After a disaster, it’s not uncommon for people to turn out in large numbers to help victims, clear debris, and assist with other tasks to aid the community. Although it is very noble of the volunteers, a vast majority of them are untrained and can put themselves and others at risk for injury, and in rare cases, death as a result of their lack of training in safety and proper disaster response.
According to Lauren Sauer’s, M.S., article in Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness, there were 24 non-government volunteer organizations (NVOs) surveyed that had responded to disasters in the past and found that that 79 percent had spontaneous volunteers show up to help. While a majority of the organizations said they found the inexperienced volunteers useful, 42 percent reported that volunteers had been injured in the response, and there were two reported deaths among them. In a time of need, there is an urgency to help the community and as a result organizations don’t have time to properly train the overwhelming amount of volunteers.
If you plan on volunteering in any situation, here are useful links to help you safely volunteer and be prepared during and after the catastrophe.
Volunteer Training Resources:
American Red Cross Disaster Training
The American Red Cross provides a free online course that consists of 3 modules that will familiarize you with the Red Cross and its role in disaster response, specific skills and actions required of disaster response volunteers. It also provides the opportunities for volunteering with your local Red Cross Chapter.
If you do prefer in-person training, many Red Cross chapters offer classes at their local offices.
FEMA Emergency Management Training
FEMA offers independent study courses that cover a range of disasters.
Specialized topics include how to respond to emergencies involving animals, hazardous materials, and pandemics.
The courses are self-paced, delivered online, and are free.
Like FEMA, the Salvation Army offers courses focusing on specific aspects of disaster, such as “Psychological First Aid” and “Emotional and Spiritual Care in Disaster Operations.” They also offer an “Intro to Disaster Services” class for new volunteers.
These classes take place at Salvation Army locations around the United States. Check the schedule of training to see if there’s a location near you
The National Center for Disaster Preparedness
Online webinars offered by the NCDP go far beyond your basic disaster preparedness and response curricula offered by the other organizations… these topics are high-tech: “Geo-spatial Intelligence, Social Data, and the Future of Public Health Preparedness and Response.”
This website offers highly specialized knowledge delivered by world-renowned scholars.
Centers for Disease Control
Need to deepen your knowledge and skills about bio terrorism attacks, bombings, or other chemically-related emergencies? The CDC is your one-stop shop in these areas. Download courses for free–in English AND in Spanish– on their website.