ITDRC volunteers enhance their IT skills through disaster recovery assistance
Posted on
October 1, 2019
Tech professionals volunteer their skills, through the ITDRC, to help communities devastated by natural disasters.
ITDRC volunteers participate in Hurricane Dorian relief efforts in the Bahamas.

In August of 2017, after Hurricane Maria struck the island of Puerto Rico, power and communications were down on the majority of the island. Fiber networks were thrashed, and more than 90 percent of cell towers were offline. The Information Technology Disaster Recovery Center (ITDRC)[1] received a request for assistance from the government of Puerto Rico, and immediately dispatched a team of volunteers and equipment. In the months that followed, more than 50 technical volunteers from the ITDRC worked to establish temporary communications in 80 sites — connecting survivors, responders, and key critical sites.[2]

Founded in 2008, ITDRC is a nationwide, volunteer-driven non-profit 501(c)(3) with more than 1,500 technical professionals throughout the United States and its territories. It deploys volunteer tech teams and resources to impacted communities after catastrophic events to provide emergency lifelines to responders and survivors.

Services such as temporary voice and network connectivity, phone lines, satellite communications and hardware — including Wi-Fi access points, computers, printers, radios, telephones, and power systems — are donated by ITDRC sponsor companies. All of this essential technology is installed and maintained by ITDRC volunteers.

Evidence of the value of involvement as a volunteer in career-related fields is pointedly expressed by a recommendation provided by Indeed.Com on its website,[3] and detailed below:

Why include volunteer work on a résumé? There are several reasons why you may want to include volunteer work on a résumé:
To provide information on transferable skills when changing careers or industries.
To give context when there are gaps in your résumé due to leaving the workforce for an extended period of time.
To add to a résumé with limited professional experience (important for recent college or high school graduates).
Volunteer work may also be beneficial for anyone applying to work in industries where such work is highly valued, such as non-profit organizations or positions in academia.

Help yourself by helping others

The importance of volunteer activities, particularly as it relates to students seeking their initial job in information technology and having limited work experience, is evident in the way colleges provide assistance in finding jobs for their students. According to Dr. Nancy Jones, the Dean of Instruction for Business and Career Education at Coastline Community College:

Degrees and certifications are certainly beneficial for students seeking their first job in IT. But they may not be enough. Even for those who have industry work experience, providing a history that evidences a passion for your work and the willingness to apply your IT related skills to help others are key characteristics that will push your résumé to the top of the stack. With Coastline's cybersecurity apprenticeship program,[4] we strongly recommend that students consider ITDRC as a possible avenue, particularly as they look towards IT career advancement.

For those considering the process associated with providing volunteer services with the ITDRC, there are specific prerequisites before you will be deployed as a volunteer. The first is applying for this role. The application is available online.[5]

Information asked in the application includes identifying your specific skills, certifications held, and specific FEMA courses you've taken. It is important to recognize that all applicants are not accepted. For applicants lacking experience it may be a good idea to get the FEMA training done before you apply, demonstrating a commitment to this volunteer opportunity.

The required trainings include the FEMA IS-100 and IS-700 courses.[6] They are available online. Completing the training requires that you take an online exam and achieve a passing score of 75 percent. If you pass the exam, then FEMA will issue a Certificate of Achievement, indicating you've taken and passed the course. (As an example, my certificate is included below.)

Before you can sign-up for the courses you must have a FEMA Student Identification Number (FIMA-SID).[7] That process is easy, but it should be noted that you are required to provide personal information that includes your birthday and birthplace.

Tech professionals volunteer their skills, through the ITDRC, to help communities devastated by natural disasters.

An important aspect in getting involved with ITDRC is the support it has garnered from industry, with a list of partners that include Google, Dell, Microsoft, and others. As an example of partnership action, Dell Services Director Jeff Poyner traveled to the Puerto Rico after the hurricane disaster with ITDRC and volunteered tirelessly to deliver supplies and set up emergency communications.

Poynter arranged for the shipment of more than 50 Dell Chromebooks for use by Puerto Rico residents at over 23 sites where he and ITDRC made internet-based communications possible.[8]

Tech professionals volunteer their skills, through the ITDRC, to help communities devastated by natural disasters.
ITDRC volunteers participate in Hurricane Dorian relief efforts in the Bahamas.

During last year's hurricane season ITDRC provided mobile networks and technical resources to more than 150 sites in 80 different communities after major hurricanes affected large areas of Southeast U.S. The efforts were in addition to ongoing recovery efforts from previous events including Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, which devastated the island of Puerto Rico.

With all that has happened this year as a consequence of the damage resulting from Hurricane Dorian, it looks as though ITDRC will be facing a similar level of recovery efforts. Please take the necessary steps to submit your volunteer application, and join me and other IT professionals with their efforts in providing much needed support when disaster strikes.


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About the Author

Steve Linthicum, while still active as an educator at the college and university levels across more than three decades, is looking at retiring in the near future. Focused on helping individuals achieve their certification objectives, Steve will continue to provide help for students as a volunteer.

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