Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Care for volunteers AFTER the initial disaster

As time moves forward we learn from the past; the important question is are we learning from other's lessons?

Following the 3-11 disaster in Japan last year, there has been a sharp drop in volunteer firefighters. In the article Keiichi Sasaki, 56, head of the division, said: "Some members have been begged by their families to quit because this job is dangerous. There may be more members who want to leave because of this."
There may be other reasons, but the thing that jumps out to me from the article; is there is no plan for mental health and counseling for the volunteers? Is there a plan for the employees?
So the question for you as a volunteer manager is what is your plan?  Do you have plans to provide for mental health care of your volunteers? What about their families?

I want to be clear I am not giving advice on which type of counseling to provide or the medium or time after the event to conduct it; that is someone else's specialty, not mine.

What I am saying is plan for it; engage the experts; put it in your plan.

If you utilize volunteers for disaster response no matter how small the event, you owe it to them to offer this care after the event. They might even stay around for the next disaster...


Saturday, March 17, 2012

Disaster volunteers, please curb your enthusiasm!

This article has a title that is misnamed.  Curb your enthusiasm. The problem is the flow of volunteers who want to help but are not affiliated. 
Those of us in volunteer management want enthusiastic volunteers, but we want them to be signed up, trained and affiliated before the event. Why? Three important reasons (I could think of more, but these are at the top!)
  1. Activating a trained, affiliated volunteer takes moments, as opposed to doing a check of an unaffiliated volunteer who doesn't understand the rules and the structure they will be working under. No matter your task in a disaster there are procedures to follow, and depending on your task, you may need to have background checks done. This takes time and frustrates you.  You can solve this by searching out an agency that matches your needs and abilities and join now.
  2. Affiliated and trained volunteers typically handle the stress of working in a disaster zone. They are part of a group that has trained and spent time together - their "safety net".  There is nothing that replaces being connected before it happens.
  3. And the last reason, the Emergency Management people will be happier. If you are badged with an agency, they recognize it makes their life easier, and the middle of a disaster response is stressful enough without trying to figure out who you are.

disaster dave