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GF city, county to ask sandbagging volunteers to fill out injury waiver form

For the first time, Grand Forks city and county leaders will ask sandbagging volunteers to sign papers waiving any right to worker's compensation for backs broken under the heavy labor of flood fighting.

For the first time, Grand Forks city and county leaders will ask sandbagging volunteers to sign papers waiving any right to worker's compensation for backs broken under the heavy labor of flood fighting.

Jim Campbell, emergency manager for Grand Forks County and the City of Grand Forks, got approval for the idea Tuesday from the Grand Forks County Commission.

"It's the first time we've done this," he said.

The two-page form is for those 18 and older, but also includes places for parents and guardians to sign for minors, who "hereby agree to this consent, waiver and release of liability."

The signee recognizes "that the sandbagging operations will involve physical labor and may carry a risk of personal injury," and promises "to assume all risks which may be associated with or may result from my participation in this effort."

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The waiver releases the state of North Dakota and anyone in state government who might have anything to say about just about anything "from the cost of any medical care" that any signee might need from sandbagging for no pay.

The form also includes a blank, where the county and/or the city can fill itself in to be released and discharged from any liability for any loss, injury illness or attorney's fees for anything that happens during sandbagging by a volunteer/signee.

In other words, no worker's comp, no lawsuits.

The waiver forms will be available at Sandbag Central.

Despite never having such waivers signed before, Campbell said there never have been worker's comp claims or lawsuits filed against the county or city by sandbagging volunteers.

Campbell also got the commission to sign off on:

*A flood response plan that outlines everyone's authority and job.

*An emergency declaration that will spur state and federal aid and actions in flood-fighting.

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*A new plan to tap into senior citizens through the RSVP group, (Retired and Senior Volunteer Program) for the first time to use such expertise in flood fighting in an organized way.

*Sign a mutual aid memo with UND, so FEMA funds can be used to reimburse students, staff and faculty who help in flood fighting.

*A new procedure with county employees who are exempt from being paid overtime, such as social service employees, to be able to be paid overtime for doing flood fighting after their regular work day. Some social services employees put in yeoman-like hours volunteering in the EOC and in sandbagging last year, after their regular work day, and never were paid for it, Campbell said. The commission's activating of a certain provision in the employee handbook makes it possible that FEMA will reimburse the county for paying such workers to do after-hours flood fighting, Campbell said.

Although the flood came faster than expected, his office and other county and city officials were able to get things up to speed with a minimum of problems because, Campbell said in so many words, this is not their first rodeo.

He said the Emergency Operations Center will open today and will be staffed, by eight or 10 people, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., every day until things change.

Reach Lee at (701) 780-1237; (800) 477-6572, ext. 237; or send e-mail to slee@gfherald.com .

Related Topics: 2010 FLOODSGRAND FORKS COUNTY
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