COVID-19 Volunteer Protocols

Latest update: June 29, 2020

We have lifted the suspension on both outdoor individual and group volunteer activities. If you are volunteering please follow our protocols detailed below. If you have questions please email [email protected].

In developing our protocols we spoke with an epidemiologist, pathologist, and several other organizations in the healthcare field.
 

A.T. Volunteers: Additional guidance, indicated in italicized boxes, comes from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) and only applies to volunteers on the Appalachian Trail. A.T. volunteers are responsible for adhering to all Trail Conference protocols as well as the additional content in these italicized boxes.

Full Appalachian Trail Volunteer Protocols are located at the following link, with the most relevant portions summarized throughout this page in the boxes. All A.T. volunteers must complete their online acknowledgement form. This includes watching a 16-minute video, reviewing the JHA (Job Hazard Analysis) document, and then submitting the Re-Engagement Acknowledgement form on the webpage. Each volunteer should allocate 30 minutes to complete this review and acknowledgement. https://appalachiantrail.org/get-involved/volunteer/safety/covid-19/.

 

Outdoor Individual Volunteering Protocols

Full Protocols

This includes:

  • Trail maintenance
  • Shelter caretaking
  • GIS mapping
  • Invasives surveying
  • Solo garden work
  • Corridor monitoring (Only once ATC lifts their suspension)

 

Outdoor Group Volunteering Protocols

Full Protocols
Quick Field Guide (Clearly defines requirements vs. best practices) [PDF version available here]
Disclaimer Regarding COVID-19 for Outdoor Group Outings

This includes:

  • Ad hoc/one-off trips led by volunteer leaders (such as maintenance trips)
  • Chainsaw work
  • Conservation Corps
  • Habitat Helpers
  • Invasives Strike Force Crew
  • Trail Crews

 


Outdoor Individual Volunteering Protocols

This includes:

  • Trail maintenance
  • Shelter caretaking
  • GIS mapping
  • Invasives surveying
  • Solo garden work
  • Corridor monitoring (Only once ATC lifts their suspension)

Outdoor Individual Volunteering Protocols

  1. First off, there is ZERO pressure to resume volunteering and NO requirements are being made of anyone. Always consider the health of yourself and your loved ones first–the trails will still be there when you’re ready.
  2. Check with the land manager of each park in your region to ensure that it’s open to both hikers and volunteers. For example, National Park Service units such as the Appalachian Trail are open to hikers but are still closed to volunteer activity. It is up to each volunteer to know the local rules and behave accordingly.
    • Trail Maintainers: Please check with your trail supervisor about your park’s status and treat them as your main contact for questions about your park. We want to limit the amount of emails and calls a park office receives from volunteers, as many of our partners are already overloaded with questions and visitors.
  3. If your assignment is located in a community currently less impacted, such as in the Catskills, and you are traveling from a highly infected region, please be mindful and consider respectfully holding off on traveling to help prevent spread of the virus to those communities.
  4. If you volunteer in a popular park that has been seeing overcrowding, consider only going on weekdays or waiting a few weeks until crowding subsides.
  5. Maintain physical distancing at all times on the trail and at the trailhead–even if that means you are consistently the person to step off and provide space. It is highly recommended you wear a mask whenever others are present.
  6. Above all, use common sense and put the safety of yourself, others, and the community as a whole first. Remember: We are all in this together and must take care of one another.
  7. The reporting deadline for trail work will remain the same since activities after this season fall into next season’s report. We understand there will be fewer reports than usual.

A.T. Volunteers: Volunteers must post provided signage at trailheads and at overnight sites indicating that A.T. shelters and privies are not disinfected for COVID-19. Find available signage here: https://appalachiantrail.org/get-involved/volunteer/safety/covid-19/


Outdoor Group Volunteering Protocols

This includes:

  • Ad hoc/one-off trips led by volunteer leaders (such as maintenance trips)
  • Chainsaw work
  • Conservation Corps
  • Habitat Helpers
  • Invasives Strike Force Crew
  • Trail Crews

 

Key Highlights

In developing our protocols we spoke with an epidemiologist, pathologist, and several other organizations in the healthcare field. Their expertise helped us develop the full set of protocols, but the points they stressed are:

  1. Protect yourself: If you are part of the vulnerable population and/or have any underlying conditions it is strongly encouraged you hold off on volunteering.
  2. Protect your fellow volunteers: If you have ANY symptoms, even if you believe it’s just a sneeze from allergies, do not attend a group outing.
  3. Hand and face hygiene: Never touch your face until the gloves have come off and you’ve sanitized your hands. You cannot clean your hands enough. Every time the gloves come off? Sanitize. Need to adjust your eye protection? Sanitize. Ready to eat a snack? Sanitize. (Speaking of snacks, no sharing food.)
  4. Physical distancing: A minimum of 6 feet is required at all possible times (anything less and a mask is required). When you are physically exerting yourself or speaking loudly it’s best to increase the distance to as much as 15 feet.
  5. Wearing a mask: A mask is required whenever there is less than 6 feet between participants. If an activity requires less than 6 feet distance between participants, then keep it as brief and infrequent as possible.

