Volunteers’ Role During Disasters

Subject: Sociology
Pages: 20
Words: 5861
Reading time:
21 min
Study level: PhD


This study focuses on the place of volunteers in enhancing the role of emergency responders during disasters. The research reveals that volunteers play an important role in providing necessary support services that help in making emergency response efforts easier and successful. However, according to the existing literature, if not well coordinated, volunteers can pose danger to the overall rescue operations. The study will use mixed research methods research design that will allow the researcher to collect both qualitative and quantitative data for analysis. Some of the limitations of the study include finances, time constraints, getting permission to interview or collect information from vital sources, and the risk of non-responsiveness of the target population

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Disasters, natural and fabricated, such as earthquakes, fires, hurricanes, and droughts, and famine among others pose an enormous threat to human life. Besides leading to the loss of property, disasters also pose environmental problems around the world. According to the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR), the last decade has seen some of the most devastating disasters that have affected humans and caused billions of losses through property destruction (Cutter, 2006). For instance, in the 2004-2013 decade, disasters caused damage that was estimated at $1.4 trillion, affected 1.7 billion people, and killed 0.7 million others (Dalmida et al., 2016). The magnitude of disasters means that no single agency or even government can adequately respond without the assistance of volunteers who offer the much-needed assistance, skills, and other support to the responding agencies and the survivors (Haddow, Bullock, & Coppola, 2013). In addition, during the emergency response phase, chaos may easily erupt to the extent of jeopardizing the good intentions of the volunteers and responding agencies to the detriment of the affected people. Consequently, an effective method to face crises and disasters requires a tightly integrated system that combines, guides, and coordinates the activities of the volunteers’ efforts (Kako & Ikeda, 2009). In the light of the changes that have occurred in the “era of crisis”, disaster response and coordination of rejoinder activities as they relate to the engagement of volunteers require effective integration between the official and voluntary efforts, including good preparation, scientific planning, and continuous training (Federal Emergency Management Agency, 2012). Such measures will guarantee the achievement of high-state readiness and adequate speed of response to either prevent the occurrence of these crises and disasters or minimize their effects.

The research question in this paper is, “How does the participation of volunteers enhance the role of emergency responders during disasters?” The research question will be answered based on the existing knowledge that addresses the role that volunteers play during and after emergencies. For instance, the magnitude of disasters means that no single organization can adequately respond without the assistance of additional support in terms of human capital and financial resources (Hewitt, 2014). In this case, the volunteers complement the official efforts by firstly offering the skills and labor required during the process. Volunteers may offer technical and professional skills such as medical, first aid, and logistics support among others that are critical in the response process. Secondly, since volunteers are principally individuals from the local communities, they help in increasing the morale and reducing the hopelessness of victims (Tomasini & Van Wassenhove, 2009).

This research proposal is structured into five sections, which provide different information necessary for its completion. The first segment is the introduction, which provides background information on the role of volunteerism during disasters. The second section will be the literature review, which will provide an analysis of the existing information, specifically what other authors have said on various tenets of volunteerism about the subject of this paper. The third section will be the theory and hypothesis, which will discuss the relationship between the dependent and independent variables. The independent variable in the study is that the participation of volunteers enhances responders while the dependent variable is the emergency response during disaster response. Further, the section will define key terms such as volunteers, emergency response, emergency responders, and disaster response. The hypothesis of the paper will also be highlighted in this section. The next part of the paper will be research design and data, which will discuss the variables used in the analysis. The section will further involve the use of mixed methods of research design that embraces both qualitative and quantitative data to test the hypothesis. The section will also discuss how data for the study will be collected. The discussion part will focus on a synopsis of the research proposal while the limitations of the study will highlight the probable factors that may hinder the success of the research. The last section of the paper will be the conclusion, which will offer the final remarks highlighting the main findings of the study.

