Resilience to Hazards

seq_floods_2011_16251_web.jpg

Mud Army and SES volunteers working together at the 2011 Queensland floods. Photo: Queensland Fire and Emergency Services
Mud Army and SES volunteers working together at the 2011 Queensland floods. Photo: Queensland Fire and Emergency Services

Project Status:

How people volunteer to keep their community safe from natural hazards is changing. As our work and life commitments change, many people do not have the time to dedicate to traditional ways of volunteering with an emergency service, undergo the required training and develop the ability to respond to potentially dangerous situations. But they still want to help, and they still want to volunteer.

This completed project has investigated current and emerging issues around volunteering and volunteers responding to disaster events, and the different factors that can influence people’s participation in non-traditional emergency volunteering. Utilisation is now in progress.

Out of Uniform project overview

How people volunteer to keep their community safe from natural hazards is changing. As our work and life commitments change, many people do not have the time to dedicate to traditional ways of volunteering with an emergency service, undergo the required training and develop the ability to respond to potentially dangerous situations. But they still want to help, and they still want to volunteer.

There is also now more attention being given by the emergency management sector to non-traditional or informal emergency volunteers – people who volunteer without affiliation with the established organisations that have recognised roles in emergency and recovery plans. Agency leaders show a variety of attitudes and approaches to non-traditional emergency volunteers – some see them as creating legal and occupational health and safety risks for the agency, and as distracting the organisation from its core business. Others view them as a basis for surge capacity, a valuable resource and almost always the initial responders.

This completed project has investigated current and emerging issues around volunteering and volunteers responding to disaster events, and the different factors that can influence people’s participation in non-traditional emergency volunteering. Utilisation is now in progress.

Case studies were undertaken, selected to ensure coverage of different stages of disaster risk management, hazard types and types of non-traditional emergency volunteering. They include community led preparedness (Be Ready Warrandyte), community-led recovery (Community on Ground Assistance in Kinglake), spontaneous volunteer management (Volunteering Queensland’s Emergency Volunteering Community Response to Extreme Weather), the role of volunteers from faith-based groups in recovery (Pinery fire, South Australia), digital volunteering following 2015’s Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu, and a review of the national surge capacity for response that occurred for Cyclone Tracy in Darwin (1974).

These case studies have identified four key large-scale forces reshaping the nature of volunteering in the 21st century. These are changing lifestyles and values and the changing nature of work; the impact of new communications technology; greater private sector involvement; and growing government expectations of and intervention in the voluntary sector.

Five key areas of focus have also been identified to best capitalise on emerging opportunities, providing evidence and impetus to shift away from a reliance on traditional, structured volunteering models, to models that are more flexible, adaptive and inclusive of newer and diverse volunteering styles.

Emergency management organisations are aware of this shift in the volunteering landscape and its impacts, and in some instances are already responding. Findings from this project are being used to address these areas, with change makers at organisational, jurisdictional and national levels driving a shift towards more flexible, adaptive and inclusive volunteering models.

The research has influenced key national initiatives, with findings used extensively for the development of the National Spontaneous Volunteer Strategy by the Australia–New Zealand Emergency Management Committee. The strategy provides advice to emergency service agencies on best practice principles, as well as what they need to be aware of, and what they need to consider and plan for when working with spontaneous volunteers. Important issues such as legal obligations and social media are also covered, with this research integral to the strategy’s content.

Building on this, the Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience is drawing directly on the research to develop a new handbook on spontaneous volunteer management. The handbook will provide important guidance for organisations on how to incorporate the principles of the National Spontaneous Volunteer Strategy, and the most recent research on spontaneous volunteering, into their own plans and procedures.

The research is also impacting the development of new strategies in volunteer management at the organisational level, for example informing new directions and developments in the Department of Fire and Emergency Services Western Australia and the New South Wales SES. Be Ready Warrandyte, a community group in one of Melbourne’s high bushfire risk suburbs, has also drawn extensively on the research to help educate and support their local community.

The project has provided an important and comprehensive resource to benchmark best practice in supporting and integrating spontaneous volunteerism for emergency service agencies across Australia. The scope and relevance of the project will provide a valuable framework of knowledge for the future.

