Spring in Minnesota typically means flooding. With our record-breaking snowfall this year, water levels are expected to be especially high. Cities may seek the assistance of volunteers to manage flooding issues, so it is important to be aware of any liability and insurance concerns.
County Emergency Management
City’s should contact their County Emergency Management Manager. The County EM should be able to give them some guidance on what to do, when to do it, and information on equipment and resources.
MnWARN - Utilities Helping Utilities
Mission: To promote and support a statewide response to utility emergencies and disasters through mutual assistance for water, wastewater, and stormwater utilities in Minnesota.
MnWARN's Informational Video
LMCIT: Coverage, Volunteers, and Communication
Minn. Stat. § 12.22, subd. 2a, provides as follows:
Subd. 2a. Volunteer protections. (a) Individuals who volunteer to assist a local political subdivision during an emergency or disaster, who register with that subdivision, and who are under the direction and control of that subdivision are considered an employee of that subdivision for purposes of workers' compensation and tort claim defense and indemnification.
It is likely volunteers assisting the city with flood protection would be covered by the abovementioned statute. Accordingly, a flood volunteer would also be covered by the city's LMCIT liability and workers' compensation coverage. Cities should understand they are liable if their flood volunteers are negligent or if they are injured while assisting the city.
The abovementioned law also provides that a city volunteer assisting a city in a disaster or emergency is considered a city employee, if the volunteer is registered with and working under the direction and control of the city. Therefore, cities should likely have some type of sign-in process to meet this registration requirement and maintain a record of the individuals volunteering. Cities should also provide some direction and control over volunteers.
Liability coverage for volunteers is discussed beginning on page 47 of our LMCIT Liability Coverage Guide: https://www.lmnc.org/media/document/1/lmcitliabilitycoverageguide.pdf?inline=true
For more information, please see page 3 of our Providing Assistance in Emergencies: Coverage and Liability Issues information memo: https://www.lmc.org/media/document/1/providingassistanceinemergencies.pdf?inline=true
Chapter 12 of the League's Handbook for Minnesota Cities, Public Safety and Emergency Management, also includes a model proclamation declaring a local emergency on the left side of page 5: https://www.lmnc.org/media/document/1/publicsafetyandemergencymanagement.pdf?inline=true
For more information on communicating to your residents and other stakeholders during a city crisis, please see our Guide for Communication During a City Crisis: https://www.lmc.org/media/document/1/crisiscommguide.pdf?inline=true
By: Joe Ingebrand, Sr. Loss Control Consultant