Baton Rouge – Louisiana is looking for a few good men and women to help should there ever be a major health emergency. To make it easy for people to consider volunteering, the Department of Health – Office of Public Health has launched a Web site to recruit possible volunteers.

The Web site can be found at www.lava.dhh.louisiana.gov.

LAVA stands for Louisiana Volunteers in Action. This LDH program is responsible for developing and managing a volunteer workforce. Logging on to the LAVA Web site is an easy way for people to sign up to volunteer during health emergencies. In addition to recruiting volunteers, the site will allow the state to train, manage and deploy the volunteers. For medical professionals, the site is also able to handle all professional credentialing.

“This system will do background checks and medical license checks, which will ensure we get the best volunteers possible,” said LDH Secretary Alan Levine. “It will also be an important tool to communicate with volunteers and assist them with training opportunities.”

The need for such a volunteer workforce, as well as the need to manage volunteers, became apparent immediately following hurricanes Katrina and Rita. During that time, more than 8,500 people volunteered to help in shelters and clinics throughout the state. Unfortunately, there was much initial confusion as to how best to utilize each individual who wanted to help.

“One of the many lessons learned from our experiences with hurricanes is volunteers are crucial in supplementing the existing medical work force,” added Levine. “Not only will this tool help provide a solid base of volunteers who are at the ready, it will also allow us to better stage individuals so they will know where to go and what to do when they arrive.”

Today, the Department of Health has 2,831 volunteers in its database. Doris Brown, DHH’s director of the Center for Community Preparedness, said the agency’s goal is to recruit more doctors, nurses, pharmacists, emergency medical technicians, behavioral health specialists and other medical personnel as potential volunteers.

“We have a great need for volunteers who do not have medical backgrounds to consider registering to help,” Brown said. “The need for medical volunteers is pretty obvious, but there is an even greater need for a well-rounded pool of volunteers who can provide general support and assistance should a crisis strike.”

The new LDH LAVA Web site is funded through the National Hospital Bio-terrorism Preparedness grant and is supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s cooperative agreement.