Volunteering after a Disaster

Dawn Dieckman, Community Engagement Coordinator, Coming of Age

Natural disasters can occur at any time and happen to anyone. This is why so many people are eager to help when devastating events like Hurricane Harvey occur. But, something these well intended individuals may not realize is they could be adding to the problem.

Spontaneous volunteers often arrive on-site at a disaster ready to help, yet they are not associated with an existing emergency management response team. These volunteers are often underutilized and can take away the effectiveness of volunteers who have gone through the proper training to manage emergency response efforts.

If you want to donate your time in the event of an emergency, local disaster response agencies require that you go through the proper training requirements before arriving on scene. Visit the American Red Cross www.redcross.org/local/texas/central-and-south-texas, VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters) https://www.nvoad.org/how-to-help/volunteering to prepare yourself to assist for our next event. Other organizations who specialize in disaster response and management are The Salvation Army www.salvationarmy.org, Catholic Charities of Austin www.ccctx.org, Texas Search and Rescue (TEXSAR) www.texsar.org and various food pantries throughout Austin including the Central Texas Food Bank www.centraltexasfoodbank.org.  Spontaneous volunteer needs can also be found at www.volunteermatch.org. Contact our office at 512-854-7787 for more information on getting started.

Keep in mind, disaster volunteer needs will go on for a very long time. Although you may be eager to help immediately, your help may be better utilized months after the event occurs when the media hype has died down. If possible, consider donating financial resources to local organizations that are assisting with the event and save the gift of your time until it’s needed.