Managing Spontaneous Volunteers in Times of Disaster

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Quick Facts

Publishing Organisation:
FEMA
Year:
2018
Languages:
English
Status:
Published
Covers Thematic
  • Unaffiliated volunteers
  • Target audience
  • Civil Society
  • Policy Makers
  • Practitioners
  • Audience experience level
  • Intermediate
  • Starter
  • Disaster Management Phase
  • After
  • Before
  • During
  • Mentions platforms
    Abstract

    PRINCIPLES

    The management of unaffiliated, often spontaneous, volunteers in times of emergency is guided by the following principles and values:

    • Volunteering and Community Life
      • Volunteering is a valuable part of every healthy community. Volunteers come from all segments of society and often provide essential services.
      • Everyone has the potential to contribute strength and resources in times of emergency.
    • The Value of Affiliation
      • Ideally, all volunteers should be affiliated with an established organization and trained for specific disaster response activities.
      • However, the spontaneous nature of individual volunteering is inevitable; therefore it must be anticipated, planned for, and managed.
    • Volunteer Involvement in the Four Phases
      • There are valuable and appropriate roles for unaffiliated spontaneous volunteers in mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery – as well as in other areas of community need.
      • The response phase provides an opportunity to direct volunteers toward longer-term affiliation and community involvement.
    • Management Systems
      • Volunteers are a valuable resource when they are trained, assigned, and supervised within established emergency management systems.
      • Similar to donations management, an essential element of every emergency management plan is the clear designation of responsibility for the on-site coordination of unaffiliated volunteers.
      • The Volunteer Coordination Team (VCT) is the mechanism for ensuring the effective utilization of this human resource.
    • Shared Responsibility
      • The mobilization, management, and support of volunteers is primarily a responsibility of local government and nonprofit sector agencies, with support from the state level.
      • Specialized planning, information sharing, and a management structure are necessary to coordinate efforts and maximize the benefits of volunteer involvement.
    • Volunteer Expectations
      • Volunteers are successful participants in emergency management systems when they are flexible, self-sufficient, aware of risks, and willing to be coordinated by local emergency management experts.
      • Volunteers must accept the obligation to “do no harm.”
    • The Impact on Volunteers
      • The priority of volunteer activity is assistance to others. When this spontaneous activity is well managed, it also positively affects the volunteers themselves and thus contributes to the healing process of both individuals and the larger community.
    • Build on Existing Capacity
      • All communities include individuals and organizations that know how to mobilize and involve volunteers effectively.
      • Emergency management experts and VOAD partners are encouraged to identify and utilize all existing capacity for integrating unaffiliated volunteers.
    • Information Management
      • Clear, consistent, and timely communication is essential to successful management of unaffiliated volunteers.
      • A variety of opportunities and messages should be utilized in order to educate the public, minimize confusion, and clarify expectations.
    • Consistent Terminology
      • When referring to volunteer involvement in emergency management, it is helpful to use consistent terminology. The following terms and definitions are recommended:
        • Affiliated volunteers are attached to a recognized voluntary or nonprofit organization and are trained for specific disaster response activities.
          • Their relationship with the organization precedes the immediate disaster, and they are invited by that organiza- tion to become involved in a particular aspect of emergency management.
        • Unaffiliated volunteers are not part of a recognized voluntary agency and often have no formal training in emergency response.
          • They are not officially invited to become involved but are motivated by a sudden desire to help others in times of trouble.
          • They come with a variety of skills.
          • They may come from within the affected area or from outside the area.

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