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Disaster relief volunteerism: Evaluating cities’ planning for the usage and management of spontaneous volunteers

Jason David Rivera, PhD, Zachary David Wood, MA


This exploratory study sought to observe the perceptions, usage, and planned management of spontaneous volunteers in disaster planning and response within various urban environments. The authors discuss the perceptions of spontaneous volunteerism in America, specifically the challenges of using spontaneous volunteers in disaster response activities. A content analysis of the 50 largest cities in the US Office of Emergency Management Web sites and a survey instrument administered to emergency managers in these 50 cities were used to explore various questions raised throughout the discussion of the literature. The authors found significant discrepancies between what is stated in the disaster plans of cities and what emergency managers claim is covered in their plans. Of the managers surveyed, only a handful mention spontaneous volunteers in their plans at all, and even fewer

cities discuss them extensively. In addition, stated perceptions of the value of spontaneous volunteers may impact both how we plan for them and the value they provide.


spontaneous volunteers, disaster relief, perceptions of volunteers, disaster response

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