 

Full Protocols for Resuming Outdoor Group Outings

  1. There is ZERO pressure to resume volunteering and NO requirements are being made of anyone. Always consider the health of yourself and your loved ones first–the trails will still be there when you’re ready. If you are part of the vulnerable population and/or have any underlying conditions it is strongly encouraged you hold off on volunteering.
  2. If you are exhibiting ANY symptoms, even if you believe it’s just a sneeze from allergies, do NOT attend a group outing.
     

    A.T. Volunteers: The CDC Self-Checker on the agency’s coronavirus webpage (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html) should be used to self-screen if you have any questions about your own health. Scroll down until you see the “Self-Checker” box, then click it.


     
  3. There is no carpooling with other participants, unless you’re from the same household.
  4. Trip Leaders:
    • Check with the land manager of each park your working in to ensure that it’s open to both hikers and volunteers. For example, the Appalachian Trail is open to hikers but is still closed to volunteer activity. It is up to the trip leaders to know the local rules and inform their group accordingly.
    • Email out prior or state at the beginning of the day, the COVID-19 disclaimer to participants.
       

      A.T. Volunteers:  Remind all participants to complete their online acknowledgement form (https://appalachiantrail.org/get-involved/volunteer/safety/covid-19/) before starting work. This includes watching a 16-minute video, reviewing the JHA (Job Hazard Analysis) document, and then submitting the Re-Engagement Acknowledgement form on the webpage. Each volunteer should allocate 30 minutes to complete this review and acknowledgement.

       

  5. Maximum number of workers in a group is 10 people to keep things manageable and ensure safety protocols are feasibly upheld. This includes leaders and all participants. If a project covers a length of trail/area that allows for multiple groups to work simultaneously while remaining entirely separated and has multiple leaders, then each may lead a separate group of 10 that remains distanced from the others.
    • For example: Crew TC has 15 members who can participate in a crew day and has two distinct projects that are well distanced apart. Crew TC designates two leaders and splits the crew into two work groups who will operate separately and will not co-mingle at any point.        
    • To start, only existing volunteers who have been previously trained/have experience may join group activities. Work trips will not be promoted to the public and members of the public passing by may not join ad hoc. This will be reevaluated in the future.
       

      A.T. Volunteers: ATC has different phases that inform allowed group size. For instance, certain parts of our region are currently in Phase 2 (Local, county-level COVID-19 cases decreasing for 14 days), which means that A.T. volunteers are restricted to maintaining groups of no more than 4 people (instead of 10, as stated above). When working on the A.T. follow ATC's phases here: https://appalachiantrail.org/get-involved/volunteer/safety/covid-19/


       
  6. All persons participating in a work trip will be required to sign a COVID-19 waiver.
  7. Required Personal Protective Equipment as it pertains to COVID-19 (this is not a full PPE list):
    • PPE that each participant is responsible for having their own:
      • Work gloves
      • Protective eyewear
      • Mask
    • PPE funded by the Trail Conference that trip leaders should have:
      • Disinfection:
        • Disinfectant for hands/people (i.e Hand sanitizer)
        • Disinfectant for tools and hard hats (see bullet 10 for details)
        • Trash bags to carry disposed rags
      • Spare masks (intended for those who accidentally drop/lose a mask while out working)
      • Yard signs alerting the public to an upcoming crew so they will put their masks on  
      • Trip leaders: For logistics on procuring items please email [email protected]
  8. Physical Distancing and Masks:
    • A minimum of 6 feet is required at all possible times. A mask is required whenever there is less than 6 feet between participants.
      • If an activity requires less than 6 feet distance between participants, then best practice is to keep it as brief and infrequent as possible. If the activity would be prolonged, then try to hold off on it until coronavirus conditions are safer.
      • When you are physically exerting yourself or speaking loudly it’s a best practice to increase the distance to as much as 15 feet.
    • A mask is required to be worn by anyone talking loudly (such as when addressing a group). Projecting the voice lends to a higher volume of droplets being released by the speaker which is why a mask is required.
    • If members of the public are passing through and are not going around the work site, participants should step off the trail and provide 6 feet distance or put on their mask.
  9. Never touch your face until the gloves have come off and you’ve sanitized your hands. You cannot clean your hands enough. Every time the gloves come off? Sanitize. Need to adjust your eye protection? Sanitize. Ready to eat a snack? Sanitize. (Speaking of snacks, no sharing food.)
  10. Tools, shared PPE and disinfection: Risk of infection from a surface is low. However, there is still a small amount of risk when it comes to shared tools and PPE. To help minimize this small risk even more, experts recommended, and we are requiring:
    • When possible bring your own personal tools that won’t be shared (i.e. handsaws, clippers, etc.)
    • Shared PPE, such as hard hats, shall not be transferred between participants during the day.
    • Disinfect shared tools and PPE (such as hard hats) at the end of the workday, to the best of your ability. Per CDC guidelines:
      • Remove grime as much as possible. Use water (ideally a premixed bottle of soapy water) and a disposable rag to remove dirt and debris.
      • Follow by disinfecting with an approved cleaner that is appropriate for outdoor use and won’t harm the environment. We highly recommend a bleach mixture (add 4 teaspoons of bleach to 1 quart or 1 liter of water).
         