Literature Review

Introduction to Volunteerism

Volunteerism is a crucial expression of human relationships. It indicates people’s need to participate in their communities and societies free of charge with the view of creating a sense of belonging. According to Brudney (2012), volunteerism is infused with values of mutual trust, empowerment, unity, belonging, and reciprocity. These qualities are important since they contribute immensely to the well-being of individuals and communities. People have many reasons for engaging in volunteerism. The reasons include assisting people in emergencies or imminent danger, improving basic education and health, and helping to eliminate poverty among other services (Cuskelly, Taylor, Hoye, & Darcy, 2006). In this paper, the focus is on volunteer engagement in disasters and the important role that they play in enhancing the response from emergency departments in such situations.

The definition of volunteerism is based on two concepts, namely, offering the services of one’s free will without the anticipation or guarantee of pay or any form of reimbursement. According to Cross (2010), volunteerism is based on several key principles. Firstly, volunteering is beneficial to the community, as well as the volunteer. In this case, volunteerism allows communities to gain immeasurable and priceless positive impacts from the activities of volunteers (Vitoriano, de Juan, & Ruan, 2013). On the other hand, the volunteers not only gain more skills in the areas that they provide their skills and labor but also ensure that they feel a sense of worth and importance in their communities. The second principle of volunteerism is that volunteer work is unpaid (Connors, 2011). In other words, as previously reflected in the definition of the concept, volunteers do not expect any form of reimbursement in terms of money. The third principle is that volunteerism is a matter of choice and not coercion. This principle is very important since it helps to separate unpaid forced work from unpaid voluntary one. As such, voluntary work must always be based on a person’s free will and decision to provide skills or any other support to a common course. The fourth principle is that voluntary work is a legitimate way through which individuals can participate in activities in the communities (Kapucu, 2007). In addition, another important principle is that volunteering provides an avenue for people to address human, environmental, and social needs in their communities, societies, or nations. According to Volunteering Australia, voluntary work is not a substitute for paid work, and that volunteers do not replace paid work or oppose any threat to the job security of compensated workers (Barsky, Trainor, Torres, & Aguirre, 2007). Another important principle of volunteering is that it respects the rights, culture, and dignity of others, and most importantly, promotes human rights and equality.

Volunteers are grouped into different categories based on how or whether they are requested to respond. The first type is the Volunteers on an Assigned Resource. In disaster emergencies and response efforts, these volunteers have a specific assignment within the incident command system (Fernandez, Barbera, & van Dorp, 2006a). For example, unpaid assistants of the executive rescue crew lie in this category. These volunteers are given specific roles based on their expertise that is recognized by the officials in charge of the rescue and response operations (McEntire, 2014). The second category of volunteers is the Recruited Volunteers whose skills are relevant since they address the unique needs of the disaster and emergency response. Volunteers in this class are sought after and requested to offer their assistance in the response and rescue efforts (Waugh & Streib, 2006). For example, the owner or an operator of rare equipment that is required in the search and rescue operations may be placed in this category of volunteers.

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The third type involves the Spontaneous Volunteers who do not have any assigned resources and/or have not been recruited to contribute to a specific role in the rescue operations (Peterson, 2006). These volunteers often form the bulk of those contributing to the rescue and response operations. They demonstrate an interest in offering their services without explicit reimbursement for their dedication to the activities (Drabek, 2012). These often pose the biggest challenge in the coordination of the volunteers’ activities because they are not recruited expressively into the response and rescue operations. If not addressed well, their good intention of volunteering can result in more confusion and delays in the incident command system activities (Kapucu, 2007). The risk posed by these volunteers is also increased since they are often not anticipated by emergency responders. Besides being untrained, they also lack assignment into any specific roles.

Volunteers’ Participation in enhancing Emergency Teams’ Response during Disasters

When major disasters occur, the response and assistance offered by volunteers can be very significant. Many studies have been undertaken on the role and the mode of the response of volunteers in major disasters that have occurred in the past. These studies classify volunteers as those people who take volunteering actions, varying from search and rescue to assisting a neighbor during the process (Peterson, 2006). For instance, according to Fernandez et al. (2006a), more than 10% of the population of Mexico responded to the 1985 Mexico City Earthquake. On the other hand, 60% of the population of San Francisco and 70 of the population of Santa Cruz volunteered in one way or another to the Loma Prieta Earthquake. In the September 11 terrorist attack, approximately 15,000 unsolicited volunteers arrived at Ground Zero immediately after the attack while thousands more followed in the same day and subsequent ones (Barsky et al., 2007). In the above cases, volunteers were lauded as heroes of the day and their efforts as a triumph of humanity.

