Frequently Asked Questions:

 

 

Background

What is ESAR-VHP?


The Emergency System for Advance Registration of Health Professionals (ESAR-VHP) is a State-based approach to establishing a national system for the registration and coordination of healthcare personnel and others who have indicated their interest in volunteering to provide aid in an emergency. Every State independently develops, maintains, operates, and directs an ESAR-VHP System. The Volunteer information is gathered and stored in a secure electronic database.

Congress, from Public Law 107-108, the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002, Section 107, authorized ESAR-VHP, the Emergency System for Advance Registration of Volunteer Health Professionals. The Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response is given the responsibility for ensuring that each State establishes an ESAR-VHP system. New Hampshire's ESAR-VHP system is a statewide, secure electronic database of pre-credentialed, active licensed health professionals and non-medical volunteers who are interested in volunteering their services in the event of a public health emergency within their community or outside their community.

Why was ESAR-VHP created?


Following the events of 9/11, professionals with healthcare-related skills were among those who wanted to volunteer their services, but without prior training and credentialing, they were unable to do so. The emergency management system was not equipped to handle the large number of volunteers who simply showed up.

The goal of ESAR-VHP is to standardize how states develop a pre-registration system for emergency volunteer health professionals. Part of the standardization is a common national credentialing system so volunteers can be easily identified to assist in an emergency response. Recent experience with large-scale disasters has consistently shown that an effective response requires that volunteers be pre-credentialed and deployed through a coordinated effort. Well meaning, but unaffiliated volunteers, who spontaneously arrive at disaster sites are often unable to be assigned. With limited time and resources to process volunteers, often only those with known credentials are permitted access to the disaster response. By registering with ESAR-VHP, volunteers can be part of an alert system and respond, when activated, to a significant disaster or public health emergency.

Who can volunteer for ESAR-VHP?


Licensed health professionals including physicians, physician assistants, registered nurses including advance practice nurses, pharmacists, dentists, nursing assistants, respiratory therapists and other allied health professionals, radiologic technologists and technicians, clinical laboratory technologists and technicians.

Public health professionals.

Mental/behavioral healthcare and social service professionals including psychologists, social workers, counselors, interpreters, and chaplains.

First Responders—such as EMTs and paramedics.

Veterinary Those who care for animals such as veterinarians and veterinary technicians

General Volunteers—ESAR-VHP also allows volunteers other than health professionals and retired health professionals to register on the system. Emergency public health response frequently needs people to help with patient registration or other logistical assistance not needing a health credential. Volunteers may be practicing, retired, college students or otherwise employed.

Why should I join?


Your knowledge, skills and training could be helpful in an emergency. By pre-registering, you help the State’s emergency preparedness community to better plan and prepare.

What is required for participation?


You must first register with the program at www.NHResponds.org .

If and when activation becomes necessary, the program administrators contact the volunteers to determine availability. You are never required to volunteer. As the program continues to develop or specific events arise, we may ask you to attend an orientation or other training to help you become better prepared to respond to emergencies.

How does ESAR-VHP work?


Once a volunteer has completed an application form on the NH Responds website, their professional credentials will be verified and an email will be sent noting the application approval. This information will become part of the ESAR-VHP statewide, secure database. The Director of the Emergency Services Unit of NH Health and Human Services, or his/her designee, is the one who may activate ESAR-VHP. Upon activation, an alert message (email, text message to cell phones, and/or voicemail) will be sent to ESAR-VHP volunteers describing the incident and the help desired.

 

Registration

Where can I register for ESAR-VHP?


Register online at www.NHResponds.org

Should I register for ESAR-VHP if I belong to another volunteer organization?


Yes. When you register, you will be asked if you are registered with other volunteer organizations. Following an emergency incident, the local or state Emergency Operations Center (EOC) may call upon a variety of volunteer organizations. Depending on the type of event and the scale of the event, different volunteer organizations may be involved. If you volunteer for a local Citizens Emergency Response Team (CERT) or MRC, you may not be called upon to support something in another part of the state or country, but your medical skills may be useful and you could be deployed as an ESAR-VHP volunteer if you are available.

What is the difference between ESAR-VHP and the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC), Disaster Behavioral Response Team (DBHRT), etc?


ESAR-VHP is primarily a registry of people who have indicated a willingness to volunteer, whereas MRC units are organized and active teams. Volunteers can choose to join either or both.

What information from ESAR-VHP volunteers will be shared and under what circumstances?


Persons who will have access to this information are ESAR-VHP program administrators. Your information will not be shared unless you are volunteering to respond and then only information pertinent to aid your deployment (e.g., to let the receiving organization know who you are and your credentials.).

Can I register in ESAR-VHP if I'm not currently licensed or if I do not have any experience or training in public health or healthcare?


Yes. Whether you are actively licensed, a student or retired health professional, or are have no health background and want to help in times of public health emergencies, you are encouraged to register.

