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International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction 65 (2021) 102546Available online 3 September 20212212-4209/© 2021 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.Spontaneous volunteer coordination during disasters and emergencies: Opportunities, challenges, and risks Leila Daddousta, Ali Asgarya,b,*, Kenneth J. McBeyb,c, Steve Elliottd, Alain Normande aAdvanced Disaster, Emergency and Rapid Response Simulation (ADERSIM), School of Administrative Studies, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada bDisaster & Emergency Management, School of Administrative Studies, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, York University, 4700 Keele Street, Toronto, M3J 1P3, ON, Canada cHuman Resource Management, Public Policy Administration & Law, York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada dNGO Alliance of Ontario, Millbrook, Ontario, Canada eNational Emergencies, Newcastle, Ontario, Canada ARTICLE INFO Keywords: Spontaneous volunteers (SV) Volunteer coordination Volunteer management Emergency management Ontario ABSTRACT During major disaster and emergency events, significant numbers of individuals known as Spontaneous Volun-teers (SV) show up to provide help, often in an unplanned fashion. SV play a critical role in responding to major disasters when emergency management services are overwhelmed and require additional capacity. Despite many benefits that may accrue from their usage, there are also some s noteworthy potential challenges. Reviews conducted after some recent disaster events reveal that emergency management service personnel were uncer-tain as to how they should interact most effectively with these volunteers. Failure to effectively ‘coordinateand employ SV during disaster response can create additional complications and risks for already overburdened emergency organizations. This study examines spontaneous volunteer coordination challenges, opportunities, and risks during emergencies and disasters derived from aa survey of emergency managers in Ontario, Canada. A structured questionnaire consisting of five sections and 69 questions was completed by a sample of emergency managers in Ontario. The findings show that their usage of SV is common, however they perceive the SV rela-tionship from a predominantly ‘manageriallens or perspective, focusing upon control, predictability and po-tential liability issues and obstacles regarding their recruitment, and utilization, etc. Lack of federal and provincial legal and legislative supports regarding the usage, liability, and safety of SV are among the main barriers to the more effective realization of their full potential. This paper presents detailed results and impli-cations of this study. 1. Introduction During the post disaster response and recovery, many people, so called spontaneous volunteers (SV) or unaffiliated volunteers, tend to converge to the area to provide help [13]. For instance, following the 9/11 attacks in the US, over 40,000 unsolicited volunteers showed up to offer their assistance [4]. Similarly, in 2005 during Hurricane Katrina, the Red Cross alone attracted 50,000 SV [5]. Likewise, in the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires in Australia, over 22,000 volunteers offered their services to assist DEM organizations [6]. Although SV are involved in a variety of DEM tasks, studies show that they play a major role in response operations particularly immediate search and rescue and relief activities. For example, after the 1976 Tangshan earthquake, 1980 Southern Italy earthquake, 1999 Marmara earthquake in Turkey [11], the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, 2008, Sichuan Earthquake in China [9], the 2017 Joplin, Missouri Tornado [12], and 2015 Nepal Earth-quake [8], SVs undertook majority of the rescue operations. After the 1994 Kobe earthquake between 630,000 and 1.3 million of volunteers emerged who performed the bulk of the rescue works [9]. During the 2015 Oklahoma City bombing over 9600 were involved [10]. These events demonstrate how an overwhelming number of SV following a disaster could be considered either as a resource, or as a challenge, depending upon the perspectives of various DEM agencies [712]. Situation is not very different in Canada. During the most recent * Corresponding author. Advanced Disaster, Emergency and Rapid Response Simulation (ADERSIM), School of Administrative Studies, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. E-mail address: (A. Asgary). Contents lists available at ScienceDirect International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction journal homepage: Received 10 October 2020; Received in revised form 29 August 2021; Accepted 30 August 2021
International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction 65 (2021) 1025462events such as the 2013 Alberta flooding, 2015 fuel spill in Vancouvers English Bay significant number of people unaffiliated with the existing DEM organizations converge at disaster sites [1315]. Many people who converge on the disaster scene come to offer their time, skills, and expertise. Canadians are inclined to look after their immediate com-munities in a crisis. Based on reports after significant disasters, victim-s/affected people often receive help from family members (37%), neighbors (24%), friends (15%) government services (24%) or first re-sponders (18%) [13]. However, studies show that most often only a few of this considerable resource were actually used, while many volunteers did not even receive any admission or acknowledgment of their offer of assistance [6]. Since refusing to interact with SV or actively coordinating them will not lower the increasing number of SV, conducting a proper situational assessment can help DEM agencies to better understand why they should engage SV in DEM [16]. The recent experiences with SV in Canada and other countries, together with the community-oriented nature of volunteerism, demon-strate a real need for a transformative change with regard to the perception, planning and utilization of SV in DEM [18,47,49,51]. While the actions of SV can bring benefits and opportunities to the disaster response and recovery, if not properly understood and coordinated, they could also create additional challenges and risks for the DEM process [51] and their resources are wasted. Therefore, it is essential that due consideration be given to the nature and relationship ‘stylethat may exist between DEM agencies and the SV, so as to ensure that the benefits of volunteer participation (e.g., speed and flexibility, detailed commu-nity knowledge and community contacts, ‘outsideinnovative perspec-tives, in-demand skills, and expertise, etc.) may also be