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Integrating unorganized volunteers in emergency response management: A case study

Marit Skar (Tromsø Maritime School, Tromsø, Norway, AND The Arctic Student Welfare Organization of Norway, Tromsø, Norway)
Maria Sydnes (Department of Engineering and Safety, UiT The Arctic University of Norway, Tromsø, Norway)
Are Kristoffer Sydnes (Department of Engineering and Safety, UiT The Arctic University of Norway, Tromsø, Norway)

International Journal of Emergency Services

ISSN: 2047-0894

Article publication date: 3 May 2016

745

Abstract

Purpose

When emergencies occur, ordinary members of the public are often the first to respond. However, their use and integration in emergency response remain a challenge. The purpose of this paper is to explore mechanisms and strategies for integrating unorganized volunteers in emergency response.

Design/methodology/approach

This is a qualitative case study. A series of anonymized, semi-structured interviews were conducted with representatives of the key emergency response organizations – the police, ambulance service, fire and rescue service, and the Red Cross, located in the city of Tromsø. In addition, regulatory documents used by these organizations were examined, including laws, contingency plans, procedural handbooks and checklists.

Findings

Professional responders acknowledge the resource unorganized volunteers may represent when additional capacity is needed. However, being uncertain about their availability and competence, professional responders find it hard to integrate unorganized volunteers through formal mechanisms as contingency planning and exercises, but rather rely on informal and individual case-by-case considerations. The local Red Cross, who are part of the established response system, are developing procedures to integrate unorganized volunteers through training, exercises and response operations. This provides an innovative hybrid approach to volunteer management.

Originality/value

Available research provides limited information and advice on how to integrate unorganized volunteers effectively in emergencies. This study provides insights in formal and informal mechanisms of integrating unorganized volunteers in emergency response. It also provides lessons from a case of volunteer management through the Red Cross.

Keywords

Citation

Skar, M., Sydnes, M. and Sydnes, A.K. (2016), "Integrating unorganized volunteers in emergency response management: A case study", International Journal of Emergency Services, Vol. 5 No. 1, pp. 52-65. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJES-04-2015-0017

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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