Emergency & Spontaneous Volunteering

Volunteering in an emergency

Volunteers play an important role in community recovery. Following emergencies such as natural disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic, there is understandably an outpouring of support from the local community. This includes many who want to contribute by offering their time in a volunteer capacity. Spontaneous emergency support volunteers play an essential role in times of crisis, coming together to provide support and care wherever they can.

However it is important to note that during the initial stage of a crisis, community organisations are fully focused on the emergency response and often cannot spare the resources to effectively register or deploy new volunteers.

Please see our tips below on how best to support the community in times of emergency.

Be patient
Community recovery is a long-term process. Often the needs of affected communities may not be known right away or may change over time. Help is actually most needed in the weeks, months or even years following a disaster, well beyond the immediate impacts.

Register early
If you are interested in emergency volunteering, the best thing to do is get involved with a local volunteer-based organisation well before a disaster strikes. That way you will already have all the necessary background checks and a membership with the volunteering group. Local councils often rely on established volunteer-based organisations that can support and coordinate their own volunteers for relief and recovery efforts.

Become an emergency services volunteer
Victoria’s emergency services organisations – such as the Country Fire Authority (CFA), Fire Rescue Victoria, Victoria Police, Red Cross and State Emergency Service (SES) – deploy highly trained staff and volunteers to respond to immediate emergencies. Some services respond during an emergency to protect people and property, while others need trained volunteers to assist in relief centres.

Donations and fundraising
If you are not already involved in a local volunteer organisation, making a cash donation to an official appeal or to a registered charity is the best way to help out.

Supporting your friends and family
Gather My Crew connects people in emergency situations – such as bushfires, floods, and storms – to their community of friends and family in an easy and coordinated way. This helps ensure they can ask for, and receive, the practical support they actually need, whether that’s meals, transport, help with the kids, help with pets and more.

Other ways to help
•  Do not travel to affected areas – it may still be unsafe for you to do so.
•  Do not contact the local council – they are likely to be busy coordinating immediate relief for their community.

There is currently no central platform for recruiting or coordinating spontaneous volunteers in Victoria. Previous platforms facilitated by Volunteering Victoria included weVolunteer and HelpOUT, which have since been defunded. You can read more on our advocacy efforts here: State Budget submissions | Policy submissions.

More information

See below some additional resources available to assist organisations in planning for spontaneous volunteers during emergencies:

Emergency Management Victoria logo

Emergency Management Victoria (EMV) leads emergency management in Victoria by maximising the ability of the emergency management sector to work together and to strengthen the capacity of communities to plan for, withstand, respond to and recover from emergencies.

If you are interested in volunteering with the emergency services, don’t wait for an emergency.  Join now so you can learn new skills before disasters occur.