realized. Although volunteerism is a vibrant and significant sector in Canada and many volunteers are involved in post disaster response and recov-ery, engagement of SV has not been institutionalized through laws, regulations, and planning. There are significant lack of liability protec-tion and very limited safety is provided by the Volunteer Protection Act of 1999 [38]. Despite the recommendation of studies to develop stra-tegic plans for coordinating SVs and including them in local or regional emergency and operations plans, a review of national studies and doc-uments in Canada and specifically in Ontario communities reveals that emergency response plans still have yet to make a big change to involve and recruit these citizens during disasters [28,46]. As the most popu-lated province in Canada with exposure to various types of natural, technological, and intentional hazards, Ontario is well suited to estab-lish the needed structure and policies for SV management that can be adapted by other provinces. The main goal of this study is to investigate what local emergency managers consider as the main opportunities, challenges, and risks of engaging SV in DEM in Ontario. 2. Background When disasters occur, different types of people come forward to help, and some of these are volunteers that are either affiliated or spontaneous or not affiliated [19]. Affiliated ‘organizedvolunteers are mobilized through established organizations such as the Red Cross [1,50], which formally train and provide volunteers with the necessary skills and relevant knowledge before the occurrence of a disaster [20]. So-called Spontaneous Volunteers(SV) are not part of any official organization [21], and they may be alone or as part of a group for a short or a long period of time [3]. Although the SV nomenclature is in common usage in the literature, it is the authorsbelief that a preferred alternative conceptualization of these personnel would be as ‘unaffiliated emergentvolunteers as this would de-emphasize the issue of ‘temporalpartici-pation (since these personnel are not necessarily ‘time-immediatevol-unteers, and may emerge to assist during a variety of times during an emergency or disaster] and focus it more properly upon their emergent behaviours, and status of being unaffiliated with other established emergency/disaster staff or volunteer organizations). These volunteers often lack necessary health and safety training for disasters and emergencies since they have not been invited to participate in a disaster response either with paid emergency personnel, or with the affiliated volunteers [2022,50,51]. SV are invaluable resources for local disaster management agencies; this group of volunteers offer their most generous and tangible assis-tance to response and recovery efforts; they provide additional human resources, and bring essential knowledge of local conditions, culture, key community personnel, as well as skills and expertise not necessarily possessed by other formal emergency services and groups [3,48,50]. However, because SV may appear at an unscheduled times after a disaster, this behavior makes them totally different from the affiliated ‘formalvolunteers who are being invited based on the situation and their pre-established organizational affiliations [21]. Following di-sasters, as emergency managers are themselves affected by the incident, a ‘vacuum of authoritycould be created [23]. In this situation, lack of effective coordination and confronting with unusual demands may lead to immediate actions by SV [2,24]. Since the number of disasters is increasing [25], and as these events create a widespread sense of phi-lanthropy, it is expected that the need for and the number of SV will also increase in the future [26]. Therefore, better understanding of the op-portunities, challenges, and risks associated with the use and engage-ment of the SV is becoming a crucial issue for the DEM organizations. 2.1.Opportunities Volunteers are a significant and important human resource compo-nent of the timely emergency workforce; their assistance is often readily available and without direct costs [28,48]. SV can provide emergency staff with basic and specialist skills [27], Many disaster events require a wide range of skill tasks, and SV may offer considerable flexibility in terms of their various competencies and abilities to innovate and switch task behaviours, as required. Some SV can provide additional expertise, professional augmentation, and capacity subject to verification of their respective licence or competency qualifications [49,51]. SV can solve problems that are not adequately addressed by responsible authorities. The successful role of SV in search and rescue operations has been so profound that the number of live rescued by professional teams has called into question the effectiveness of increasing the number of specialist rescue teams [29]. SV may contribute for short or long hours, for days, or just for a brief period. They can free up scarce specialist disaster response personnel by providing surge-demand specialist skills, as well as potentially performing a wide variety of tasks that do not require specific skills such as filling sandbags [11]. Results of a study by US National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (NVOAD) showed that following disasters, 79% of organizations utilized SV [3]. Many disasters would have been far more lethal and consequential without SV [30]. Moreover, since SV emerge at a variety of times including those of peak demand, their reactions may not be limited by existing formalities and barriers, and thereby enabling them to react in potentially innovative and flexible ways with their ‘outsideperspectives which DEM organizationsentrenched bureaucracy procedural ap-proaches would prevent. Twigg and Mosel [12] identify SV services in nine categories, including Medical, information/communications, psychosocial and bereavement, shelter, supplies and provisions buildings and services, coordination and security, preparedness, advocacy(P.447). The bene-fits of SV are vast; they are engaged in areas including community outreach, damage assessment, need assessment, childcare, services, communication and liaison with impacted local individuals and fam-ilies, conducting training and education, debris removal [7,9,30,31,48, 49]. Also, Barraket et al. [7] and Bachner et al. [48] mention that SV can support health work such as medical assistance, message-delivery, and fundraising events in affected areas [7,48]. Similarly, Orloff [9] iden-tifies a variety of roles and tasks that might be fulfilled by SV, including: warehousing, mass care, shoveling, telephone messaging, medical services, personal hygiene services, mental health, and spiritual health L. Daddoust et al.