There are over 10,000 registered volunteers in the emergency management field in the province of British Columbia (BC) in Canada, working in Emergency Social Services, Search and Rescue, and Amateur Radio Communications. During the summer of 2003, with many fires burning in the same time period, not only were trained volunteers utilized to help with the responses, convergent volunteers came out in great numbers to assist in the communities affected by interface fires.
“Convergent volunteers” are volunteers, with no previous affiliation, that just show up at the door of a facility or an organization and offer help during a disaster (what the US refers to as “spontaneous unaffiliated volunteers”). These volunteers are typically screened, given on-the-spot orientation, and tasked to assist wherever they are needed. Many of the convergent volunteers from the 2003 forest fires became converted volunteers for various emergency management groups after the fires.
This article examines what motivates people to volunteer in emergencies and how such involvement can be fostered at other times.