SEARCH OPERATIONS AND VOLUNTEERS
When a child is missing, individuals are generally very motivated and willing to help with the search efforts. Volunteers can be a huge asset in the search for a missing child if they are responsibly managed and coordinated.
Every person involved in the Community Response Plan, and particularly the search operations, must be registered as a volunteer. One of the duties of the Administrative Coordinator is organizing the volunteer registration process. Registration must include documentation of first name, last name, and contact information (address, phone number and email address if you plan to communicate by email). Be sure to request and examine proof of identification. Photographic identification is recommended (e.g. driver’s license or passport). If photographic identification is not available, consider examining a piece of identification that includes a current address (such as a medical card). For picture identification, you should look at the identification photo and compare it to the individual standing before you, and if you have the capacity and/or facilities to do so, take a photocopy of the identification or record the number associated with the identification. If you take photocopies, keep in mind that such information is highly sensitive and can be misused for identity fraud or other purposes, so you must store the photocopies securely and either destroy them once the search efforts are complete, or turn them over to police services.
Most volunteers will understand why you need to verify their identity and why you need to keep records of their involvement in the search, but some people may be wary of permitting you to take photocopies of their identification. Providing identification is voluntary, however, those who choose not to provide an appropriate form of identification may be politely excused from your effort.
Information about volunteers may be needed by the police in the future. Police may be able to run background checks on volunteers without written consent, but you cannot conduct formal background checks without the volunteer’s written consent. The form of consent required for such checks will vary by jurisdiction, and the type of search you are carrying out. You should work with the missing children services organization that is helping you to ensure you do what you can to screen potential volunteers.
It is also advised that you take group photographs of search teams or volunteers throughout the search effort, together with lists of the names of the volunteers in the pictures where possible.
At each search event, it is important that every volunteer sign in. The role of the Administrative Coordinator also includes coming to each event and setting up a table to help with volunteer sign-in. While you may choose not to use the other sections of the Community Response Plan, if you are engaging in a search effort, you will need the assistance of an Administrative Coordinator or a designated individual to coordinate volunteers.
Pre-existing organizations can be a good source for volunteers (e.g. public service organizations, community centres, church groups, etc.). These groups may be able to quickly provide individuals interested in helping with the search, and these organizations may have already screened their members.