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The voluntary sector in emergency response and civil protection: review and recommendations

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This paper examines the role of volunteer emergency responders in civil protection activities. It distinguishes between spontaneous and organised voluntarism and focuses upon the latter. The potential of volunteer organisations to run different kinds of services is evaluated, but it is noted that the degree to which volunteers are important in civil protection varies considerably from one country to another. The literature on volunteers in emergencies is surveyed with respect to the forms of voluntarism in this sector, its organisation and management, problems of recruitment and retention, and volunteers' motivations, levels of satisfaction, liability problems and psychological support needs. With reference to examples, the place of volunteer organisations in civil protection systems is evaluated. Recommendations are offered on how to improve the integration of these organisations with other elements of the system, how to create or strengthen a culture of voluntarism and how best to train volunteers to respond to emergencies. A three-level training scheme is presented. It is argued that training is the key to improving the profile of volunteers, enhancing their job satisfaction and increasing the efficiency of the emergency services that they provide.

Keywords: volunteer organisations, civil protection, emergency response, disaster management, disaster risk reduction, voluntary sector, emergency management, integration, volunteer culture, training, job satisfaction, efficiency, emergency services

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