Resilience to Hazards

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SA SES volunteers clearing up after a storm. Photo SA State Emergency Service
SA SES volunteers clearing up after a storm. Photo SA State Emergency Service

Project Status:

This new project began in July 2017, and has two parts: Adapting the sector, led by Dr Blythe McLennan, and Changing management practice, led by Dr Patrick Dunlop.

Enabling sustainable emergency volunteering: project overview

This new project began in July 2017, and has two parts:

  1. Adapting the sector
  2. Changing management practice

Adapting the sector

This section of will investigate why change is needed, and explore the developments that are likely to occur over the next decade that will require adaption by emergency service organisations. Current models, frameworks and processes will be reviewed, with a survey conducted with key stakeholders to understand the key barriers to organisational change. Outcomes will highlight the best ways to enable change and overcome barriers, or emphasise if new approaches are needed.

Watch the October 2017 project update for Adapting the sector.

What is emergency volunteering going to look like in 2030? How (and by whom) is it going to be organised?

How can the emergency management sector best enable the value of volunteering for communities - before, during and after an emergency - into the future?

This component is designed to engage stakeholders in finding answers to these questions. It is motivated by recognition of a transformation occurring in the way people volunteer in Australian society that presents both challenges and opportunities for volunteer management and community engagement. Adapting the sector is a foresight project. It will develop and explore future volunteering scenarios to consider their implications for today’s decision-making across urban, urban fringe, rural and remote settings. The research aims to support stakeholders in the emergency management sector to adapt to the transformation of volunteering and better position their organisations to enable and enhance the value of volunteering for communities - now and into the future.

Changing management practice

When a natural disaster strikes or an emergency arises, Western Australia (WA)’s regional and metropolitan communities rely on the assistance provided by State Emergency Service (SES) volunteers. SES involves around 2000 volunteers, but the turnover rate is roughly 25% annually. SES volunteers receive extensive and very costly training in various disaster management areas, which requires the expenditure of substantial financial, time, and human resources. The high turnover rate means that that these resources are not used efficiently and puts the delivery of a crucial emergency service in jeopardy. In addition, the recent socioeconomic changes gave rise to a ‘new’ styles of volunteering that are more diverse, fluid, episodic and digitally-enabled. This presents significant challenges to current volunteer management practices, such as recruitment and socialisation.

The present research project aims to improve the current volunteer recruitment, socialisation, and retention strategies. First, volunteer experience will be investigated through the various stages of engagement with the service: in the pre-recruitment stage, we will study expectations and stereotypes about volunteering held by prospective volunteers. At the recruitment stage, we will investigate the effectiveness of recruitment materials and strategies, including for the attraction of more diversity. At the socialisation stage, we will investigate induction and on-boarding processes, the development of volunteer identity, person-organisation fit. At the deployment stage, we will investigate volunteer motivation, wellbeing outcomes, psychological contract perceptions, and design of volunteer work. Throughout this investigation we seek to understand how a culture for inclusiveness shapes volunteer experiences, but also affects the diversity of volunteer base.

The findings of the research will inform and guide the design of better recruitment, retention, and wellbeing practices and will be broadly applicable to emergency services in Australia.

Watch the October 2017 project update for Changing management practice.

SA SES volunteers clearing up after a storm. Photo SA State Emergency Service
16 October, 2017
New CRC research is investigating emergency volunteering into the future, and you are invited to share initiatives in your organisation.
For the first time, emergency services and police across Australia will be surveyed about their mental health and wellbeing
31 August, 2017
A new direction of natural hazards research is set to begin, with nine new research projects from the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC.
22 March, 2017
An exciting new direction of natural hazards research in Australia is set to begin, with eight new Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC projects beginning in July. These new projects, covering coastal management, emergency management capability, land use planning and recovery, are part of the next phase of national research into natural hazards.
Year Type Citation
2017 Conference Paper Rumsewicz, M. Research proceedings from the 2017 Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC and AFAC Conference. Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC & AFAC annual conference 2017 (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2017).

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