Terms to know:·
- VOAD – Volunteer Organizations Active in a Disaster·
- VRC – Volunteer Resource Center
- Affiliated Volunteers are members of recognized organizations such as the Youth Corps, the Senior Corps, Americorps. They may actually be paid in some way. They have formal training and are credentialed in their special skills, such as interviewing and intervention or machine operations, from chainsaws to Bobcat “Skid-Steers”. Their organizations assume some liability for them.
- Spontaneous Volunteers reflect two meanings. On the deeper level, the volunteer is spontaneous, personally motivated by the news events to come to aid. Once on the scene, the spontaneous volunteer can be counted on for enthusiasm and energy. They are free of cost to the agency that engages them. Spontaneous volunteers bring a range of skills. They provide additional resources that can be marshaled.
However, spontaneous volunteers are known to come with a wide range of problems, from lack of training to sociopathic predatory behaviors.
- Provide full identification with any validated credentials such as Adult First Aid or Commercial Vehicle Operations.
- Be prepared to take care of yourself. Bring 72 hours of food, water, and sleeping gear. Do not expect that the VRC will be able to bivouac you.
- Know what is needed. Know what you can do. Ask for a list of tasks and pick the ones that suit your skills. You might arrive as an electrician and find yourself pumping water from homes – and that might be fine for you, if you expect that possibility.
- Take direction. The volunteer center has been lawfully empowered by a memorandum of understanding. If you go off on your own, you might find yourself dismissed or (ultimately) arrested and jailed; that is embarrassing all the way around for everyone.
The best way to help out is to prepare in advance by joining a recognized voluntary relief agency. Some faith-based organizations prepare a million sandwiches and deliver them to the Red Cross; others distribute ten thousand Visa Debit Cards. What you do is up to you. You will be more effective if you understand the Management of Spontaneous Volunteers.
(This was written from some of the notes taken during an eight-hour training session in "Managing Spontaneous Volunteers" April 11, 2014, sponsored by the Texas Department of Public Safety and the One-Star Foundation.)
ALSO ON NECESSARY FACTS