        A.T. Volunteers: In the event that tool/equipment sharing is unavoidable, all tools/equipment must be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected using EPA registered disinfectants (https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/list-n-disinfectants-use-against-sars-cov-2-covid-19) before being handed off. Frequently touched surfaces (for example, all tools, equipment, vehicles) should also be cleaned, sanitized, and disinfected multiple times per day.


         
  11. We ask that all groups share their trip dates with [email protected] and their appropriate Program Coordinator. Due to legal liability and to ensure the safety of all volunteers, Trail Conference staff will be stopping by work trips so we understand how protocols are being implemented in the field and to evaluate their effectiveness and feasibility.
  12. In the case that somebody from a work trip tests positive we will be providing the list of participants of that group to the state for contact tracing. For safety reasons, the group with an infected member will be suspended for 14 days while they quarantine.


Condensed Field Guide (Clearly defines requirements vs. best practices)

[PDF version available here]

 

A.T. Volunteers: ATC has also developed their own condensed field guide which can be found here: https://appalachiantrail.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Volunteer-Re-Engagement-RecommendationsV4.pdf

 

Protocol Required Best Practice
Protect yourself and others
  • Do NOT attend if you are exhibiting ANY symptoms, even if you think it’s just allergies
  • No carpooling with other participants who are from outside your household
  • Sanitize your hands as much and frequently as possible
  • No sharing food
  • If you are part of the vulnerable population and/or have any underlying conditions hold off on volunteering
  • Never touch your face until the gloves have come off and you’ve sanitized your hands. Wear eye pro at all times as a reminder to not touch your eyes
Participants
  • Maximum number of workers in a group is 10 people (includes leaders and all participants). If a project has multiple leaders, each may lead a separate group of 10 that remains distanced from the others
  • All participants must agree to the COVID-19 disclaimer
  • Only existing volunteers who have been previously trained/have experience may join group activities
 
COVID-19 PPE
  • Each participant must bring their own:
    • Mask
    • Work gloves
    • Protective eyewear
  • Each trip leader must procure (funded by TC):
    • Disinfectant for hands/people
    • Disinfectant for tools/hard hats
    • Trash bags to carry disposed rags
  • Each participant brings their own personal disinfectant for hands
  • Each trip leader has (funded by TC):
    • Spare masks
    • Yard signs
Physical Distancing and Masks
  • Minimum of 6 feet at all possible times
  • Masks are on whenever there is less than 6 feet between participants
  • Masks are to be worn by anyone talking loudly
  • Step off the trail and provide 6 feet distance or put on a mask if members of the public are passing through
  • If an activity requires less than 6 feet distance between participants, keep it as brief and infrequent as possible
  • When physically exerting yourself or speaking loudly increase physical distance to as much as 15 feet
Tools & PPE Disinfection
  • Shared PPE, such as hard hats, shall not be transferred between participants during the day
  • Disinfect shared tools and PPE at the end of the workday. Per CDC guidelines:
    • Use water (ideally a premixed bottle of soapy water) and a disposable rag to remove dirt
    • Follow by disinfecting with approved cleaners that won’t harm the environment. We highly recommend a bleach mixture (add 4 teaspoons of bleach to 1 quart or 1 liter of water)
  • When possible bring your own personal tools that won’t be shared (i.e. handsaws, clippers, etc.)
Trip Leader Tasks
  • Ensure the land manager approves of volunteer work
  • Share your schedule with [email protected] and your PC
  • Accept site visits from TC staff
  • Email prior or read day of the COVID-19 disclaimer to participants
 

     

    Disclaimer Regarding COVID-19 for Outdoor Group Outings

    [PDF version available here]

    The New York-New Jersey Trail Conference has implemented enhanced safety protocols for all group volunteer outings. You must follow all protocols while participating in volunteer activities.

    An inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public place where people are present. COVID-19 is an extremely contagious disease that can lead to severe illness and death. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, senior citizens and people with underlying medical conditions are especially vulnerable.

    By participating in a group outing you:

    • Acknowledge the existence of the COVID-19 virus and voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19. 
    • Affirm you have not tested positive for COVID-19, do not have symptoms of COVID-19 (i.e. cough, fever, shortness of breath), and have not within the last 14 days arrived from or been in contact with someone who has travelled abroad.
    • Agree that in the case someone from the group tests positive, the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference can provide your contact information to the state for contact tracing.
    • Agree that the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference and its staff and volunteers will not be liable to you as a result of the COVID-19 virus causing injury, illness or other damages arising from the attendance at a group outing.

     

       

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