In the course of conducting after-action reports following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) noticed a common theme: unprecedented numbers of spontaneous volunteers, most of whom were not affiliated with an established volunteer agency, streamed into disaster-stricken areas.1
The abrupt, often unanticipated, presence of such volunteers caused complex management, control, and logistical challenges for professional emergency responders and public managers. Although a significant number of volunteers who converge on disaster scenes come from outside an area, region, or state, this selection is primarily concerned with volunteers who live in close proximity to a disaster-affected area.
When a local government is operating in normal mode, it’s not unusual for it to experience a shortage of people willing to volunteer their time, even if the local government makes a concerted effort to encourage volunteers. This shortage is not the case, however, once disaster strikes.
A Mixed Blessing. More…