BlazeAid
1 March, 2017
As our work and life commitments change, many people do not have the time to dedicate to traditional ways of volunteering with an emergency service. But they still want to help, and they still want to volunteer.
Post fire field work
19 December, 2016
New journal articles and reports on CRC research are available online.
Participants at the workshop. Photo: Tarn Kruger
6 December, 2016
With the Out of Uniform project nearing completion, we conducted a couple of workshops to explore some of the aspects of the project.
13 October, 2016
New journal articles and reports on CRC research are available online.
BlazeAid volunteers putting in fences after Black Saturday. Photo: BlazeAid
15 August, 2016
Updates for end-users from the Out of uniform project team
Kinglake, Victoria after the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires
27 June, 2016
CRC researcher Prof John Handmer has investigated the circumstances surrounding the 172 civilian fatalities from Black Saturday, looking at the actions taken by each of the people who died and comparing them with the intentions and assumptions of Victoria's then 'Stay or go' policy.
Blazeaid volunteers
5 April, 2016
Utilisation of research is not a capability our industry has spent enough time building.
Volunteers at Christchurch earthquake
22 March, 2016
We have entered the final year of the ‘Out of Uniform’ project and our focus now shifts to considering the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and challenges of different approaches for engaging with non-traditional volunteers.
Be Ready Warrandyte interactive scenario planning workshop
4 March, 2016
A case study on the 'Be Ready Warrandyte' initiative - a balance between enabling community-led projects to improve bushfire safety by sharing responsibility, without being 'too much' for what is a risk-averse sector.
Fire Australia magazine 2015/16 edition
29 February, 2016
The Summer 2015/2016 edition of Fire Australia magazine features key research that’s making an impact on the fire, emergency services and land management sectors.
Jock McNeish/ Strategic Images
15 October, 2015
How can a well-organised, capable, and respected community group help improve local community bushfire safety and build resilience in a high risk area?
Photo by BlazeAid.
30 July, 2015
This update from the Out of Uniform project details recent research activities and news from the project team.
Christchurch earthquake
16 July, 2015
Short new videos on three CRC research projects explain the aims of the science underway and how end users will benefit from the work.
SES volunteers performing a rescue in bushland. Photo by ACT SES.
10 July, 2015
A recently released Hazard Note gives an overview of the Sustainable volunteering cluster of research projects.
VGI in disaster management. Photo by Billy Haworth
24 June, 2015
CRC PhD student Billy Haworth has been awarded a prestigious scholarship.
Josh Whittaker discussing research progress at the Sydney RAF.
14 May, 2015
It is hard to believe we are almost at the halfway point in our project on non-traditional emergency volunteering. Having so many end users - representing a diverse array of jurisdictions, hazards and agencies - provides an enormous resource in terms of knowledge and contacts. But it also throws up significant challenges in terms of end user engagement.
 BlazeAid volunteers
14 April, 2015
The Out of Uniform project has published its third newsletter on recent progress. This project has assembled a team of researchers and end-users to look into non traditional forms of emergency volunteering.
22 October, 2014
New research is focused on retaining active emergency services volunteers, and better engaging untrained ‘informal’ volunteers who offer to help when incidents and natural disasters happen.
Mercury Rising was streamed live online, as well as a studio audience
7 October, 2014
The replay of the live stream of the Mercury Rising: Extreme Bushfires industry and public forum is now available.
Christchurch earthquake
22 September, 2014
The Out of Uniform project has published its second newsletter on recent progress. This project has assembled a team of researchers and end-users to look into non traditional forms of emergency volunteering.
John Richardson at Professional Development Day at AFAC14
11 September, 2014
As a CRC end user from the Out of Uniform project I summarised the Research Day for my organisation, the Australian Red Cross.
Out of Uniform project team - at  2014 Adelaide Research Advisory Forum
7 May, 2014
The Out of Uniform project has published its first newsletter on recent progress. This project has assembled a team of researchers and end-users to look into non traditional forms of emergency volunteering.
Year Type Citation
2017 Report Kruger, T., Whittaker, J., McLennan, B. J. & Handmer, J. Recovery volunteering after the Pinery fire, South Australia 2015: an explorative case study. (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2017).
2017 Report McLennan, B. J., Kruger, T., Handmer, J. & Whittaker, J. Strategies for non-traditional emergency volunteers: a risk-benefit framework for decision-making. (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2017).
2016 Conference Paper Rumsewicz, M. Research proceedings from the 2016 Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC and AFAC conference. Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC & AFAC annual conference 2016 (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2016).
2016 Conference Paper McLennan, B. J., Molloy, J., Whittaker, J. & Handmer, J. Harnessing the capacities of spontaneous volunteers: application and adaptation of the Queensland model. AFAC16 (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2016).
2016 Conference Paper Whittaker, J. Opportunities and challenges of citizen-led recovery in post-disaster settings. AFAC16 (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2016).
2016 Journal Article McLennan, B. J. Extending into community-led preparedness and planning just enough (but not too much?). Australian Journal of Emergency Management 31, (2016).
2016 Journal Article McLennan, B. J., Whittaker, J. & Handmer, J. The changing landscape of disaster volunteering: opportunities, responses and gaps in Australia. Journal of the International Society for the Prevention and Mitigation of Natural Hazards 84, (2016).
2016 Journal Article McLennan, B. J., Molloy, J., Whittaker, J. & Handmer, J. Centralised coordination of spontaneous emergency volunteers: the EV CREW model. Australian Journal of Emergency Management 31, (2016).
2016 Report McLennan, B. J., Whittaker, J. & Handmer, J. Briefing paper: A proposed framework to assess strategies for engaging non-traditional emergency volunteers. (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2016).
2016 Report Handmer, J., McLennan, B. J. & Whittaker, J. Out of uniform: building community resilience through non-traditional volunteering: Annual project report 2015-2016. (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2016).
2015 Conference Paper Rumsewicz, M. Research proceedings from the 2015 Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC & AFAC conference. Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC & AFAC annual conference 2015 (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2015).
2015 Conference Paper Whittaker, J., Handmer, J. & McLennan, B. J. Building Community Resilience Through Informal Emergency Volunteering Conference Paper 2014. Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC and AFAC Wellington Conference 2014 (2015).
2015 Conference Paper McLennan, B. J., Whittaker, J. & Handmer, J. The future of 'non-traditional' emergency volunteering: what will it look like and how can it work? - Peer reviewed. Adelaide Conference 2015 (2015).
2015 Journal Article Whittaker, J., McLennan, B. J. & Handmer, J. A review of informal volunteerism in emergencies and disasters: Definition, opportunities and challenges. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction 13, 358-368 (2015).
2015 Report McLennan, B. J., Whittaker, J. & Handmer, J. Emergency volunteering in Australia: transforming, not declining. (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2015).
2015 Report Handmer, J., Whittaker, J. & McLennan, B. J. Out of uniform: building community resilience through non-traditional emergency volunteering: Annual project report 2014-2015. (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2015).
2015 Report Whittaker, J., Handmer, J. & McLennan, B. J. Informal Volunteerism in Emergencies and Disasters: A Literature Review. (2015).
2015 Report McLennan, B. J., Whittaker, J. & Handmer, J. Community-led bushfire preparedness in action: The case of Be Ready Warrandyte. (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2015).
Out of uniform: Building community resilience through non-traditional emergency volunteering
25 Aug 2014

