How Coordinators of Volunteers Can Help in Times of Disaster

Today I’d like to introduce guest blogger Sara Walsh, Deputy Emergency Coordinator at the Victoria Emergency Management Agency (VEMA). We are pleased to highlight that Volunteer Victoria and VEMA have had a partnership for many years around emergency preparedness. Sara goes into detail below about how you can help:

Thank you so much to Volunteer Victoria for allowing me to blog about the great work happening in the area of emergency preparedness.

Late last year, the Victoria Emergency Management Agency with the support of Volunteer Victoria launched an innovative new project to help plan for the use of “convergent volunteers” during a large scale emergency or disaster.

Harnessing the energy and spirit of volunteers who are looking for ways to help in a community wide emergency or disaster is a crucial part of any disaster response. The majority of volunteers that assist in a disaster are without specific emergency training but bring a variety of skills to the job. In emergency management, we refer to these volunteers as convergent volunteers. In the event of a large scale damaging earthquake in Victoria, convergent volunteers will arrive and look for meaningful ways to help in the community.

The role of experienced and qualified coordinators of volunteers is an often untapped skill set during community wide disasters. Ensuring that convergent volunteers are utilized in the best way possible is a challenging prospect for emergency management planners and one that needs some advanced planning and preparation. To this end, a call was put out for coordinators of volunteers to register with Volunteer Victoria and attend an information meeting hosted by the Victoria Emergency Management Agency.

The initial response was terrific. I was blown away by the enthusiasm of the participants. The initial idea was to have professional coordinators of volunteers sign up and keep their name on a roster to be called when the time comes. But many who have joined have expressed interest in helping with the plan development and even want to exercise the plan.

The group has now met twice and provided invaluable feedback on the development of the plan. Work is now underway to finalize the draft so that coordinators can run through a small exercise of the plan in November!

We are always looking for participants. If you coordinate volunteers and are interested in helping out in a larger scale emergency or disaster consider joining our group. Our next meeting is on September 29th from 4:30-6:00 pm. Contact me for more details, swalsh@victoria.ca or call 250-920-3377.

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