Spontaneous Volunteers: Community Participation in Disaster Response and Recovery

The Conference Board of Canada, 54 pages, April 11, 2016
Briefing by
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As surely as disasters and emergencies happen, citizens will try to help in any way they can. This briefing explores the opportunities and challenges presented by spontaneous volunteerism in disaster response and recovery.

Document Highlights

As surely as disasters and emergencies happen, citizens will try to help in any way they can. Some international approaches to working with spontaneous volunteers favour a highly centralized, top-down approach that expects all volunteers to conform to emergency management organization and procedures, while others insist that emergency managers should work within the bottom-up emergent social structures that form in the wake of disaster.

Spontaneous volunteers challenge the emergency management community to re-think its approach to disaster response and recovery. This briefing explores the opportunities and challenges presented by spontaneous volunteerism and offers recommendations for designing a community-focused volunteer framework. The Canadian emergency management community will need to grapple with six critical issues to design a more productive, coordinated approach to spontaneous volunteers: mutual trust, leadership and authority, risk and liability, mental health, skill matching, and retention.

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