According to Vitoriano et al. (2013), in such situations, including other disasters, unpaid-helper support is very significant since individuals who reside or work near the affected regions can avail it promptly. Indeed, in instances of distorted houses, the input of unpaid assistants can salvage thousands of individuals who would have otherwise perished (Cuskelly et al., 2006). In addition, in such emergencies, volunteers can take over basic response activities to allow emergency staff to undertake specialized work, thus increasing the effectiveness of the search and rescue activities (Cutter, 2006). According to the Florida Emergency Management Professionals, the economic merits provided by volunteers are significant enough to warrant their inclusion in the emergency plans and hence their frequent inclusion in hurricane-related cleanup activities (Haddow et al., 2013). It has further been argued that volunteers are beneficial to the victims. Hence, volunteerism is not only a method of eliminating anxiety but also plays a key role in the recovery plan. It is also a way of equipping the involved people with the necessary techniques for handling various situations.

Critics’ View of Volunteerism

However, critics of volunteerism regard volunteer as a hindrance to disaster response efforts. While the above cases demonstrate that humans are willing to be united through their civilization instincts and desire for common courses such as during disasters, the large numbers of volunteers undoubtedly present significant logistical and coordination nightmares for the responders. Indeed, according to Fernandez, Barbera, and van Dorp (2006b), unexpected unpaid assistants often divert or affect catastrophe rejoinder efforts, thus creating security and vigor among other issues, which prevent responders from attaining their agendas and duties, thus eventually impeding the response process (Haddow et al., 2013). In most cases, volunteering can become unproductive since bodies bestowed with the response mandate and their structures may not be anticipating or ready to utilize charitable services. When this situation occurs, instead of concentrating on the permissible tasks in the rejoinder process, responders are obstructed from their principal functions to consider the deployment of unplanned voluntary assistants, the establishment and delegation of tasks, the handling of logistics related to the unpaid helpers, and the control of volunteer activities (Cutter, 2006). Due to the lack of prior planning, the onsite and the ad hoc inclusion of volunteers may result in inefficiencies, thus affecting the whole response process (Kako & Ikeda, 2009). In addition, in many cases, especially in major disasters, the large number of volunteers who turn up often overwhelms the capacity of the often-unprepared responding organizations to use them effectively (Federal Emergency Management Agency, 2012). In other words, the number of volunteers is more than the tasks that they can be assigned. Vitoriano et al. (2013) assert that the situation above presents a paradox between people’s desire and willingness to volunteer and the capacity of the system to engage them effectively.

Without the appropriate arrangement, harmonization, and inclusion of unpaid assistants’ tasks in the established rejoinder efforts, the unpaid service providers often seek to tackle activities based only on how they view them (Cutter, 2006). This approach is often a constricted view of the crisis. This situation poses a massive danger, especially in unsafe rejoinder activities such as health service provision or food distribution (Federal Emergency Management Agency, 2012). In this case, such individuals may provide contaminated food or provide unnecessary or inappropriate medical support, which may cause serious harm to the victims, as well as other responders, including volunteers. In some cases, volunteers who arrive on the scene of the incident before official responders may be unwilling later in the search and rescue operations to acknowledge or recognize official response personnel, hence creating a situation of “rogue volunteers”, which can cause safety problems and risks to the whole team.

As improbable as it may appear, since these service providers do not receive monetary reimbursement, they often incur expenditures while at the same time straining the inadequate funds required in the rejoinder process. For instance, unexpected volunteers demand logistical backing such as defensive gear, sanctuary, food, and cleanliness among others (Kako & Ikeda, 2009). In other circumstances, due to the large number of individuals who seek their way to the area of incidence to volunteer, congestion of roads often occurs. This situation may hinder emergency vehicles from getting in or out of the scene to provide the necessary support (Dalmida et al., 2016). Volunteers often lead to more efforts on the stressed rejoinder structure compared to the resolution of the disaster response attempts. Turning away some volunteers can sometimes have a rollover negative effect, for instance, the withdrawal of volunteers, despite the glaring shortages in terms of resources and official responders (Hewitt, 2014). Consequently, dealing with the paradox of the high number of volunteers and the system’s capacity to engage them effectively is a nightmare to official responders.

