Andre Kesteloot andre.kesteloot at verizon.net
Sat Oct 28 08:55:53 CDT 2006


ARRL President 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 collect.

"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 checks.

"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.mybackgroundcheck.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 and
scope 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 is
critical that the American Red Cross and other agencies, employers and
organizations perform due diligence in researching the people who will
represent them," the ARC said in a statement supplied to ARRL.

The 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 volunteers.

"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

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 in 2007.

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.

Contact the Red Cross (toll-free 800-507-3960) with any questions regarding
the background check program.

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