Preparing for the Volunteers When Disaster Strikes

Hurricane Isaac is expected to reach Louisiana this morning near the seventh anniversary of Katrina.  While people in the storm’s path batten down the hatches, others around the country are preparing to serve and assist in the areas affected by this most recent natural disaster.

After Hurricane Katrina, many organizations had trouble managing the influx of people looking to help out. Volunteers can bring a lot of support and manpower but they also take time and resources. This report from Volunteers of America of Greater New Orleans has some best practices learned from the response to Hurricane Katrina that can help your organization respond to a future disaster.

Even if your community will never see a hurricane, we can all fall victim to natural disasters. Here are a few practical recommendations to make sure your community can effectively manage volunteers ain response to a natural disaster:

Develop your capacity for volunteer management: Many organizations find themselves taking on volunteers to meet the additional needs after a disaster even if they do not work with large groups of volunteers on a regular basis. Make sure you have a volunteer management system in place with adequate resources, training, policies, and supervision in place to support volunteers.  Check out the Top 15 Things to Know When Managing Volunteers in Time of Disaster

Create a Volunteer Reception Center:  A volunteer reception center is a virtual and/or physical place that communicates a consistent message to those looking to volunteer and helps volunteers connect with opportunities in your community. Work with your community to build Virtual Volunteer Reception Center using these tips.

Create a Continuity of Operations Plan for your organization: It’s hard to use volunteers if your organization doesn’t have the resources and structure in place to continue your work during the chaos that follows a natural disaster. A Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) can protect your organization and ensure that you will be able to continue to serve your community in the event of any disaster. Use FEMA’s COOP Template to create your organization’s plan.

As we watch Hurricane Isaac moving toward the coast, let’s not only prepare to help those people who will be affected by the storm but make sure we have plans in place to make sure our communities can rebuild should a disaster befall us.

 Robyn Stegman

Project Specialist

Campaign Consultation, Inc.

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Shannon McGarry

Shannon McGarry is Project Specialist at Campaign Consultation, Inc. and an advocate for systemic, holistic approaches to building the capacity of nonprofits and community organizations. She has worked with nonprofits to strengthen and diversify their funding streams, expand and mobilize their membership base, and build sustainable programs. Read more.

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