We’ve seen a significant rise in the number of spontaneous volunteers putting their hand up to help support disaster affected communities. Whilst the term ‘spontaneous volunteer’ is relatively new, the concept of mates helping mates during hard times has long been the cornerstone of the ‘Aussie way’.
The challenge for Incident Controllers and their Incident Management Teams is in how to positively and safely harness the swell of support being offered. Finding meaningful tasks for formally untrained people with limited personal protective equipment is difficult, because activities needs to hit the holy trifecta:
1) helpful and supportive to the community,
2) safe and applicable for the response agencies,
3) relevant and appropriate to the spontaneous volunteer.
The National Service’s Knowledge Network Online Learning Centre highlights the benefits of engaging capable, confident and available people to help during times of disaster. They also have a fabulous list of potential tasks for spontaneous volunteers to get stuck into at your next incident. The ideas are American, but many can be adapted for Australian emergencies. Check them out below.
At your next meeting, set a timer for 5 minutes and ask groups to come up with as many different potential opportunities/activities/tasks for engaging spontaneous volunteers in your local area. Have a prize for the group with the highest number of valid and usable ideas.