The major issue that incident administrators have to deal with is the wish to get the most out of the accessible volunteers’ capital to realize the finest results in the response efforts. Such administrators have to guarantee the safety of the unpaid assistants and most importantly without endangering the responders’ capacity to carry out the tasks established within the incident control framework (Kako & Ikeda, 2009). A review of the existing literature on disaster response and incident command systems shows that a comprehensive and universally accepted disaster volunteer management system, which caters to incident recognition, response, and recovery among other phases of disaster management is lacking (Cross, 2010). While the existing plans and systems have been of great help during disaster response efforts, the remaining gaps must be addressed to ensure that the role of volunteers in disaster response and emergencies is enhanced.

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Enhancing the Role of Volunteers through Effective Disaster Response Coordination

The coordination of volunteers, both affiliated and unaffiliated (spontaneous), is an important function of emergency management activities. Hence, it cannot be overlooked. Whether the engagement of volunteers has been anticipated or not, coordination is an area that incident command managers cannot ignore. The availability of prior coordination plans makes it easier to determine whether volunteers’ services will be needed while at the same time ensuring that they (volunteers) can be engaged effectively and in a beneficial manner (Waugh & Streib, 2006). The September 11 event led to numerous spontaneous volunteers. The disaster emerged as a wake-up call for emergency response organizations to put volunteer coordination at the center of future emergency response efforts in the United States (Drabek, 2012). The approach to disaster response that considers volunteer management as a central tenet of the emergency process has been adopted in many other places worldwide.

According to McEntire (2014), despite the recognition of the need for the coordination of volunteer efforts, the existing systems of coordination are limited in scope, scale, and operational details. Some of the areas that have not been well addressed include the integration of the volunteer management system with the incident command system, the channeling of volunteers, physically or through information, to ensure their safety, that of the victims, and the official responders (Drabek, 2012). In addition, other issues include the processing of Spontaneous Volunteers who require advanced credentialing, addressing the transition to recovery related to the volunteers, and the follow-up requirements to volunteers post the emergency (Brudney, 2012). According to Brudney (2012), the existing volunteer management systems and plans often have several limitations. For example, they habitually emphasize the handling of participants who can do the job in a particular institution. Besides, the plans concentrate principally on the pre-incident listing of the subjects.

A good volunteer management system goes beyond the limited scope that many systems currently focus on. It asks critical questions that help to address Spontaneous Volunteers in the event of a disaster (Tomasini & Van Wassenhove, 2009). These questions help organizations and incident command managers to examine the use of volunteer resources in a closely-knit systems-based approach (Peterson, 2006). A good volunteer management system or coordination structure must consider many factors such as:

  1. The impact of massive spontaneous volunteer response
  2. The essential functions of disaster volunteer management in leveraging opportunities and risks involved in the volunteer management process
  3. The strategy of volunteer management to ensure effective coordination during emergency response
  4. The consideration of resources to support volunteer engagement (Connors, 2011)

According to Drabek (2012), an effective volunteer management system must address all the stages of response and include pre-response, response management, and post-response activities related to volunteers.

Risks, Issues, and Opportunities in Volunteer Coordination during Disasters

Literature on the enhancement of the role of volunteers, volunteer coordination, and management during disasters has focused on three key areas, namely, spontaneous volunteer management, disaster volunteer management, and the existing volunteer management plans and systems (Brudney, 2012). Accordingly, effective volunteer coordination and management system must consider these three issues to ensure that they can deliver value to the disaster response efforts. In spontaneous volunteer behavior, the existing literature has focused on the profile of a typical volunteer. It is concerned with questions such as who volunteers, why individuals volunteer, how they volunteer, and whether volunteers can respond if there is a perceived threat.

