Last year New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a law requiring background checks to ensure volunteer firefighters weren’t carrying sex offense convictions. It’s up to individual fire companies to decide whether a prospective volunteer is fit to serve, in spite of a past sex offense, but everyone gets screened.
In Rush County, Ind., volunteers for Community Emergency Response Teams(CERTs) must submit to an even broader check, one that encompasses all past criminal history.
At first blush it might seem counter intuitive to run background checks on volunteers. These people have stepped up to help; they certainly appear to be of goodwill.
Yet advocates of background checks cite a number of reasons why a CERT or other response organization should dig into the history of potential volunteers. The emergency management community seems to be heeding these calls: Around the nation, volunteers at a range of levels are having their histories poked and prodded before they’re allowed to join the team.