5 Red Cross Volunteer Roles for Emergency Managers

Red Cross Volunteers in California Wildfires 2018

Talk to most emergency managers and you’ll find that even though they work long and sometimes unpredictable hours with extensive travel, they still find time for volunteering. For some, raising money for a local church or baking cakes for a school sale are regular commitments, while for others there exists a much more considerable commitment to a volunteer fire department or a disaster relief charity. For many, that disaster relief charity is the American Red Cross. The American Red Cross has long existed as one of the leading – perhaps the leading – philanthropic organization in the whole of the United States, and over 90% of its workforce are volunteers. Being well-established and well-regarded, it is no wonder that emergency managers look to Red Cross volunteer opportunities when considering how to make best use of their extensive skills and expertise.

Which Red Cross volunteer opportunities are best suited to emergency managers?

There are many ways to get involved with the Red Cross. While some opportunities are national or even international in nature, most positions will be local. Indeed, for the vast majority of those looking to join the Red Cross, the application begins by searching for your local branch and discovering what volunteer positions are open there. 

For emergency managers, though, a few positions stand out as being a particularly good fit for the skills they already exercise every day as an emergency manager. These include:

1. Disaster Services

When disaster strikes, the Red Cross is often the first organization on the scene. This is not surprising considering that there are hundreds of thousands of Red Cross personnel in all regions of the United States. Add to that the highly developed logistics and distribution channels implemented by the Red Cross and it is clear why they are often the first boots on the ground. Emergency managers looking to contrast their planning and mitigation roles with hands-on response work can assist in Red Cross disaster services, which may involve them providing food, setting up temporary shelters, ensuring individuals and families get access to appropriate medical treatment and emotional support, and assisting those affected by disasters with the transition into recovery. Disaster Services roles are wide ranging and demanding, but are highly rewarding and give emergency managers the chance to gain practical experience of another stage of the disaster cycle.  

2. Disaster Action Team

Despite the fact that when emergency managers usually think about disasters they think about major emergencies like earthquakes, floods, forest fires, and hurricanes, a ‘disaster’ can be limited to a single family. The Red Cross Disaster Action Team responds to incidents like house fires and floods, ensuring that everyone affected has access to the care and support that they need. While the DAT does not tend to respond to the events that most emergency managers plan for every day, this team nonetheless gives emergency managers the chance to experience a different type of disaster, and encourages them to think about individual impacts in their daily work. Supervisory roles are also available in the DAT, which is great for those looking for additional leadership experience.

3. Volunteer Management

Volunteer managers play a crucial role within the Red Cross because they are responsible for the overall work of the vast majority of the workforce. From recruiting the right volunteers in the first place to making sure that they are appropriately placed, Volunteer Managers are the key to putting the right people in the right roles. Once volunteers are placed, the Volunteer Managers ensure effective oversight of the placement, maintain accurate records, and develop top talent by implementing systems for volunteer recognition, such as awards ceremonies and certifications. 

4. Disaster Preparedness Presenter

Most emergency managers would agree that how we prepare for disasters is just as important – maybe even more important – than how we respond to them. Yet still the message of preparedness is not sinking in across the United States, with 41% of Americans admitting that they are not prepared for disaster. Being a Disaster Preparedness Presenter gives emergency managers another stage upon which they can share their preparedness message. Red Cross platforms reach millions around the country, and being a great public speaker can really drive the message home for people. 

5. Public Affairs

Many people know what the Red Cross does, but they are not really aware of the specifics of how the Red Cross can help before, during, and after a disaster. For emergency managers that are committed to public awareness and education when it comes to disasters, a public affairs role may be a great opportunity to build skills in effective communication. Emergency managers are, after all, well trained in the act of taking complex messages from the federal and state levels and translating them into messages that the local population can understand. This is exactly what is required for effective Red Cross work, and emergency managers could play a vital role in this regard.

Where to find out more

To find out more about becoming a Red Cross volunteer and to take the first steps to helping a team that assists in over 60,000 disasters every year, visit the American Red Cross website and search for volunteer opportunities.

Camilla Barker-DeStefano

Camilla Barker-DeStefano

Dr. Camilla Barker-DeStefano (Oxon) is a disaster lawyer, author, and founder of the Crisis Academy.

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