The Emergency Volunteer Center (EVC)
The Emergency Volunteer Center (EVC) provides a specific location where disaster volunteers can efficiently and effectively be deployed. The EVC is staffed by skilled, trained volunteer managers capable of screening, interviewing and referring prospective volunteers in a professional manner. In large-scale disasters, the EVC can be set up as a “walk in center”. In smaller disasters, the EVC can operate as a phone bank, a web-based processing center, or a combination of these scenarios. Whether it’s a large or small scale disaster there are many first-time volunteers who bring a wide range of skills and professional training -- which are often in short supply after a disaster or emergency.
When disaster strikes, Hands On Sacramento staff and volunteers from their Emergency Volunteer Corps, will be tasked with managing these volunteers at the Emergency Volunteer Center. The purpose of the EVC is to mobilize community volunteers by matching them with volunteer opportunities at government agencies and other organizations active in disasters. The EVC registers volunteers and takes requests for volunteers. Volunteers are matched to these requests and referred to where they are needed.
Emergency Volunteer Center Activation
In most large-scale incidents, the Emergency Volunteer Center will be activated by the Sacramento Office of Emergency Services. The site for this center will then be determined depending on the size, scope, and location of the disaster.
When the order to activate the EVC is given, a representative of the Sacramento Office of Emergency Services will notify Hands On Sacramento to ask them to contact Emergency Volunteer Corps members to begin setting up the EVC.
Reasons for activating the Emergency Volunteer Center may include but are not limited to the following:
When the nature of the disaster and/or media coverage of it makes convergence of spontaneous volunteers likely
When shortages of workers require augmentation of staffing support from outside resources
When volunteers with particular skills and/or special knowledge of the affected community could enhance relief and recovery efforts.
When the EVC is Activated
Initially, the EVC may be open long hours - seven days a week if needed. During operation, the EVC would seek out volunteer needs in the impacted areas and allocate the appropriate volunteers to these areas. Unaffiliated volunteers can help with numerous efforts including and depending on the disaster: clerical work, data entry, translation/interpretation services, debris removal, sandbagging, answering phones, shelter care and comfort, caring for lost pets as well as filling many other important needs.
The EVC Will:
Incorporate unaffiliated volunteers into disaster response and recovery
Provide an area where large numbers of unaffiliated volunteers can be processed and referred to agencies needing their service
Provide a central location for disaster-related programs such as Sacramento Region Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) to convene and receive deployment instructions
The Virtual of Web-Based Emergency Volunteer Center
In today's technological world, web-based Emergency Volunteer Centers have become critical to managing and communicating with spontaneous unaffiliated volunteers. They are a cost-effective alternative to the "walk-in" EVC.
A virtual, or web-based Emergency Volunteer Center, allows volunteers to register and for Hands On Sacramento to communicate a consistent message to those interested in volunteering. Agencies in need of volunteers can post disaster volunteer opportunities directly to www.handsonsacto.org and volunteers can select their projects.
Some volunteer centers switch over from a "walk-in" to a "web-based EVC" after the initial onslaught of volunteers has been screened and processed. The web-based EVC is a long-term and more cost-effective option and, as with the "walk-in" EVC, is managed primarily by Hands On Sacramento volunteers.
The Benefits of an Emergency Volunteer Center
The EVC helps first responders and spontaneous unaffiliated volunteers interact in more efficient, beneficial ways. Emergency managers find that the EVC can help reduce the risk of accidents when volunteers do not "self-deploy" to disaster/emergency sites.
Disaster organizations find that interviewing and processing spontaneous volunteers can be time-consuming and appreciate the help of an EVC to screen and interview potential volunteers, ensuring that urgent needs are addressed in a timely manner. After an event, the volunteer may wish to affiliate with the organization for which they volunteered, therefore, becoming trained and ready to help that organization in the next disaster.
And finally, when spontaneous unaffiliated volunteers are well managed, it positively affects the community and the volunteers themselves, thus contributing to the overall healing process of both individuals and the larger community.