Emergency volunteering

Harnessing community response to disasters


Submission to Queensland Floods Commission of Inquiry

During the summer of 2010-2011, Volunteering Queensland played an active role in assisting Queensland’s flood and cyclone affected communities.

Given our first-hand experience in disaster response, we are keen to continue our contribution to improving and further developing Queensland’s capacity to respond to natural disasters and also to improving the state’s resilience.

Our submission in general focuses on the following two issues listed in the Commission of Inquiry's Terms of Reference: 

  1. Preparation and planning by federal, state and local governments, emergency services and the community;
  2. The response to the 2010-2011 flood events, particularly measures taken to inform the community and protect life, and private and public property.

The submission discusses the nature of our Emergency Volunteering CREW (Community Response to Extreme Weather) service provided during natural disasters, observations and comments and makes the following recommendations: 

  • Reduce the element of “spontaneity” from the volunteering effort during natural disasters and increase long term involvement for people wanting to volunteer through a targeted education campaign.
  • Increase the degree of planning and preparation amongst all agencies expected to provide services during natural disasters, with a special focus on their ability to absorb a larger number of volunteers who are prepared to volunteer on a short term basis. 
  • Conduct research that would lead to a better understanding of the needs of people who call to volunteer but in fact are more likely masking their distress and seeking to talk to someone during natural disasters.
  • Better coordination of messages and communication issued to media. This should include regular joint media statements by all stakeholders involved in disaster recovery.
  • Investigate a more thorough role of the corporate sector in disaster recovery. To date, the corporate sector was not well integrated in the disaster response and the sustainability of future disaster response and recovery should include all parties through structured and firmly agreed roles.
  • Given the incredibly rapid response from the general public wanting to volunteer, efforts should be made to engage the public in disaster resilience. 
  • Consider a national approach that would be built on lessons learnt from our Emergency Volunteering CREW service.