Workshop: Spontaneous volunteers and crisis communication during a disaster. How to deal with citizen participation initiatives.

One of the workshops at our CIP Conference 2016 on 1 July 2016 at Antwerp Management School.

Governmental institutions and organizations prepare for disasters. They draw up emergency plans and organize emergency exercises. In most of those plans and exercises, spontaneous volunteers and their initiatives that emerge in the case of a disaster, are not taken into account. However, a lot of international research has showed that in most disasters there was a form of spontaneous citizen help. Furthermore, the spontaneous volunteers were potentially very useful to cope with the disaster.

In other words, there is gap between how we prepare ourselves for a disaster and the reality. If we want to prepare ourselves in a realistic way, we should take into account spontaneous volunteers. Managing spontaneous volunteers during a disaster can be challenging, but may prove beneficial for a community’s response and recovery efforts.

In this workshop we will figure out how a government can handle spontaneous volunteers during a disaster. In particular we will focus on the very important role of the crisis communication strategy. With a thoughtful communication strategy it is possible to manage spontaneous volunteers, optimize the positive aspects and minimize the negative aspects.



Yves Stevens is Crisis Communication Manager at the Emergency Planning Service of the Governor of the province of Antwerp (Belgium)

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