Meet ELI-V – a tool developed by the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health and its partners at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Allegheny County Health Department (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), and Mahoning, Trumbull, and Columbiana Counties (Ohio). ELI-V helps individuals navigate through over 1,500 legal summaries impacting volunteer participation in preparing for or responding to disasters.
Volunteers are a vital disaster response asset - they are critical for both national health security and emergency response and recovery efforts. For example, volunteers were invaluable in responding to terrorist attacks (such as 9/11 and the Boston Marathon bombings), natural disasters (Hurricanes Katrina and Irene, Superstorm Sandy, and the Joplin, Missouri tornados) and infectious disease emergencies (like the H1N1 Influenza pandemic).
Volunteers come from a wide variety of backgrounds, including clinical and non-clinical professions, which is both beneficial and challenging. Diversity is a strength because it allows participation in numerous activities, like training exercises, establishment of emergency sheltering, provision of disaster medical support, and coping with medical facility surge capacity. But the lack of uniformity also creates division, impedes the standardization of volunteer programs, and makes it difficult to create a baseline for knowledge and skills.
Another important issue for volunteers is concern over legal matters. A 2012 Department of Health and Human Services survey of the Medical Reserve Corps showed that nearly one-third of unit leaders were concerned that legal issues negatively impact their ability to recruit volunteers. One-quarter felt legal concerns impede volunteer response.
Identifying legal issues and accessing laws can be difficult, even for lawyers. Although many laws are available on the internet, how can volunteers identify those impacting them specifically? How can they be sure all of the laws relevant to their activities are identified? And how do they know if the laws are updated and current?
ELI-V removes these barriers and gives users clear, concise summaries of those laws impacting participation in emergency activities. The laws are searchable by profession and jurisdiction so users can identify the provisions that impact them specifically.
Let us know what you think at ELI@pitt.edu. We look forward to hearing from you!