Managing Volunteers During Disaster:
Basic Guiding Principles
Preparation is key in regard to emergency management. Taking the time to prepare for volunteers is an essential step. During times of disaster, spontaneous volunteers often arrive to help. Their help can be underutilized and even problematic if it is not associated with management response. When planning and also guiding volunteers, agencies should consider the following principles defined in the article “Managing Spontaneous Volunteers in Times of Disaster” (starting on page 6):
· Volunteering and Community Life: Volunteers are valuable to the health of the community.
· The Value of Affiliation: Ideally, volunteers should be affiliated with an established organization and trained for specific response activities. Spontaneous volunteers are inevitable at times, and must be anticipated!
· Volunteer Involvement throughout the Phases: Consider involving volunteers throughout the phases including preparedness, response, and recovery.
· Management Systems: Volunteers are a valuable resource when they are trained, assigned, and supervised within established emergency management systems.
· Shared Responsibility: Specialized planning, information sharing, and a management structure are necessary to coordinate efforts and maximize the benefits to volunteer involvement.
· Volunteer Expectations: Volunteers are successful when they are flexible, self-sufficient, aware of risks, and willing to be coordinated by local emergency management experts.
· The Impact of Volunteers: The priority of volunteer activity is assistance to others.
· Build on Existing Capacity: Emergency management experts and VOAD partners are encouraged to identify and utilize all existing capacity of 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: It is helpful to use consistent terminology throughout the phases.
Along with considering the principles above, the article shares important considerations for preparedness for volunteer management, including (starting on page 8):
· Write a plan for the function of unaffiliated volunteer management.
· Form a Volunteer Coordination Team
· Identify all potential partners to build cooperative relationships with such as universities, local governments, and other nonprofits.
· Develop streamlined registration, screening, and interviewing procedures for volunteers.
By considering the defined principles and taking the time to adequately prepare for disasters, organizations will be empowered to use volunteers to the fullest extent. If your organization has taken any other steps to prepare, comment below! Disasters require support on all levels and we hope this blog series provides a platform to share ideas and resources for emergency management.