Volunteering

Many people want to help out and lend a hand to communities affected by an emergency such as flood or fire and volunteering to help is often considered a practical way to lend a hand and provide support.

Volunteering with an emergency service

Please see our page on emergency services within the Loddon Shire.

Volunteering after an emergency

There are a few important things for you to remember when it comes to volunteering after an emergency event:

  • Disaster zones are dangerous, so your first responsibility is to yourself – eat, drink water, wear protective clothing and have adequate rest.
  • Before you volunteer, make sure you have first helped yourself, your household, your family, friends and neighbours.
  • After a disaster, it takes response agencies time to work out how to most effectively use volunteers – it can take time to get placed in a volunteer opportunity.

How to volunteer with Council

As tempting as it is, just showing up at a relief or recovery centre and offering your services can impact in an adverse way upon staff and residents who are dealing with or who have been impacted by the emergency event.

Following a large scale emergency event, the Loddon Shire Council will appoint a volunteer coordinator.

The volunteer coordinator will:

  • receive requests of assistance via the relief and recovery centres from residents that have been impacted by the emergency event
  • register offers of assistance from businesses, charities and volunteers
  • match the offers of assistance with the requests for assistance.

This may seem like an unnecessary process but it’s the best way of targeting the offers of assistance with the requests for assistance.

 Just sending volunteers out to affected properties without this process can:

  • Distress impacted residents.
    • This may be because the help is not wanted or the help is too early.
    • After an emergency it takes time for people to process what they have been through.
    • It may take them some time to realise that they need help.
    • They may want some time to sort out personal belongings prior to strangers coming into their home.
  • Place volunteers in unnecessary danger as impacted sites may be dangerous and may need to be assessed prior to anyone entering.

The most appropriate way to volunteer is to contact Council on (03) 5494 1200 and speak with the volunteer coordinator.  He/she will advise you about the volunteer process.

Prior to volunteering you will need to complete a volunteer registration form.

Types of volunteers

After a natural disaster people often believe that the only volunteers required are those that can offer labour for cleaning up. But this is not the case.

When recovering from natural disaster volunteers are required to assist with:

  • administration – helping to register and coordinate volunteers, at recovery centres collecting requests for help and assisting impacted residents
  • sorting through donations and distributing donations
  • relief centres need help with catering, cleaning and just chatting with impacted residents
  • relief and recovery centres often need help entertaining children
  • in rural areas caring for livestock or re fencing may be required
  • general labour will be required to clean up impacted properties, this includes the gardens

What to wear and what to bring

Entering an area that has been impacted by an emergency is dangerous.

You should ensure that you wear protective clothing including enclosed shoes, dust masks and safety goggles.

Remember that in rural areas shopping centres aren’t on every corner and access to equipment, even basic cleaning equipment, following an emergency event will be limited so the more you can bring from home the better.

What you need to bring will depend on the type of emergency event and the work that you have volunteered to assist with, here are a few ideas:

  • your own food and drinks…..bring plenty of water
  • cleaning equipment including brooms, buckets, mops, old rags, gloves and cleaning chemicals. Please ensure that you follow the instructions on any chemical cleaners that you use
  • gardening equipment from gloves to shovels to wheel barrows
  • heavy machinery and equipment may be required
  • power washers and generators

If you are able to provide large equipment and have the correct ticket/safety training (if required), please include that in your registration details. Just like your skills and experience, all manner of things can come in handy, so the more details the better.

Privacy

Privacy is a two way street.

The information collected about you is not disclosed without your consent to other organisations or businesses. The exception to this is when it’s permitted by law, for example the State Government or Federal Government may require the information of volunteers for statistical or other purposes.

As a volunteer you must ensure that you don’t discuss or disclose the information that you find out about impacted residents. The amount of information that you will find out will vary depending on the role you are undertaking, but the Privacy Laws apply to everything.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s expected of me when I volunteer?

As a volunteer in post emergency recovery operations it’s expected that you will:

  • support the work of the team
  • be flexible and reasonable in accommodating team requirements where possible
  • treat those in need, other volunteers and workers with respect and courtesy
  • be open, honest and fair in your volunteer role
  • take responsibility for your own health and safety and not put at risk the health and safety of others
  • participate in training, briefings or coaching necessary to your voluntary duties
  • take responsibility for staying informed
  • use information gained in the course of your volunteer work with sensitivity and discretion and observe confidentiality and privacy requirements
  • help to maintain a harmonious workplace and recognise the value of diversity

What should I do if I’m asked for a media comment?

Under no circumstances should you discuss any issues with members of the media. There will be clearly designated staff responsible for this function to ensure that a consistent message is passed on to the media.

If you need help contact the volunteer coordinator.

How do I claim out of pocket expenses?

Prior to incurring any expense, you must first gain approval for the expenditure from the volunteer coordinator.  You should then submit any claims promptly using the appropriate claim form.