Volunteer Florida is the state’s lead agency for volunteers and donations before, during, and after and after disasters. Coordinates with Florida Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) and local and state government emergency management agencies to meet volunteer and donation needs.
The Talladega County Citizen Corps Council is working to rejuvenate the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (VOAD), and Student Preparedness programs of Talladega County. Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program educates people about disaster preparedness for hazards that may impact their area and trains them in basic disaster response skills.
Talladega County EMA is always looking for volunteers to assist with disaster or emergency events. There are times during disasters when first responders will be overwhelmed and unable to do all that needs to be done without help from volunteers, who will do much of the work either in an organized fashion or spontaneously. Volunteers are an important cog in disaster response, and developing a volunteer program before disaster strikes can be invaluable. A good volunteer program needs up-front planning and recruitment, and it needs to keep volunteers engaged in between emergencies.
Colleges and universities are good sources, especially if they have training programs for doctors, nurses, pharmacists and veterinarians — all people with skills that are valuable in emergencies. Churches and fraternal organizations like the Rotary or Lions clubs are also good places to ask: They have members who know the community and are often seeking opportunities to help others.
Approach the private sector, since many companies match dollars for volunteer hours to encourage community service. Retirees are another good source — with the baby boomers leaving the workforce, there are a lot of skilled people who may be interested in volunteer opportunities.
Ideally every participant is an affiliated volunteer — signed up, given a background check and trained in certain areas, said Barbara Nelson, a community educator with Pierce County Emergency Management in Washington. Shelter volunteers work with a variety of groups, including churches that open emergency housing when necessary.


Once the list of volunteers is developed, it’s also important to keep participants engaged. Nichols’ program includes a reserve corps of 700 active volunteers who are used frequently in the community.
Nichols’ department uses volunteers to test its ability to handle mass vaccinations by giving flu shots to the uninsured.
California is developing a statewide Disaster Volunteer Network, an online tool to help local programs manage their volunteers.
Debbie Goetz, community planning coordinator with the Seattle Office of Emergency Management, said her office coordinates volunteer ham radio operators. Nichols’ office uses the WAserv (Washington State Emergency Registry of Volunteers) Web-based system to reach volunteers, though they must have Internet access to see it. In addition to the volunteers who were scheduled but can’t make it to help, there will be spontaneous volunteers who show up.
Continue to page 2 to read about the seven tips for creating a successful volunteer program.
State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) The Emergency Management Training (EMT) curriculum delivered by SEMA offers an extensive array of training opportunities for State and local emergency managers, public officials, members of volunteer relief organizations, and professionals in related fields. During an incident, emergency service personnel may not be able to reach everyone right away. It allows emergency responders to focus on some of the more major tasks as volunteers handle easier work like traffic control and light search and rescue. A first step for local emergency management professionals who think they need a volunteer program is to decide what they want volunteers to do.
Especially when they have been hit hard by budget cuts, agencies may want volunteers to answer phones and do other routine tasks. Nelson’s office also tries to associate volunteers with agencies or organizations that can use their help.


If volunteers are recruited for just a one-time event, they may not respond the next time unless they’re continually engaged, Tai said. About half are medically licensed, and the rest are support volunteers who can handle logistics.
The organization also is creating a plan to use ham radio operators to contact volunteers if necessary.
Ideally the center should be away from the area impacted by the disaster, so volunteers can be organized and assigned to appropriate jobs before being bused to the site, according to Nelson. By getting trained in Student Preparedness, you will have the skills to help emergency responders, save lives, and protect property. A big part of Nichols’ job is managing volunteers, and he is also a volunteer with ShelterBox, a British nonprofit that responds to disasters around the world. But they can also create complications and be a distraction during the middle of an emergency, which is not the time to figure out who people are.
His office is working with local hospitals to develop a system so that emergency workers could recognize hospital employees’ badges and know which badges mean the person has had the proper background checks.
Jurisdictions across Missouri, can and do cope with disaster by preparing in advance through training activities and by using the skills learned to build local teams and coalitions that respond to emergencies. Then, after a background check, they receive a badge and vest that identify them as volunteers. However, since these volunteers are inevitable, it’s important to think through what they will be able to do and have a plan for that.
For example, spontaneous volunteers are perfect for certain jobs, such as filling sandbags and clearing rubble, where a background check isn’t necessary.



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