THE ROLE OF THE PRIMARY CONTACT
The Primary Contact for the Community Response Plan is responsible for the overall management of all search activities and volunteer efforts. The volunteer designated to the Primary Contact position must establish a relationship with, and become the principal liaison with, the police. A clear understanding should be reached between the Primary Contact and the police defining the lines and boundaries of the Community Response Plan and the police investigation. The level of trust generated between the Primary Contact and the police is of key importance and will ultimately determine the effectiveness of the recovery efforts.
The volunteer that accepts the position of Primary Contact cannot forget that he or she will be working with volunteers who are in a highly-charged emotional state. For many, this will be one of the most stressful events in which they will ever be involved. Emotions experienced by volunteers can manifest themselves throughout the search in various ways: anger, depression, fear, and anxiety. Be on guard for warning signs that may indicate impending conflicts between core members that could compromise the effectiveness of the Community Response Plan Team. Address these situations as soon as possible, as these problems can escalate very rapidly. Be aware that these highly-charged emotional states will be an ongoing challenge that will continue long after the recovery efforts have ceased.
The Primary Contact should hold regular briefings and meetings with the Community Response Plan Team, and is responsible for keeping the group informed when it is appropriate and necessary. All information should be funnelled to the Primary Contact to ensure appropriate action is taken (i.e. informing the police, documenting details, disseminating information, etc.). An essential quality required for the role of Primary Contact is leadership skills. The Primary Contact needs to make sure that all key members of the Community Response Plan Team are reporting to him/her regularly. This also allows for the exchange of ideas, for problem solving, and for the management of ethical or sensitive issues.
The Primary Contact is responsible for ensuring that any and all information received by the Community Response Plan Team is appropriately documented and promptly forwarded to the police. The following Information Tracking Sheet can be used to manage all information with regard to a missing child that may assist in the child’s location. Remember that any information, no matter how insignificant it may seem, needs to be documented in this way. How the information will be used will be determined by the police.
The Primary Contact should give a copy of the Information Tracking Sheet both to the Historian (note: an assistant to the Administrative Coordinator, the main duty of the Historian is to acquire one copy of each essential document generated during the Community Response Plan) and to the police. Don’t expect a follow up on tips forwarded to the police. Sending all information to police is the best practice. The significance of a small piece of information may not be obvious in isolation, but may prove to be critical when considered by police in the context of all of the information they have available to them.