Interesting FEMA Document....
that deals with volunteer liability was recently released. It is a very interesting read, but if you don't want to read it all the way through it I noted some very important points below.
I see this document as not being just for CERT, but for all volunteer groups to include ARES and RACES.
The CERT Liability Guide is offered for general informational purposes only. It does
not provide legal advice, and the user is encouraged to seek out state specific
legal advice from a qualified attorney before taking any action. Keep in mind
that, with a few limitations, anyone can file a lawsuit against anyone else.
Nothing, including following the recommendations in this Guide, is a guarantee
against being sued.
CERT programs must be affiliated with or sponsored by a local government agency, and
engage in operational activities only under the command and control of that
agency. Thus, CERT programs do not operate without the confidence of
professional emergency response agencies, and those agencies are more likely to
have confidence in a CERT program that takes steps to manage
Some potential CERT members may be concerned about personal liability or about being injured or
contracting an illness during CERT activities, and they may decline to
participate if not protected. Providing liability protection and injury benefits
limits this barrier and conveys the message that CERT members are a valuable
part of the sponsor's team.
CERT programs establish a separate nonprofit organization, or are sponsored by an educational or
business entity, but they must always be endorsed by local government.
Managing risk is an ongoing process, so support must be nurtured, expanded, and revisited when
circumstances change or new information is identified.
First, consider the different types of civil liability that volunteers and CERT programs should be aware of.
Civil liability results when there is legal basis for holding someone responsible for injury or damage.
The four main types of civil liability that apply to CERT programs include:
Negligent acts or omissions The failure to fulfill a duty to use ordinary care,
which is the care that a reasonable person would use under similar
circumstances. Any activity in which carelessness can cause injury or property
damage may be considered negligent.
Intentional acts Intentionally
committed wrongful act; this may require proof that person intended to cause
Strict liability Legal responsibility for damages based on the
nature of an activity, rather than on a negligent or intentional act. Because
CERT members are trained only to respond to events they're capable and trained
to handle, strict liability exposure is limited.
Liability for the acts of others Legally responsible for actions of someone
you have the right to control. An employer is usually liable for job-related actions of its employee.
Failing to screen or train a volunteer may result in CERT program being liable.
When adopting an activation strategy, it is important to understand that there is no activation
approach that guarantees against liability. On its face, self activation may
appear to insulate the program leaders and the sponsoring organization from
liability by separating them from deployment or direction of members. This fails
to recognize two important factors.
First, there are links with the CERT program even if members self-activate.
Self-activation may be pursuant to a standing order, and not all that different for liability purposes from an
order to activate issued at the time of an emergency.
CERT programs have multiple points of contact with their members. Even if its members
self-activate, an injured person might argue that the CERT program has put the
member in a position to respond and that CERT training shaped their actions. An
injured member might argue that CERT training did not adequately prepare for the
By accepting members and instructing them to self-activate, some might argue that the CERT program has implicitly made a
decision that the members are capable of responding without supervision, and an
injured person may question that decision.
Even self-activated CERT members can appear to the public to be acting on behalf of the CERT program if they
carry officially issued CERT identification, wear CERT identifying vests or
personal protective equipment, or identify themselves as CERT members during a
Any of the above might be argued as grounds for program liability, even if CERT members self-activate.
Second, self-activation does not offer the risk control benefits of program activation for specific
emergencies. A CERT that activates its members to respond to specific
emergencies may reduce the chance that its members will respond to situations
that are beyond their capabilities. If CERT program activation enhances
oversight at the emergency scene, it can also help ensure that members work
within their level of training and comply with the CERT program's rules. Both of
these effects reduce, although they do not eliminate, the chances of
Another concern is that self-activation may prevent CERT members from qualifying for liability protection under various federal and state
laws. This will be discussed further below in Providing benefits for injured CERT members and Protecting CERT members from liability.
Neither activation strategy eliminates a CERT program's potential liability for the acts
of, or injuries to, its members. Each program should analyze the risks and
benefits of each approach and choose the strategy that is most effective for its
needs. Then acknowledge and manage the remaining
Protection from the financial effects of liability.
Even the best risk control program cannot eliminate all liability. There remains a small but real chance of an injury,
property damage, or other harm. A sponsoring agency has this; residual; risk
from all of its activities whether or not it sponsors a CERT program. The cost
of damages, defending a claim or lawsuit, and providing injury benefits can be
substantial, so no risk management program is complete until there is a plan to
pay these costs. Recruiting members is also easier if there is a plan to protect
volunteers from liability and to provide them with benefits if they are injured
or become ill. While CERT programs are most often sponsored by a local
government agency, incorporated nonprofit organizations, businesses, or
educational institutions may coordinate training and organize teams. In
addition, a few CERT programs have established separate nonprofit organizations
to raise funds. Thus, more than one legal entity can be involved in a CERT, and
each is responsible for protecting itself and its officials, employees, and
volunteers from the financial effects of liability. Protection for one person or
legal entity whether by law or insurance does not automatically protect
Even if CERT members cannot receive administrative workers' compensation benefits, that does not
preclude liability for their injuries or illnesses. An injured CERT member who
is not eligible for workers' compensation benefits can file a civil lawsuit
seeking lost wages, medical costs, pain and suffering, and other damages from an
injury caused by the act or omission of someone else. Potential targets of
lawsuits include the sponsoring agency or local government, other volunteers,
trainers and team leaders, to name a few. The lawsuit will fail, however, unless
the target was at fault, the fault caused the injury and resulting damages, and
the target of the lawsuit is not protected by governmental or another statutory
The VPA excludes protection for volunteers who are operating a motor vehicle or other vehicle for
which the state requires an operator's license or insurance. It also excludes
volunteers who are performing acts for which the volunteers are not
appropriately licensed or are not within their area of responsibility. It
provides only immunity, and thus does not provide for payment of legal defense
costs, judgments, and settlements. It does not protect against liability for
gross negligence, willful and wanton negligence, or similar extreme
Emergency management and homeland security laws:
State emergency management and homeland security statutes may provide limited
immunity from liability to individual CERT members who are working as registered
emergency or disaster workers. These laws sometimes provide indemnity as well.
