coordination of emergency response which creates a single common hierarchy from which responders from various agencies can be effective. In essence, the NVOAD helps with the establishment of incident command, eliminating the chances of harms and wastages of resources (FEMA, 2008; Perry & Lindell, 2007). The information flows in one direction, which implies that all departments within the emergency response, as well as the volunteers, receive clear information. As a result, coordination increases between affiliated and non-affiliated volunteers all working to help those individuals in need.
FEMA. (2008). Managing Spontaneous: The Synergy of Structure and Good Intentions. Washington, DC: Points of Light Foundation & Volunteer Center National Network.
Milsten, A. (2015). Volunteers and Donations. In G. Ciottone, P. Biddinger, R. Darling, S. Fares, M. Keim, M. Molloy, & S. Suner, Ciottone’s Disaster Medicine (pp. 285-293). Philadelphia: Elsevier, Inc.
Perry, R., & Lindell, M. (2007). Emergency Planning. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Volunteer Protection Act of 1997, Pub. L. 105–19, 111 STAT. 218 codified as amended at 42 USC §§ 14501. (n.d.).