Volunteer efforts in the wake of natural or manmade disasters are often the piece that brings hope and humanity back to a hurting area.
The state's Department of Health is urging Pennsylvanians to join the network of registered volunteers, SERVPA, during the week set aside by Gov. Tom Corbett as Volunteer Week, now through April 21.
Shannon Calluori is Director of Public Health Preparedness in Pennsylvania. She oversees the database of 10,500 volunteers that has been compiled since 2007 and helps the state's emergency response personnel by identifying what volunteers are certified with what medical credentials.
"We do background checks on the volunteers. If they have a medical credential we can validate their medical credential ahead of time so that we are more ready to respond and send volunteers to where they need to go during an emergency," Calluori said.
Calluori explained that the system uses a unit administrator to contact the type of personnel needed for a specific emergency when it occurs, also considering the region and the time commitment needed.
She said it's most beneficial to have that system together and organized before the chaos of an emergency has already set in.
"The challenging thing is when hundreds of people volunteer on the spot following an emergency, it takes a lot of time to process their applications," Calluori said. "So anyone who thinks they might want to help their community during an emergency should preregister and get into our system and they most likely would be the first people that would be deployed to help their neighbors."
She made clear that joining the database is not a contract that you will serve when needed.
"Volunteers are not required to respond just because they preregister with our system, but it allows us to reach out to them during an emergency and quickly deploy volunteers who are willing and have the time to respond."
Those interested need not be medically certified but are encouraged to take an online preparedness course along with joining the index at www.serv.pa.gov.