On the other hand, disaster volunteer management issues include, but are not limited to, matching volunteers to the response needs, the dynamism of disaster response needs, security and access issues, and the health and safety of volunteers (Kapucu, 2007). Further, additional issues include challenges in developing a common view of the incidence, the perception of the volunteer response, and the problem posed by the fact that volunteers will respond even when they are not required to, and hence the issue of turning them down or integrating them into the system.

Other issues relate to the existing volunteer management systems and plans. In this case, conflicts are likely to arise since organizations or coordinators try to integrate new systems into the existing ones or when trying to do away with old systems in favor of new ones and vice versa (Fernandez et al., 2006b). For example, volunteer agencies that already have their unpaid assistant management planning may find it difficult to incorporate massive numbers of Spontaneous Volunteers who had not been considered. In addition, the responding agencies such as National Response Initiatives, State Volunteer Management Planning, and Federal Volunteer Management Planning among others may lead to confusion. Each body tries to implement or push for the adoption of the system in its favor, thus causing confusion and chaos that may altogether affect the effectiveness of the disaster response efforts and activities (Federal Emergency Management Agency, 2012).

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In terms of spontaneous volunteer behavior, the existing literature has documented various incidences and studies that have sought to predict the profile and characteristics of the typical volunteer. To begin with, these studies have asserted that establishing the number of individuals who are likely to volunteer in a crisis is intricate. In this case, gender, ethnicity, wealth, or community involvement have not been found to influence volunteerism in any way (Vitoriano et al., 2013). In other words, people of all lifestyles or any other characteristic as listed above may volunteer during emergencies (Vitoriano et al., 2013). However, factors such as personal identification with the victims and proximity to the emergency site may increase volunteerism (Fernandez et al., 2006a).

Concerning disaster volunteer management issues, the major problem, in this case, is the fact that volunteers always respond regardless of whether they have been requested to assist. The wish for taking part in the event of a crisis is irresistible to those with no reserved roles in the rejoinder process (Cutter, 2006). The need to respond is guided by the perception of people that there is a need or in other cases when they cannot confirm that their assistance is not needed. Secondly, matching volunteers to the needs on the ground is a major issue that commonly occurs during disasters (Dalmida et al., 2016). Lastly, volunteer health and safety issues feature highly in some of the issues that arise when dealing with Spontaneous Volunteers (Dalmida et al., 2016). In this case, unexpected volunteers bring mystification, create impediments at the emergency site, and/or hinder the effectiveness of the response process (Waugh & Streib, 2006). Traditional emergency responders and Spontaneous Volunteers lack protective equipment and/or have less training, which further complicates the whole process, thus making the rescue operations more difficult since their needs have to be addressed to ensure that they participate well.

In emergency response activities, some organizations already have systems that incorporate volunteers in their planning. For example, the American Red Cross, which is a major responder in disaster-related emergencies, has elaborate plans for incorporating Spontaneous Volunteers (Connors, 2011). However, the drawback of the framework by the Red Cross and other agencies is that it endorses unpaid assistants to work for them (agencies). Moreover, the framework may not incorporate society in the real salvaging endeavor (Kapucu, 2007). California and Florida are some of the states that have very good plans and guidance in the area of directing Spontaneous Volunteers (McEntire, 2014). Lastly, at the national rank, the American administration has the State-run Response Map, which establishes the role and purpose of the centralized regime in the supervision of volunteers (Brudney, 2012). However, the map acknowledges that the principal agenda of the rejoinder activities and volunteer supervision lies with the local and state administration.

