Natural Disaster Response series:
'Answering the call—Local Volunteerism, on Point'
Following our previous post, from reporting down under by ABC News—Australia, Volunteering Australia talks generally about volunteers being there by necessity, not necessarily through planning. Considered a fundamental, widespread problem throughout the country. They are right about this being problematic, of course, which we add global context to here.
Throughout the world, legions of organized volunteers join NGOs to show up from away. All sorts of volunteers amass from great distances to lend their expertise. Bravo! These groups of global citizen volunteers, however, are distinctly not part of the three local categories of volunteers in focus here.
This initiative is about having ready access to local community volunteers already there. Not having to come from away. Willing and able. Before outside help gets there. As shown in Australia in 2022, but with more, we suggest, pre-emptive emergency services planning than is currently apparent in many jurisdictions.
With the increase and severity of widespread natural disasters worldwide, this problem will also grow exponentially if not challenged. A central theme of this series of posts.
"One of the tests of leadership is the ability to recognize a problem before it becomes an emergency." - Arnold H. Glasow.
Big Government Interventions
Here's the thing! Government protocols usually dictate that a state of emergency must be declared for it to act first. As with the State of California. Such was the case in recent weeks because of an unusually heavy, record-shattering snowfall in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. This is how it works.
In thirteen California counties, upon the Governor's proclamation the state sent in the National Guard to help dig out. This is the normal course of the operational response. Many will say, however, the National Guard's arrival was late in the game. Speeding these processes up is always an open question.
The sheer volume of snow overwhelmed most emergency services. At all levels, everywhere, all at once. In the meantime, we see one of those counties, San Bernardino, used its only eight snowcats to move firefighter crews and equipment. They could operate, but only in a limited capacity. Until that is, help arrived from the state to help dig out the fire stations, trucks, and main roads.
But what about the many residents stuck in the hills without food and medicines? The point here! To them, what was not happening mattered most. It is easy to question if the entire integrated emergency management system could have been better prepared. Had more physical and human resources been available, local emergency services wouldn't have been so restricted.
So what about the residents' emerging food and medical needs? What agency within reach took care of that? None is the answer.
Here is one resident's take as reported by TheLos Angeles Times for San Bernardino County:
Graham Smith and his husband spent an hour and a half digging out the front door of their 80-year-old neighbor's home.
"Whatever help is coming now should have been here days ago," Smith said. "We're angry."
While they wait for help, many residents have turned to one another.
The View from Here
The residents turned out for one another. Thankfully!
With only eight snowcats, available resources limited San Bernardino County. For the future, a backup plan for the backup plan is called for. Contingency planning must account for the worst-case scenarios.
Record-breaking severe weather events have become more common considering today's global climate challenges. Is there enough anecdotal and scientific data to predict what could happen? It seems so, but somehow does not always translate into an actionable response.
Recruiting 'active' volunteers, as described, could help when there is no money for hiring. An obvious fix for potentially vulnerable communities to prepare for the worst. To not wait but to put an active volunteer list together.
Pre-planning adds structured knock-on effects. (1) Within an existing volunteer structure, event commanders will know better how to use them if the time comes. (2) When the time comes, the established structure will guide spontaneous volunteers to situation coordinators.
Although not organized in advance, last year in Buffalo, the call went out to the public for snowmobilers to help emergency services respond. In NSW Australia with the 'tinnie army,' it was courageous volunteers with small boats and watercraft organizing as they showed up. Both situation coordinators and the public at large reached out to the community for help via social media. Not ideal, but surely welcome.
How easy it is to conclude that it would be much better for communities in crisis if there were a more formalized, integrated disaster plan for 'active volunteers' in the mix.
The rise in the frequency and severity of widespread natural disasters worldwide should drive all this. Full stop! As well as integrated emergency management agencies' declarations on the extended time, it can take for outside resources to arrive. The time for accelerating pre-planning around this has come.
Trust that snowmobilers, boaters, ATVers and the like (power sports enthusiasts generally), just like the "tinnie" army of boaters in Australia noted, can be an enthusiastic outdoorsy bunch, that would eagerly descend upon affected communities in need if requested. These groups also organize really well.
Well-equipped volunteers delivering food and medicines, as well as shuttling people to safety, only scratches the surface of possibilities. Again, these undertakings can all begin in the space between the storm landing and reinforcements arriving from away.
'The first 72 (hours) are on you' is a common mantra for those aware. Essentially, a tacit acknowledgement from the people that there is currently a systemic workforce dilemma for integrated disaster response efficiencies.
Presumptively, this is for all of us collectively to band together to help resolve. To assist local emergency services to operate, community by community, as effectively as-they-can.
