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'Who You Gonna Call—Community Volunteers'

Disaster Response series: 

'Who You Gonna Call—Community Volunteers'

To set the table, highly trained paid and volunteer first-responder specialists, staff emergency service agencies worldwide. For example, of the 30,000 fire departments across the United States, two-thirds are unpaid volunteers and we surmise that number equals or increases in search & rescue. What we loosely refer to as an 'ordinary' complement of staffing for 'normal' day operations.

The relative costs to the community for these highly skilled volunteers are extensive training, equipment, and, presumably, their out-of-pocket expenses.

The select 'volunteers' reviewed in this post are not the dedicated women and men described above.

In today's climate-induced world, the frequency and intensity of widespread natural disasters continue to rise. The various disaster response scenarios do as well.

Early on, during the actual onslaught of a natural disaster, a critical shortfall in human resources from a so-called 'ordinary' complement of core responders is simply not out of the question. The severity of the catastrophic event and other stressors will determine this.

To move to safeguard possible shortfalls because of this, we suggest, like the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to recruit qualified others within the community as a backup to help. Most of whom will likely be outside the professional ranks of emergency disaster response. One caveat, of course, would be that to act it be prudent and marginally safe in the circumstance.

This series speaks of ways to reduce these systemic critical first-response challenges  with volunteers from the local community.


Search, Rescue, and Critical Response

These are disasters, after all. Where emergency response operations have far less to work with over much wider areas. When early on, first responders can be overwhelmed by the magnitude and severity of Mother Nature's wrath.

Previously, we also reported on core professional responders hampered by the disaster itself, with some actually in need of rescuing themselves.

This is when, because of the sheer magnitude of the event and the volume of calls, overwhelmed front-line service providers can use help to effect rescues, deliver medicines, staff triage, and so forth.

Many emergency services administrators are undoubtedly mindful of the distinct possibilities for operational shortfalls when contemplating their community's overall situational disaster preparedness. What their respective budgetary capabilities are in forecasting a known unknown is yet another matter. For the financially handicapped, these issues compound.

Planning into the next stages, the recovery and rehab phases, the search, rescue, and critical response operations continue. Often without letting up. Big government and other relief agencies should have arrived by then. Along with troops of like-minded aid workers and volunteers in support.

We are laser-focused on the period before then. When incoming 'big government' and other relief are not there yet! During the extraordinary, highly charged circumstances early on, as nature dictates. When a sudden lack of core first responders and other resources has suddenly morphed into a major problem for all concerned.


The Active Volunteer

The term 'Active Volunteers' is to denote a specific category of recruited volunteers. A select group, for disaster response coordinators to encourage and deploy. Inactive volunteers are those that are not currently on the active list.

For emergency disaster response then, putting the call out for qualified volunteers had best be with a purpose. With some forethought. The citizens recruited at this level of engagement are best to have certain skills. Nurses, doctors, engineers, drivers, and so forth. To assist front-line professional responders as called upon.

The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) calls this a 'whole community' response.

Putting the call out for select labour too . . . as well as specialized equipment for the incident (boats, snowmobiles, earthmoving equipment, etc.) that citizens can bring into the mix.

Covering costs for 'Active Volunteers' should be integral to the thought process. An important element is to reduce volunteer out-of-pocket costs for both practical and visual messaging purposes.

Widespread natural disasters are brutal. Countless municipalities and regions fall into a state of critical need as described. A chronic problem in all corners of the world. Having qualified Volunteers' as a backup should if not already, be a keystone of the plan. 

Yes, many communities will presume they have the means to cover a range of the known unknowns in their annual budget process and elsewhere. Which is certainly no guarantee! Those that know they do not, should take whatever affirming steps available to prepare. There is more on the Active Volunteer in a previous post.


The Resident Volunteer

FEMA also concludes 'resident volunteers' do more to fend for themselves. When safe and possible, but within their own neighbourhood. For this reporting, the term 'resident volunteers' denotes a different category than 'Active volunteers'.

We follow FEMA in concluding the resident volunteer is an integral part of a 'whole community' response. For neighbours to help neighbours . . .  as well as family and friends. To act independently with others. To respond to others in need within their own neighbourhoods. 

This follows FEMA setting up its CERT program. Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). This is a national team-building training exercise, delivered locally. Virtually any organization or public body in the country can set up a CERT.


Those Coming From Away

Communities around the globe face a similar dilemma. It can take days for organized help to arrive. For most governments, it is incumbent to do the utmost to mitigate this. For a community to overcome this as events unfold, however, is another matter.

When short on paid staff and responding to a natural disaster, these types of local volunteerism must exist. For those that think otherwise, we would like to hear your solution. 

Many municipalities and regions, let alone less fortunate countries, simply do not have the financial resources to rally volunteers for formal CERT-type training.


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.

Ascent's Global Fund Initiatives is a good idea whose time has come. There is no commitment from either party, unless or until funds are accessed. 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.


Help Wanted

Emergency services personnel help people daily 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 in their time of need is central. 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.

You will find us at  to learn about our solutions, this outreach, and us. There is also our blog for more.

Our next blog, 'Answering the call—Community Volunteers'

COVER PHOTO: Catastrophic widespread natural disaster. Incident Commander directing the scene in a collapsed building complex rescue. 
















Federal Emergency Management Agency—Operational Lessons Learned in Disaster Response, 2015;

National Volunteer Fire Council


Global Fund

Choosing to give through our 'Global Funds' take a bit broader approach. Flexible enough to move in time with what's surely coming next!

Donor Gifting

We are marshalling small-dollar giving for select emergency equipment deployment into regions affected. This is 'Donor Gifting.'

For Safety's Sake initiative logo


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