Gaps in Literature

The main research question that this research focuses on is how the participation of volunteers enhances the role of emergency responders during disasters. From the discussion above, it is evident that volunteers play an important role in the enhancement of disaster response efforts (Kapucu, 2007). The literature has revealed that volunteers who are majorly sourced from the local communities and sometimes who are also victims, provide crucial emotional and psychological support to the affected people (Drabek, 2012). In addition, volunteering gives people a sense of purpose in their community. Disasters lead to major disruptions. Hence, the recovery process cannot be left to a few organizations or entities (Kapucu, 2007). Most importantly, resources, including financial, human, and material, are highly strained during such emergencies. As such, volunteers provide the much-needed labor or support, which goes a long way in sustaining the disaster response efforts. However, despite the importance of volunteers and the overwhelming support for their inclusion in disaster response efforts, this study identifies a gap in terms of the apparent lack of adequate strategies for incorporating volunteers seamlessly into the official emergency efforts (Cross, 2010). The gap is founded on the main challenge that is posed by Spontaneous Volunteers who often turn up in large numbers to assist in the rescue operations, regardless of whether their assistance is required, anticipated for, or not (Fernandez et al., 2006b). Such volunteers often create confusion and chaos in addition to restraining resources. If not handled well, they may lead to more risks for the emergency operations. The identified gap is fuelled by the lack of comprehensively accepted mechanisms and approaches for incorporating volunteers effectively into the official response activities. In this case, this study will seek to identify some of the approaches that have been used, including whether they can be taken over, applied widely in the disaster response activities, and thus facilitate effective inclusion and engagement of volunteers.

Secondly, a major gap in the literature that has been analyzed is the fact that effective models and systems are not available to guide volunteer management to enhance their role in emergency response. In the recognition of this gap in the literature, this study will seek to recommend important models and strategies of disaster response that will factor in the inclusion of volunteers in the official disaster response efforts. Such models and systems will provide important approaches towards the effective management of disaster response activities. Lastly, the study seeks to offer important recommendations for future research and studies on the role of volunteers during disasters. Such studies will be crucial in ensuring that systems established by official responders consider the inclusion of volunteers during disasters.

Theory and Hypothesis

Independent and dependent variables provide important guidance on the direction of a study. In this study, the independent variable is the participation of volunteers in enhancing the action of emergency responders while the dependent variable is the emergency response during disaster response. To understand the variables in the study, it is important to appreciate key tenets that are included in the variables. In this case, various terms as defined below will set the basis for a deeper understanding of the variables of the study. The terms and their respective definitions are presented in the table below:

Key Terms Definitions
Volunteers In a disaster situation, a volunteer refers to an individual who offers his/her skills, labor, or expertise towards the disaster response activities without the expectation of financial compensation (Fernandez et al., 2006b)
Emergency responders Emergency responders in this study refer to the individuals or organizations that have an official mandate in the search and rescue activities in the event of a disaster (Cutter, 2006)
Emergency response Denote the activities that go into the search and rescue operations in the aftermath of an emergency. It combines human and financial resources (Cutter, 2006)
Disaster response Refers to the activities of search and rescue following a disaster (Peterson, 2006)

The research will be based on two hypotheses as follows:

H0: The coordination of volunteers does not influence the effectiveness of emergency response efforts

H1: The participation of the volunteers will enhance the role of emergency responders

Unit of Analysis

The study seeks to study the role of volunteers in enhancing the role of emergency responders in the United States. The study will specifically address key areas of emergency response during disasters, which include critical supplies such as food, shelter, and medicine, emergency evacuations, resource management, and post-disaster recovery process management. To achieve the above, the study will engage a sample population from two major areas, namely, Florida and Louisiana, which are prone to disasters. These states’ emergency management approaches and systems will be used to provide important insights into emergency management and volunteer engagement for this study. The sample will also involve stakeholders in emergency management who will be selected randomly from various emergency departments in the United States. The sample population will be selected randomly from the respective (specified) target areas of the study. However, in the case of the stakeholders, purposeful random sampling will be used to select specific individuals or experts, especially from the Federal Emergency Management Agency among other emergency response and management organizations in America. These people will be crucial in offering expert opinions on the best approaches to volunteer engagement and management during disaster emergency response efforts. In addition, the study will also compare the current United States emergency management practices with the best practices of other countries such as India and Japan, which have well-established emergency management structures. In the end, the study will provide vital information and knowledge towards comprehensively accepted approaches to the incorporation of volunteers into emergency management efforts for the best outcomes of disaster response activities, thus ensuring that future emergency management activities achieve their goals of alleviating the suffering of the affected people.