Citizens may play vital roles in helping those affected to respond and recover, and can provide invaluable assistance to official agencies.

Key Topics:
Community-Led Bushfire Preparedness in Action: The Case of Be Ready Warrandyte
18 Aug 2015

Be Ready Warrandyte (BRW) was an award-winning, community-led bushfire preparedness project instigated by community members and coordinated by the Warrandyte Community Association from May 2012 to June 2015. Its goal was “to have more Warrandyte households with effective bushfire plans”. It involved close collaboration between community volunteers, local governments and the Country Fire Authority (CFA).

Key Topics:
Out of Uniform: Building Community Resilience Through Non-Traditional Emergency Volunteering
18 Aug 2015

The public is usually first on the scene in an emergency or disaster and remain long after official services have ceased. Citizen participation is a key principle of disaster risk reduction and resilience building. However, emergency management relies largely on volunteers affiliated with official agencies and a comparatively smaller workforce of paid staff. Individuals and groups working outside of this system have often been seen as a nuisance or liability, and their efforts are largely undervalued.

Strategies for non-traditional emergency volunteers
30 Jun 2017

A risk-benefit framework has been designed to assist decision-makers in emergency management organisations (EMOs) consider potential benefits and risks of six strategic options for ‘non-traditional’ emergency volunteers in response and recovery phases.

Research clusters

Explore by keyword