Ready to Respond - The Volunteerism Project


In 1994 The Volunteerism Project, in collaboration with the Volunteer Centers serving the Bay Area (counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco and San Mateo), launched a disaster response program, now called Ready to Respond. The goal was to create a regional system for the effective mobilization and deployment of spontaneous unaffiliated volunteers (people who want to help but don't have prior disaster training or experience) for disaster response. The system, now in place, stands ready to help speed the community's recovery from disasters by linking volunteers with community-based organizations serving vulnerable populations, with other nonprofits and with government agencies.

Disaster Phone Banks

The phone banks connect potential volunteers with agencies and organizations that need extra assistance in providing disaster relief. For large, multi-county disasters, each Volunteer Center sets up a phone bank. For smaller disasters, the Center in the affected county activates and other Centers stand by. In either case, the phone bank can be reached by dialing each Volunteer Center's main telephone number or by dialing 1-800-CARE-123. If telephone service is disrupted, the Volunteer Centers set up reception centers for walk-in volunteers; locations will be announced on radio and television and in newspapers.

Volunteer Center staff begins by gathering information from disaster relief agencies and community-based organizations serving vulnerable populations regarding what tasks can be handled by volunteers. The number of jobs grows as relief operations expand; the result is a wide variety of volunteer opportunities in a number of locations. Typical disaster jobs range from translating, reception and clerical work to sandbagging, damage assessment and debris removal.

When someone calls the phone bank or visits a reception center, a referral specialist quickly assesses the person's skills, interests and limitations, if any, and then refers him or her to an appropriate job. While most callers are individuals, families and groups that want to volunteer together are encouraged to call as well.

Training and Technical Assistance

Each Volunteer Center works with local agencies and organizations to help them prepare for and manage disaster volunteers. Workshops focus on the impact of disasters on agency staffing and demand for services; development of disaster volunteer job descriptions; training, supervision and recognition of volunteers; logistics and record-keeping; and policies and procedures. A printed manual reinforces workshop presentations and can also be used by groups working on their own. Through consultations, Volunteer Center staff can work with one or a small group of agencies on specific problems or issues.

Volunteer Recruitment

Groups of volunteers can help Volunteer Centers meet community needs more quickly and efficiently following a disaster. For this reason, Volunteer Centers have established pre-disaster contacts with businesses and corporations, congregations, and service clubs that can mobilize volunteers for disaster response.

Contact Information

For general information about the program, contact:
Debbie Ng
Ready to Respond
221 Main, Suite 300
San Francisco, CA 94105
Phone: (415) 808-4387

For information about individual Volunteer Center disaster response programs, contact the Disaster Coordinator at any of the following:

Volunteer Center of Alameda County

Volunteer Center of Contra Costa

Marin Nexus/Volunteer Center of Marin

Volunteer Center of San Francisco
415-982-8999, ext. 222

Volunteer Center of San Mateo County
415-982-8999, ext. 222