How to Become a Disaster Response Volunteer
One of the best ways to recover from an emergency is to take emergency preparation and response classes that teach you what to do. The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program and local chapters of the American Red Cross offer many opportunities for you to get training and even volunteer as an auxiliary emergency responder.
Volunteers with CERT typically are educated in disaster response regarding fire safety, light search and rescue and medical triage.
Volunteers don’t need to know much about these topics when they join. Generally, they will receive all the training they need from experienced emergency responders over a number of extensive courses. CERT members will prepare for potential disasters their communities may face by learning how to safely respond to hazards and promoting emergency preparedness in their communities, says FEMA. Afterward, volunteers that want to put their training to work in the community can elect to be “on call” to respond to calls from their local emergency response agencies or volunteer managers during times that the volunteer has committed to being available.
There are more than 2,700 local CERT programs across the U.S. and roughly 600,000 trained volunteers, according to FEMA. For each training session, volunteers are required to bring both safety equipment and disaster supplies. This may include items such as gloves to bandages. By attending training prepared, participants are building their disaster response kit to use out in the field when they’re volunteering.
Red Cross Disaster Volunteer Program
The Red Cross addresses broader needs around a disaster by educating communities on preparedness before disaster strikes. The Red Cross does this by setting up and managing emergency shelters during disasters, and by helping people who have suffered a loss from a disaster to connect with supplies like food, clothing and counseling.
According to the Red Cross, about 90 percent of their workforce is made up of volunteers that respond to 64,000 disasters each year. Red Cross volunteers generally serve locally after completing several days’ worth of training over evenings and weekend classes, and then they can also apply to participate in responses to national or international events. There are a variety of different volunteer opportunities with the Red Cross, and you can learn more about these disaster training programs on their website. As with CERT, Red Cross volunteers can choose when they are “on call” to respond to emergencies.
No matter where you live, a natural disaster is an unfortunate possibility. During difficult times, any helping hand can improve a tough situation. For more information on how to support CERT or the Red Cross, contact your local chapter.
Originally published on November 13, 2013.