NORTHEAST Miss. (WCBI)- Lowndes County Coroner Greg Merchant is always on call when a crime or natural disaster strikes. When hundreds of volunteers join a search, it can be helpful, but also a little stressful.
“We found during Katrina, we had a lot of people that self deployed and they were excellent help, but the problem came in that we had so many people respond. On a given day or given week that, if we could have coordinated their arrival and their efforts, we could’ve covered more ground, more days than kind of rushing in at one time,” said Merchant.
Merchant says many volunteers are unaware that there are certain procedures they need to follow.
“If it’s someone we’re trying to rescue, we’ve got to inform them what to do,” said Merchant.
Since Hurricane Katrina, the State of Mississippi requires anyone who wants to help out with a search, whether it’s in the woods, on the water or with a disaster clean up, must first register online with VIPR: Volunteer in Preparedness Registry . That way, if you’re out helping out, officials will know who and how many people are there with them.
Monroe County Sheriff Cecil Cantrell says having the general public turn out to volunteer is a good thing, but it must be done properly.
“Make sure you check in, so we know what area that you’re going be in. A volunteer, if he got deep in the woods or somewhere he could get misplaced, we’d like to know where you are. We don’t want to be out there looking for someone and then have to turn around and look for volunteers,” said Cantrell.
And if you find a body or evidence, do not pick it up.
“Come back and let the proper authorities, sheriff’s department, police department or whoever is out there. Let them know what you have found. Even if you think it’s not important, it may be important,” said Cantrell.
If you would like more information on where to sign up for the Volunteers in Preparedness Registry, go to https://signupms.org/