Research Design and Data

The study will use the mixed methods research design to guide the sourcing of data and information necessary for the completion of the study. In the mixed methods research design, the study will use both qualitative and quantitative research designs to ensure that it is as comprehensive as possible. Some of the qualitative research methods will include the use of interviews, content/document analysis, and questionnaires. These approaches will facilitate the collection of both primary and secondary data that will inform the study. The interviews will target experts in the field of disaster and emergency response who will provide important insights into volunteer management. On the other hand, the questionnaires will target different people on various issues of volunteerism that are crucial for the study. Content/document analysis will be important in collecting secondary data on the various attempts at the establishment of volunteer management systems and models.

On the other hand, the quantitative research methods that will be used will involve the statistical manipulation of the information that will be collected from questionnaires, interviews, and secondary sources. In addition, the method will further guide the manipulation of previous data that has been collected in earlier studies by other researchers. Ultimately, the design will be important in guiding the testing of the hypothesis and informing the findings and recommendations on the role of volunteers during disasters.


The collection of the data will target the general population using random questions on the role of volunteerism in enhancing response from emergency bodies. On the other hand, proficient information will be sourced from different individuals who have experience in volunteer management. In addition, adept information will be collected from organizations and agencies that are actively engaged in emergency management. These organizations will be crucial in providing insights into their volunteer management systems, if any, to ensure that the current study can effectively contribute to knowledge about such systems. The organizations will be drawn from both governmental and non-governmental sectors. They will be necessary for the collection of credible data that can be relied on in this study.


The findings of the study will be crucial in informing future volunteer management approaches to enhance their role during disasters. The study will also propose a volunteer management system that will ensure that emergency management activities are successful and that the benefits of volunteer engagement accrue to the people who are targeted by the emergency response activities. The study will also contribute to the understanding of the issues by highlighting the problems and challenges of incorporating volunteers in official disaster response activities. Most importantly, the study will provide important additional knowledge on volunteer management during disasters and emergency management activities.

Limitations of the Study

Several limitations of the study may hinder its successful completion. Therefore, it is very important to identify the limitations to ensure that they are well anticipated and if possible, addressed before the study can commence. These limitations are as follows:

  1. Getting permission to collect information from organizations: Organizations spend millions on studying various issues relating to their roles. In this case, the emergency management and nonprofit organizations that will be targeted to provide crucial information may be reluctant to give it to third parties. This major limitation may deny the study crucial information that may influence its findings.
  2. Limited financial resources: The study requires considerable financial resources that will support key activities such as travel and accommodation as the researcher travels to interview important persons for the study. In addition, the process of creating some of the materials such as questionnaires is also costly. Thus, it requires proper budgeting. Financial issues may hinder the researcher from reaching all the interviewees and hence the need for planning for alternative approaches to interviews.
  3. Time: The study must be accomplished within a strict duration. This situation may hinder the comprehensive coverage of all the necessary areas required for the exhaustive completion of the study.
  4. Non-responsive respondents: The use of questionnaires presents a major limitation to the study. Since the response of the targeted population is voluntary, individuals may fail to respond as expected, thus jeopardizing the credibility and generalizability of the findings of the study to the whole population.


The study has focused on the role of volunteers during disasters. As discussed, the volunteers are unavoidable and necessary in emergency response. Indeed, as the literature review has revealed, volunteers offer important advantages that cannot be wished away. For instance, in addition to reducing the financial burden of the official responders, volunteers also provide emotional and psychological support to the affected people, hence assisting in the recovery process. On the other hand, poor management of volunteers may present challenges to the effectiveness of the official response activities. If not planned for and integrated well into the response activities, volunteers, especially spontaneous ones, may lead to congestion, health and safety issues, and increased costs to the already restrained resources of the response activities. It is for this reason that the research investigates the place of volunteers in enhancing the role of emergency responders during disasters. In this case, the main study, which is meant to be conducted later, will seek to identify and suggest approaches, systems, and models that can be effectively used to ensure the successful utilization of volunteers during disasters. The study will use mixed methods of research design by incorporating qualitative and quantitative research methods. Some of the confines of the research include limited financial resources, time constraints, getting permission to access crucial information, and the risk of non-responsiveness of the respondents. Concisely, the research will be important in building or creating new knowledge on the role of volunteers during disasters.


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