The utility of and risks associated with the use of spontaneous volunteers in disaster response: A survey

Lauren Sauer, Christina Catlett, Robert Tosatto, Thomas D. Kirsch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Objective The use of spontaneous volunteers (SV) is common after a disaster, but their limited training and experience can create a danger for the SVs and nongovernmental voluntary organizations (NVOs). We assessed the experience of NVOs with SVs during disasters, how they were integrated into the agency's infrastructure, their perceived value to previous responses, and liability issues associated with their use. Methods Of the 51 National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters organizations that were contacted for surveys, 24 (47%) agreed to participate. Results Of the 24 participating organizations, 19 (72%) had encountered SVs during a response, most (79%) used them regularly, and 68% believed that SVs were usually useful. SVs were always credentialed by 2 organizations, and sometimes by 6 (31%). One organization always performed background checks; 53% provided just-in-time training for SVs; 26% conducted evaluations of SV performance; and 21% provided health or workers compensation benefits. Two organizations reported an SV death; 42% reported injuries; 32% accepted legal liability for the actions of SVs; and 16% were sued because of actions by SVs. Conclusions The use of SVs is widespread, but NVOs are not necessarily structured to incorporate them effectively. More structured efforts to integrate SVs are critical to safe and effective disaster response.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)65-69
Number of pages5
JournalDisaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness
Volume8
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2014

Fingerprint

Disasters
Volunteers
Organizations
Surveys and Questionnaires
Workers' Compensation
Legal Liability
Health
Wounds and Injuries

Keywords

  • disaster response
  • nongovernmental organizations
  • spontaneous volunteers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Medicine(all)

Cite this

The utility of and risks associated with the use of spontaneous volunteers in disaster response : A survey. / Sauer, Lauren; Catlett, Christina; Tosatto, Robert; Kirsch, Thomas D.

In: Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness, Vol. 8, No. 1, 2014, p. 65-69.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

@article{434ff1c63f0344a09c847a076cd10161,
title = "The utility of and risks associated with the use of spontaneous volunteers in disaster response: A survey",
abstract = "Objective The use of spontaneous volunteers (SV) is common after a disaster, but their limited training and experience can create a danger for the SVs and nongovernmental voluntary organizations (NVOs). We assessed the experience of NVOs with SVs during disasters, how they were integrated into the agency's infrastructure, their perceived value to previous responses, and liability issues associated with their use. Methods Of the 51 National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters organizations that were contacted for surveys, 24 (47{\%}) agreed to participate. Results Of the 24 participating organizations, 19 (72{\%}) had encountered SVs during a response, most (79{\%}) used them regularly, and 68{\%} believed that SVs were usually useful. SVs were always credentialed by 2 organizations, and sometimes by 6 (31{\%}). One organization always performed background checks; 53{\%} provided just-in-time training for SVs; 26{\%} conducted evaluations of SV performance; and 21{\%} provided health or workers compensation benefits. Two organizations reported an SV death; 42{\%} reported injuries; 32{\%} accepted legal liability for the actions of SVs; and 16{\%} were sued because of actions by SVs. Conclusions The use of SVs is widespread, but NVOs are not necessarily structured to incorporate them effectively. More structured efforts to integrate SVs are critical to safe and effective disaster response.",
keywords = "disaster response, nongovernmental organizations, spontaneous volunteers",
author = "Lauren Sauer and Christina Catlett and Robert Tosatto and Kirsch, {Thomas D.}",
year = "2014",
doi = "10.1017/dmp.2014.12",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "8",
pages = "65--69",
journal = "Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness",
issn = "1935-7893",
publisher = "American Medical Association",
number = "1",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - The utility of and risks associated with the use of spontaneous volunteers in disaster response

T2 - A survey

AU - Sauer, Lauren

AU - Catlett, Christina

AU - Tosatto, Robert

AU - Kirsch, Thomas D.

PY - 2014

Y1 - 2014

N2 - Objective The use of spontaneous volunteers (SV) is common after a disaster, but their limited training and experience can create a danger for the SVs and nongovernmental voluntary organizations (NVOs). We assessed the experience of NVOs with SVs during disasters, how they were integrated into the agency's infrastructure, their perceived value to previous responses, and liability issues associated with their use. Methods Of the 51 National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters organizations that were contacted for surveys, 24 (47%) agreed to participate. Results Of the 24 participating organizations, 19 (72%) had encountered SVs during a response, most (79%) used them regularly, and 68% believed that SVs were usually useful. SVs were always credentialed by 2 organizations, and sometimes by 6 (31%). One organization always performed background checks; 53% provided just-in-time training for SVs; 26% conducted evaluations of SV performance; and 21% provided health or workers compensation benefits. Two organizations reported an SV death; 42% reported injuries; 32% accepted legal liability for the actions of SVs; and 16% were sued because of actions by SVs. Conclusions The use of SVs is widespread, but NVOs are not necessarily structured to incorporate them effectively. More structured efforts to integrate SVs are critical to safe and effective disaster response.

AB - Objective The use of spontaneous volunteers (SV) is common after a disaster, but their limited training and experience can create a danger for the SVs and nongovernmental voluntary organizations (NVOs). We assessed the experience of NVOs with SVs during disasters, how they were integrated into the agency's infrastructure, their perceived value to previous responses, and liability issues associated with their use. Methods Of the 51 National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters organizations that were contacted for surveys, 24 (47%) agreed to participate. Results Of the 24 participating organizations, 19 (72%) had encountered SVs during a response, most (79%) used them regularly, and 68% believed that SVs were usually useful. SVs were always credentialed by 2 organizations, and sometimes by 6 (31%). One organization always performed background checks; 53% provided just-in-time training for SVs; 26% conducted evaluations of SV performance; and 21% provided health or workers compensation benefits. Two organizations reported an SV death; 42% reported injuries; 32% accepted legal liability for the actions of SVs; and 16% were sued because of actions by SVs. Conclusions The use of SVs is widespread, but NVOs are not necessarily structured to incorporate them effectively. More structured efforts to integrate SVs are critical to safe and effective disaster response.

KW - disaster response

KW - nongovernmental organizations

KW - spontaneous volunteers

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=84897042750&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=84897042750&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1017/dmp.2014.12

DO - 10.1017/dmp.2014.12

M3 - Article

C2 - 24661361

AN - SCOPUS:84897042750

VL - 8

SP - 65

EP - 69

JO - Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness

JF - Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness

SN - 1935-7893

IS - 1

ER -