If I am not currently employed, but keep my license current, how can I register?


Healthcare and behavioral health professionals who are not currently affiliated with a healthcare organization or related business through employment or membership are able to register in the program.

How will I be able to update my information?


You can log in at www.NHResponds.org using your username and password to update your information at any time.

Do I have to register now or may I decide if and when a crisis occurs?


We strongly recommend registration prior to an event, however it is not required. Advanced registration of healthcare volunteers is a fundamental objective of the program.

If I register, am I obligated to volunteer in an emergency?


No. When there is an emergency, you may be notified depending on the skills/professions needed and you will be able to make the decision whether to volunteer at that time.

What is expected of healthcare professionals who volunteer?


At a minimum, volunteers registered with ESAR-VHP must update their contact information in the online database if and when it changes.

Who do I contact if I have questions or concerns once I have registered?


 

System Email: esar-vhp@dhhs.state.nh.gov.

Adnela Alic, ESAR-VHP Coordinator
Phone: 603-271-9475
Email: Adnela.Alic@dhhs.state.nh.us

Deployment

Under what conditions will volunteers be contacted to provide emergency healthcare services?


Volunteers will be contacted in anticipation of a public health emergency if resources are expected to be inadequate, or after a public health incident when all other local, regional or statewide primary responder resources are not sufficient to meet the need for response and recovery efforts resulting from that incident, or if assistance is requested from another state or the federal government.

How will I be contacted in an emergency?


The ESAR-VHP Program office will provide all of the information about where to report, what credentials to bring, and any other requirements as communicated by the requesting organization.

What if I am called and am unable or unwilling to help?


When there is a call for volunteers, each person can make a decision regarding availability at that time. New Hampshire ESAR-VHP volunteers are never under any obligation to respond to a request for volunteers. Volunteers always retain the right to decline for any reason.

What about volunteer’s families, jobs and other commitments?


Volunteers are expected to coordinate their volunteer time with the needs of their family, their employers, and any other obligations relative to an emergency response. We recognize that some volunteers may belong to several response organizations as part of their employment (hospital, EMS, etc.) or other volunteer activity (MRC, Red Cross, etc) which may limit or exclude their ability to respond depending on the type of public health emergency.

What kind of tasks would I be assigned?


The response managers and volunteer administrators will make an assessment of training needs and appropriate assignments. You will be working under the local incident command system and clinical authorities at the site.

Will my employer be notified by the government or do I need to do that?


You will need to work with your employer to negotiate time away from work.

Are there any provisions for compensating me for time lost from work or other expenses? Will I be compensated for my expenses such as housing, transportation and meals?


There are no provisions for compensating volunteers through the NH ESAR-VHP system, however requesting authorities (e.g., another state or the federal government) may provide reimbursement for expenses. If you are asked to volunteer, you will receive additional information regarding expense reimbursement.

What is the level or length of volunteer commitment in an emergency?


Once notified of the emergency or crisis, each volunteer will determine their current availability, based on the following:
What kind of incident are you willing to respond to?
What distance are you willing to travel?
How long are you willing to be deployed?

Can I be asked to volunteer out of state? Do I have to go out of state?


Yes, you may be asked, but you are under no obligation to volunteer out of state.

What kind of risks may I be exposed to in an emergency?


You may be needed in different types of emergencies, including floods, hurricanes, large fires, and human/terrorist caused events. Again, no one is under any obligation to respond to an event to offer assistance if they do not feel adequately trained or protected.

What are the volunteer’s roles in large-scale disasters or public health emergencies?


Every attempt will be made to match skills, competencies and license or registration levels of each volunteer with responsibilities needed during an ESAR-VHP response. On occasion, however, a volunteer may be asked to assist with activities that are less challenging than their usual professional activities.

Legal Issues

What happens if I’m injured or become ill as a result of my service as a volunteer?


Volunteer emergency management workers are entitled to the same rights as to compensation for injuries as are provided by law for the employees of this state when activated by the state or political subdivision. NH Rev. Stat. § 21-P:41(VI)(c) (2002).

What insurance liability do I have as a volunteer?


This depends largely on who activates you. Different laws, insurance and regulations apply depending on who authorizes you to serve.

To what extent will I be covered by government-provided liability insurance?


Emergency management workers, when activated by the state or a political subdivision, may include volunteers, entitling them to a waiver of licensure requirements, immunity from civil liability and workers compensation protection. NH Rev. Stat. § 21-P:41 (2002).

Training

What kind of training will I receive?


ESAR-VHP volunteers may receive training as needed at the site where they will be directed to report during an emergency. ESAR-VHP volunteers are urged to take advantage of training offered by local and state organizations.

Where can I get information about local or regional preparedness contacts and activities, including training?


The ESAR-VHP program office will be a source for information about training and regional contact information. Your regional Medical Reserve Corps will be a good source of information and training opportunities.