In recent years, Central Texas has seen disasters in the forms of a wildfire, flood, hurricane and an explosion. In each case, hundreds of people called in to relief organizations wanting to volunteer to help. And that’s great, but…. Most of the time, untrained volunteers hurt disaster-recovery work more than they help.
No offense. It’s just that disasters are very complicated situations. Consider this before you rush in to help:
1. Often the situation is still very dangerous. Overzealous but untrained volunteers rushing into a situation can get hurt, adding to the people who need to be helped.
2. Disaster victims are naturally panicked, emotional and confused. Again, if you go in unprepared, you add to the confusion.
3. A disaster is a very stressful situation, and volunteers are expected to manage it. You might also be expected to work very long days in dangerous conditions without breaks, rest, or sometimes even water or food.
4. Disaster relief breaks into many stages, from immediate to long-term. Volunteers are needed at each stage, but it’s important to know how various nonprofit, governmental, faith-based and other agency organizations work together to help disaster victims. Without this knowledge, you might steer a victim in the wrong direction and keep them from getting the help they need.
In short, untrained volunteers can make matters worse. So like you always hear, the best way to handle a disaster is to prepare for a disaster, and that means taking disaster-volunteer training from one of Central Texas’ highly experienced nonprofits. Not only will you be more helpful to other victims in case of disaster, you will also be able to help your own family if one hits you.
See these opportunities to below. NOTE: Most of these volunteer opportunities are for adults 18 years and older and some require a background check and registration. Click through to each to find the training and opportunity that works best for you.
The Salvation Army – A variety of trainings from how The Salvation Army works with other organizations during a disaster, how to work from a mobile feeding unit, how to understand an emergency management system and more. Special trainings are available for health workers, clergy and social workers. To find a training near you, choose your state and see the calendar of upcoming classes.
American Red Cross – According to the Red Cross, 95 percent of its disaster workers are volunteers. That means there are plenty of opportunities for you to help, from handing out food, supplies and information at the site of the disaster to working in an overnight shelter and more. Health and medical professionals and students are especially needed to volunteer. Volunteer opportunities and trainings vary by community, so click Be a Disaster Volunteer to sign up and create an account. From there you can choose an online or an in-person orientation.
Austin Disaster Relief Network – ADRN is a network of volunteers from Christian ministries, churches and business organized to respond to local disasters. It works with city and local governments to coordinate immediate response efforts and was involved in the Bastrop wildfires, the West plant explosion, the floods in Round Rock and others. Volunteers are asked to agree to the Apostle’s Creed, stating that you believe in God, upon registration.
The City of Austin’s Community Emergency Response Team offers disaster-volunteer training twice a year, spring and fall.