Subject: [MCARES/MCRACES] ARRL PRESIDENT AIRS CONCERNS ABOUT
REQUIRED RED CROSS BACKGROUND CHECKS
Joel Harrison, W5ZN, is urging Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) and other
ham radio volunteers to tread cautiously when submitting information for
background checks the American Red Cross (ARC) now requires. The ARC, with which
the ARRL has a Statement of Understanding (SoU) <http://www.arrl. org/FandES/ field/mou/ redcro.html>, this summer notified local chapters that
volunteers and staff members must submit to criminal background checks by
October 31. Harrison says the requirement extends to ARES volunteers who support
Red Cross disaster relief efforts. In a statement <http://www.arrl. org/FandES/ field/RC- Background- Checks0610. pdf> October 24, Harrison said the League
recommends that anyone submitting personal information for a background check
very carefully read what they are giving the ARC permission to
"The Red Cross is requiring volunteers to grant permission for
more than just a criminal background check," Harrison asserted. "They are also
requiring permission to draw a consumer and/or investigative consumer report on
the volunteer." Harrison said that could also include credit and mode-of-living
"The Red Cross has stated that they will not use credit reports,"
he noted. "Requiring that volunteers authorize the procurement of a credit
report is inconsistent with this assurance."
The ARC has contracted with
MyBackgroundCheck. com LLC (MBC) to handle the on-line background checks.
Prospective volunteers visit a secure, encrypted Web site <http://www.mybackgr oundcheck. com/>, click on the ARC logo and submit name,
address, Social Security number (or other acceptable government ID), telephone
number, and date of birth. The Red Cross says the overall results of the
background check are not shared with the ARC.
In the course of applying,
prospective volunteers must agree to let MBC obtain a wide range of personal
information bearing not just on criminal background and creditworthiness but,
MBC says, "character, general reputation [and] personal characteristics. "
MBC advises, "The nature andscope of this disclosure and authorization is
all-encompassing . . ."
The Red Cross says its new policy is aimed at
safeguarding clients, volunteers and employees alike. "Unfortunately, in this
day and age it iscritical that the American Red Cross and other agencies,
employers andorganizations perform due diligence in researching the people who
will represent them," the ARC said in a statement supplied to ARRL.
ARC apparently has not disseminated policy specifics at the national level. The
only reliable information on what the background checks will entail is that on
the MBC site. Various chapter-level memoranda the ARRL has obtained contain
conflicting information about the program.
ARRL Field and Educational
Services Manager Dave Patton, NN1N -- whose department supports the ARRL
Field Organization -- is among those who believes the Red Cross stands to lose a
fair number of volunteers because of the requirement -- and not necessarily just
"ARES members who are providing communications for ARC
are working for ARC," Patton maintained, "and, as such, will follow their
guidelines." He said the decision to go along with the new Red Cross policy is
up to individual volunteers.
The SoU between the League and the ARC is
ambiguous as to whether ARES members become Red Cross volunteers when
supporting the ARC. While the document says "each organization retains its
own identity in providing service," it further stipulates that ARES volunteers
"in such cases when the operators are required to carry American Red Cross
identification" must register as American Red Cross volunteers. The SoU does not
address the issue of background checks, however. The SoU comes up for review
Radio amateurs who volunteered in the wake of Hurricane Katrina
last year and following 9/11 in New York City were badged through as ARC
volunteers. The practice still upsets some ARES volunteers.
Red Cross (toll-free 800-507-3960) with any questions regarding the
background check program.
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