The Role of Volunteers in Emergency Response

by | 10 Apr 2023

Volunteers play a crucial role in emergency response efforts by providing immediate support to affected communities during and after disasters. 

They offer their time, skills, resources, and expertise to help people cope with the aftermath of emergencies such as natural disasters, pandemics, and human-made crises. 

In the emergency management ecosystem, organisations, leadership teams, emergency services and many more demographics rely heavily on volunteers. Understanding their importance and impact on the profession can help us better support them.

The following are some of the key contributions that volunteers bring to emergency response efforts:

Search and rescue

Volunteers with specialised training in search and rescue techniques help locate and extract people from dangerous situations.

These unique individuals often come with many years of experience and niche offerings for specific types of rescue scenarios, for example, some are alpinists, while others are specialists at ocean rescue.

Depending on the location, these volunteers are on call over specific periods and will be available during any hour of the day.

Medical and psychological support

Health professionals and mental health care providers volunteer their services to provide medical care and counselling to survivors or similar victims. 

Whilst these volunteers often also provide this service as part of their profession, they recognise the need and demand outside of those commitments, becoming a vital extra support for the community.

Logistics and communication 

Some volunteers help manage logistics and communication, including distributing supplies, setting up shelters, and coordinating transportation.

Some are trained on this unique skill, while others bring experiences from their employment to the table. This skillset can be very valuable in difficult locations or during a widespread supply disruption event.

Donations and fundraising 

You have seen them on high streets, heard them on the phone, or had them at your door. But those who do not specialise in the above skill sets bring something just as valuable: raising funds. 

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the international community provided over $17 billion in humanitarian assistance to countries affected by disasters and conflicts in 2020 as a result of awareness and fundraising campaigns.  

Similarly, the Center for Disaster Philanthropy reported that in 2020, philanthropic giving towards disaster relief totalled $12.9 billion worldwide, which included both natural and human-made disasters. This represents an increase from the previous year, when philanthropic giving towards disasters totalled $11.9 billion.

Community outreach

Volunteers engage with affected communities to assess their needs, provide education and resources, and facilitate recovery efforts. This is often seen in third world countries that rely on others to bring with them typically inaccessible resources to remote areas. 

Overall, the role of volunteers in emergency response efforts is essential in helping communities recover from disasters and promoting resilience. They provide critical support and assistance, often working tirelessly and selflessly to help others during times of an emergency.

If you’re interested in becoming an emergency response volunteer but want advice, reach out to our team today.

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