Creating and or expanding volunteer networks, at the on-call local level, is part of the answer.
The Time Has Come
With the increase and severity of severe weather and other natural phenomena, it is truly essential to empower locals to be active participant responders. As reported in The Atlantic, the same "whole-of-society" approach proponents, such as the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), claim local and regional communities should exemplify.
The time for this has come. For the world to embrace. Not an issue to parse regionally.
As noted in the preceding post, it seems like Australia's population may be further along here than many, within emergency services and citizens alike. Others may too, of course, which we would love to hear.
Don't Ask the Policymakers
Many decision-makers may not wholly evade but sidestep these issues because of budgetary restrictions.
The budgeting process for governments is often where these problems lay. With known unknowns like these, some policymakersare prone to struggle. A part of the human condition to sidestep when possible.
Viable outside-of-government funding solutions may not be for the government to spearhead. Not only could it be lacking the political will, it may also not align with held policy. This does not mean they could not (should not) encourage them, however. There are ways for creative thinking to work alongside the government.
With all this, our outreach centres on outside-of-government fundraising on a global scale. We offer an alternate cash resource for communities to top up their own funding and fundraising. How much is enough, is a question? Never enough, from a global perspective. One such intervention, not having to replace or compete with another.
The idea is for donated funds to be granted, crisis by crisis, within the parameters set out. Whilst moving on to the next. Operating outside, but right along with government. To work within each community to disperse those funds equitably.
Whomever the volunteers, the community should always do its best to reimburse their out-of-pocket costs. Relatively small amounts in consideration. There are excellent reasons for this and, although not the entirety of our giving, our aim.
Not in payment for acts rendered, but just to cover their raw costs. To keep these courageous citizens happy and coming! Why? Because not everyone can afford to act at their own expense. Some may neither seek nor want to be reimbursed. That would be their choice.
This initiative encourages local governments to fend for themselves outside of the bureaucratic process. Respective service agencies rarely need this sort of outside help. These are capacity-building measures inuring to the benefit of all stakeholders. Local and otherwise. Reducing disaster risks and enhancing preparedness is the goal.
Prevention is better than a cure.
Collaboration, Financial and Otherwise
Effective disaster response requires collaboration between various stakeholders, including governments, international relief organizations, as well as the private and public sectors. To increase a community's operational readiness and effectiveness.
It seems the lack of money in annual budgets for known unknowns is a hurdle for the ages.
This brings us back to encouraging emergency services managers to be open to a cooperative outside-of-government solution . . . when, not if, pre-planning budgeting challenges are present.
Will this initiative appeal to decision-makers uneasy with marginally speculative thinking? Could it spawn budget-strapped communities, to accept outside-of-government measures,in furtherance of a workable solution? Maybe!
Finally, one more word about funding. It is not a stretch to presume volunteering will spur associated costs . . . like fuel, for instance. When, as pointed out earlier in this series, nothing will turn off potential volunteer signup more than if their costs aren't readily covered. A relatively small matter, but important to individuals having to safeguard their own financial resources.
Beyond making the case, the prospects of securing donor-driven global funding to bridge gaps in the local response community are where we start. From the community's perspective, hopefully, a welcome donor-giving opportunity. Not necessarily just from a local campaign's perspective, but from a global funding drive to assist virtually any population less fortunate.
To help negate the thinking: "I wish we would have planned for that!"
When volunteers come on board, as described in this series of posts, certain costs are inevitable. We have a funding solution to help with that.
An Alternate Funding Source
Ascent Provisions fundraising grant funds and or select safety equipment to affected communities, as described, worldwide. Providing there are available campaign funds then, that is. As global demand dictates.
Operationally, we call upon community emergency services to manage who gets what and when in terms of our available donor-funded resources. Targeting fire, police, search & rescue, ems, and so forth. Whichever local agency, agencies, or response teams fit the profile.
Contributing at arm's length to a community's overall emergency disaster planning is the goal. Having donor funds in the kitty must come first. Getting in touch, case by case will determine this.
Ascent's Global Fund Initiatives is a good idea whose time has come. There is no commitment from either party, unless or until funds deploy. There are no charges for our services unless specifically agreed to.
To learn more or get on our contacts list, please follow the links below. Small-dollar donations are welcome.
Emergency services personnel help people every day in hamlets and cities across the globe. It is what they do! More than a job, it is their vocation.
Supporting these dedicated women and men is central to this initiative. Particularly in their time of need. One disastrous cataclysmic event to the next.
We can all use your help! This is a word-of-mouth proposition. Please like, share, and backlink. It will mean the world to us.
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