The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency does not hire temporary disaster relief volunteers or volunteers of any kind. Instead, it directs people who want to volunteer after a disaster to work with agencies that are already helping in the area, and to network with agencies like the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, which can then connect you with an agency looking for volunteers.
After a disaster occurs, FEMA works with first responders to support relief and recovery efforts. FEMA also deploys personnel to help survivors in disaster areas after their immediate needs have been met. Help can include rebuilding homes and other buildings, ensuring that survivors have access to food and water, and making sure that the area is safe for survivors to occupy. FEMA also develops response plans to use before a disaster, if there is advance warning.
Volunteering After A Disaster
Rather than show up at the scene of a disaster expecting to help, you should first research ongoing efforts and what kind of help survivors most need. Some agencies, like the United Way of Central Oklahoma, require volunteers to first register before learning about volunteer opportunities. Most volunteers support emergency medical service providers, rather than perform first-responder activities, and also work with community-based organizations and agencies as needed. FEMA recommends preparing for a disaster before it occurs by researching where to find information about volunteering and agencies you can help.
The National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster acts as a clearinghouse of information and resources after a disaster. It coordinates inter- and intra-agency services, makes sure that disaster survivors and their communities have what they need, streamlines the process for someone who wants to donate money or items and links volunteers with the agencies that need help. For example, after tornadoes devastated parts of Oklahoma, it offered volunteers information about working with the United Way of Central Oklahoma.
The HandsOn Network, which helps connect volunteers to the places where they can do the most good, follows a skills-based model when suggesting ways to deploy personnel. For example, a computer-savvy person may provide more help helping coordinate efforts while a health care worker may do more good working directly with survivors. The HandsOn Network touts skills-based volunteering as a way of letting people engage in ways that best complement their skill set.
FEMA recommends you donate money rather than volunteer in the wake of a disaster, as more volunteers want to help than are needed. Survivors, meanwhile, often go without some basic needs, like clothing or food, which donations can help provide. FEMA urges you to donate directly to an agency collecting money for the area, which can then use your donation where it will do the most good.
William Henderson has been writing for newspapers, magazines and journals for more than 15 years. He served as editor of the "New England Blade" and is a former contributor to "The Advocate." His work has also appeared on The Good Men Project, Life By Me and The Huffington Post.