Emergency Volunteering Service Launches
10 May 2016 at 10:27 am
Volunteering Victoria has launched a pilot program to coordinate volunteers for disaster relief and recovery activities to mark National Volunteer Week.
The HelpOUT program, launched on Tuesday, will run in Geelong and surrounding areas. It uses an online platform to match volunteers based on their skills and location with emergency service organisations that require support.
Currently more than 1,800 Victorians are listed on the program, and it accepts registrations year-round.
A spokesperson for Volunteering Victoria said emergency volunteering had become increasingly recognised as an important part of disaster response.
“It’s important for emergency management organisations to have access to the people who they need,” the spokesperson said.
“It’s also becoming increasingly obvious, through research and policy documents nationally, that when people involved in an emergency… are actually able to be involved in their own preparedness and recovery activities they get better outcomes.”
One of the key principles of the HelpOUT program is working with emergency service organisations to provide volunteers that meet their criteria.
“While we take registrations of volunteer interest from all over, we always match those volunteers to specific requests from organisations that are working in communities,” the spokesperson said.
“The other side of the equation, apart from people volunteering, is the demand for volunteers.
“One of the major activities that we’ve undertaken… is to meet and engage and understand the needs of the organisations who have a role in an emergency in that region – whether they be emergency services, local councils, Not for Profit organisations like the Salvos or Red Cross, and even local community groups.
“They can register with HelpOUT so when something happens the request process from their end is quite smooth.
“We take the brief they give us, the activities they want volunteers to do, how many they need, when is it, what kind of skills the volunteers need, and we can then interrogate our system to find people, and we contact the volunteers and take that legwork away from the organisations.”
The program was developed in response to the Emergency Reform White Paper from 2012 after the Black Saturday Royal Commission, which found a need for management and coordination of emergency volunteers.
“That gave the emergency management sector a strategic priority of coordinating and managing spontaneous volunteering so they could tap into the significant capacity that these volunteers offered, but also to reduce the risks that are associated with spontaneous volunteers,” Volunteering Victoria said.
HelpOUT is an adaptation of the Emergency Volunteering CREW program in Queensland, and was also created in partnership with Volunteering Geelong and Volunteering Queensland
Volunteering Victoria said the Queensland model, at the time of its launch in 2008, was the most sophisticated program of its kind worldwide.
Coordinated emergency volunteering services are now across four states and territories, including Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory.
National Volunteering Week runs from 9 to 15 May.