Though it may not seem like it, one of the most important things we do (and apparently most difficult for some team members) is log volunteer hours. From the very early days of the Academy, new members are told to keep track of their hours and then enter them into the database on the website.
Why do we do this? Logging hours provides a means for record-keeping and, at the end of the year, all those hours are compiled and presented to the Office of the Sheriff. The hours demonstrate both how much time team members contribute and how that time is distributed. Last year, CoCoSAR members put in some 40,000 hours!
Included in this record-keeping is a way to determine whether or not members are maintaining their expected contribution of 10 hours per month (averaged throughout the year), and how many searches and trainings each member attends. Those who fall behind will receive “counseling” to address any concerns and after a period of time, if the hours do not pick up, those individuals are asked to leave the team.
Because members sometimes are confused about what hours to log – how many and for what activities – it helps on occasion to clarify the terms. As Capt. Kovar has stated, “People should use their best judgment when logging hours.”
That said, the following are legitimate activities to be logged:
- All searches, from “portal to portal,” which means from the time you leave your home/office (or wherever) until you return (discounting any stops for non-SAR business)
- All trainings as above, from portal to portal
- All hours spent proctoring an event, as above
- All approved and/or calendared activities that are undertaken, such as planning meetings, writing for the Callout, building items for USAR trainings, helping with logistics, hiding for the dogs, etc.
- All Command Staff and staff meetings
- All calendared T-1, 2 or 3 hikes, whether as an official hike participant or not
The following should NOT be logged:
- Hours studying for EMR or any other at-home practice
- Time shopping for or packing up/rehabbing gear
- Social events (whether calendared or not)
The other issue some members have is in deciding under which category to log items. It is important not to lump times for separate activities together. If, for instance, you go on a training that then morphs into a search, be sure to separate those hours and log them appropriately. Planning meetings would be considered “staff functions,” as would writing Callout articles. Hiding for the dogs, logistics, etc. would fall under the category of training. And so on. Be specific in your description, as well, such as “Lucido search,” rather than simply “search” and “USAR monthly training” rather than just “training.”
Get in the habit of logging hours right away after an activity if you have easy access to the website. Or, if you don’t, keep a simple written log by your gear that you update as soon as you return from each event. Then just be sure to upload the info every couple of weeks at least. It only takes a few minutes to stay on top of it and you’ll be glad you did.