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A review of informal volunteerism in emergencies and disasters: Definition, opportunities and challenges

Journal Article


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Abstract


  • Despite highly specialised and capable emergency management systems, ordinary citizens are usually

    first on the scene in an emergency or disaster, and remain long after official services have ceased. Citizens

    often play vital roles in helping those affected to respond and recover, and can provide invaluable assistance

    to official agencies. However, in most developed countries, emergency and disaster management

    relies largely on a workforce of professionals and, to varying degrees, volunteers affiliated with official

    agencies. Those who work outside of such systems have tended to be viewed as a nuisance or liability,

    and their efforts are often undervalued. Given increasing disaster risk worldwide due to population

    growth, urban development and climate change, it is likely that ‘informal’ volunteers will provide much

    of the additional surge capacity required to respond to more frequent emergencies and disasters in the

    future. This paper considers the role of informal volunteers in emergency and disaster management.

    Definitions of volunteerism are reviewed and it is argued that there is an overemphasis on volunteering

    within, and for, state and formal organisations. We offer a broader definition of ‘informal volunteerism’

    that recognises the many ways ordinary citizens volunteer their time, knowledge, skills and resources to

    help others in times of crisis. Two broad types of informal volunteerism are identified – emergent and

    extending – and the implications for emergency and disaster management are considered. Particular

    attention is given to increasing ‘digital volunteerism’ due to the greater accessibility of sophisticated but

    simple information and communication technologies. Culture and legal liability are identified as key

    barriers to greater participation of informal volunteers. We argue that more adaptive and inclusive

    models of emergency and disaster management are needed to harness the capacities and resilience that

    exist within and across communities.

UOW Authors


  •   Whittaker, Joshua
  •   McLennan, Blythe (external author)
  •   Handmer, John (external author)

Publication Date


  • 2015

Citation


  • Whitaker, J., McLennan, B. & Handmer, J. (2015). A review of informal volunteerism in emergencies and disasters: Definition, opportunities and challenges. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, 13 358-368.

Scopus Eid


  • 2-s2.0-84939607318

Ro Full-text Url


  • https://ro.uow.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1299&context=smhpapers1

Ro Metadata Url


  • http://ro.uow.edu.au/smhpapers1/295

Has Global Citation Frequency


Number Of Pages


  • 10

Start Page


  • 358

End Page


  • 368

Volume


  • 13

Place Of Publication


  • Netherlands

Abstract


  • Despite highly specialised and capable emergency management systems, ordinary citizens are usually

    first on the scene in an emergency or disaster, and remain long after official services have ceased. Citizens

    often play vital roles in helping those affected to respond and recover, and can provide invaluable assistance

    to official agencies. However, in most developed countries, emergency and disaster management

    relies largely on a workforce of professionals and, to varying degrees, volunteers affiliated with official

    agencies. Those who work outside of such systems have tended to be viewed as a nuisance or liability,

    and their efforts are often undervalued. Given increasing disaster risk worldwide due to population

    growth, urban development and climate change, it is likely that ‘informal’ volunteers will provide much

    of the additional surge capacity required to respond to more frequent emergencies and disasters in the

    future. This paper considers the role of informal volunteers in emergency and disaster management.

    Definitions of volunteerism are reviewed and it is argued that there is an overemphasis on volunteering

    within, and for, state and formal organisations. We offer a broader definition of ‘informal volunteerism’

    that recognises the many ways ordinary citizens volunteer their time, knowledge, skills and resources to

    help others in times of crisis. Two broad types of informal volunteerism are identified – emergent and

    extending – and the implications for emergency and disaster management are considered. Particular

    attention is given to increasing ‘digital volunteerism’ due to the greater accessibility of sophisticated but

    simple information and communication technologies. Culture and legal liability are identified as key

    barriers to greater participation of informal volunteers. We argue that more adaptive and inclusive

    models of emergency and disaster management are needed to harness the capacities and resilience that

    exist within and across communities.

UOW Authors


  •   Whittaker, Joshua
  •   McLennan, Blythe (external author)
  •   Handmer, John (external author)

Publication Date


  • 2015

Citation


  • Whitaker, J., McLennan, B. & Handmer, J. (2015). A review of informal volunteerism in emergencies and disasters: Definition, opportunities and challenges. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, 13 358-368.

Scopus Eid


  • 2-s2.0-84939607318

Ro Full-text Url


  • https://ro.uow.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1299&context=smhpapers1

Ro Metadata Url


  • http://ro.uow.edu.au/smhpapers1/295

Has Global Citation Frequency


Number Of Pages


  • 10

Start Page


  • 358

End Page


  • 368

Volume


  • 13

Place Of Publication


  • Netherlands