They are most likely to protect CERT members who are ordered to activate and
participate in an official emergency response under the direction of an
emergency response agency. Members who self-activate under a standing order or
standard operating procedure may also be protected. Members who self-deploy
without any order are less likely to be protected by emergency management laws,
but they may still benefit from Good Samaritan protection. Check with an
attorney or risk manager to determine how activation methods affect CERT
members' liability protection. Historically, organizations (such as businesses)
that volunteer their resources in an emergency have not been provided with
similar liability protection. As the important role of businesses and nonprofit
organizations in emergency response has become more apparent, however, there is
increasing attention to protecting them as well. State laws are thus beginning
to incorporate protection for these important partners.
Liability insurance/self-insurance. Liability insurance is a form of indemnity and is an
important tool for protecting CERT members. It does not prevent an injured party
from suing and recovering damages, but, from a CERT member's perspective, the
protection of good liability insurance can be broader than immunity. Liability
insurance that covers emergency management volunteers is less likely to have
some of the exclusions and limitations that leave gaps in the protection offered
by immunity statutes, and, unlike immunity laws, liability insurance also
provides funds to pay defense costs, settlements, and judgments.
Thanks for the good read.
Volunteering has now become nothing but a tangled exercise in legal liability issues including, but not limited to, filing and shuffling around large volumes of triplicate paper forms/ documentation to cover your butt, printing large volumes of paper handouts and booklets for volunteers to study, memorize and test as a way of "volunteering."
Volunteering these days means you have been instructed on a various array of legal definitions, learned legal mumbo jumbo just like they learn in law school, it means you have been instructed in subjects such as OSHA and EPA regulations. The idea such as you have been trained and certified in something. For example, you hold various certifications and degrees in the vocation of "volunteering." Things such as Hazmat, you have graduated FEMA school etc etc etc..
Volunteering now officially means you have successfully demonstrated you have spent more actual time learning something inside a classroom, than the idea of actually spending any time volunteering anything out in the real world for anyone lol.
Volunteering now means you have been subjected to fingerprinting activities like a common criminal, had your photograph taken like you just robbed a convenience store, and it means you have been subjected to a background check investigation just like you are applying for a desk job at the FBI.
73 de Charles - KC8VWM
North American QRP CW Club #3159, SKCC# 5752
Good grief, get over it already. My goodness. You act as if the sky is falling because people are actually being trained in proper procedures during an emergency. I suppose you'd rather that any Tom, Dick, or Harry with a truck, radio, and magnetic sign that says Emergency Helper be allowed into disaster areas. The standards since 9/11 have been raised, and that's a good thing. Why you would whine about being properly trained is beyond me.
Originally Posted by KC8VWM
...Is that supposed to be "volunteering?"
Originally Posted by W9PSK
After all, no one is expecting a volunteer to function as a trained professional are they?
Nothing to get over really, already have the T shirt, extensive training etc.
73 de Charles - KC8VWM
North American QRP CW Club #3159, SKCC# 5752
Police and Sheriff's Departments certainly expect it of their reserve officers and reserve deputies.
Originally Posted by KC8VWM
The cynics are right nine times out of ten. - H.L. Mencken (1880 - 1956)
"For your own good" is a persuasive argument that will eventually make a man agree to his own destruction. - Janet Frame (1924 - 2004)
Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking. - Arthur Schopenhauer (1788 - 1860)
Sonoma County provided ACS volunteers liability coverage from the called up at location to designated site(s) and back home, by the shortest possible route. That meant, if it was a dirt track on the side of a mountain, any accident on the (longer) highway below it might not be covered.
I have volunteered for a few things in my time, and have had to have training to do some of them. Being a volunteer doesn't mean you should just be able to do whatever it is you are volunteering for without receiving training. In fact, I am currently a weather spotter and had to get training for it. No problem whatsoever. You act as if volunteering and training are should be mutually exclusive.
Originally Posted by KC8VWM
I don't mind the training. It's the $100k umbrella insurance requirement that bothers me.
This thread smells awfully familiar...
I solved the volunteer problem a couple years ago. If an organization wants more information than how to contact me--or has forms dealing with liability, background checks, and anything other than an orientation, I go find something else to occupy my time.
SKCC #4473, KLARA
ARRL VE Liason
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