...Hurdles For Pilots Seeking To Volunteer

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"We have a critical need for airplanes and helicopters given the wide geographic expanse and difficult terrain," James Morris, head of the U.N. World Food Program, said Friday. "We would be very grateful if countries were able to urgently help us meet our air transport needs." Yet some pilots who have volunteered to help have been turned away. Mike Smith, an official with the American Red Cross of Alaska, told the Anchorage Daily News he's gotten hundreds of calls and e-mails from pilots who want to help. "But we don't have the mechanism to support them," he said. Relief agencies generally cannot cope with bringing inexperienced volunteers to a disaster site and taking responsibility for their well-being, according to the Center for International Disaster Information (CIDI). However, pilots who want to register their skills for disaster relief can do so online. Registering does not guarantee that a relief agency will send you on a relief assignment, the CIDI says, but it may serve as a resource to make useful information about your skills and experience accessible to relief agencies when they need to find personnel to meet specific emergency needs and they've exhausted their existing rosters. Volunteers generally must be willing to spend at least three months at the disaster site.